Allan Pinkerton

Allan Pinkerton

The Pinkerton Detective Agency


Pinkerton Detective Agency Logo

Official Records about the arrest of the Maryland Legislature
Little Mac appoints Pinkerton Chief of the Secret Service
Copy of passes issued to Pinkerton and his agents
Letter to Edwin M Stanton

Allan Pinkerton was born on August 25, 1819 in the Gorbals a Glasgow slum, even though Allan must have seen endless amounts criminal and domestic violence, he showed great self-confidence and refused to let the Gorbals get the best of him.

He was able to make it to the U.S.A. with his wife Joan. There he was trying to make a living as cooper. He noticed one day that he was running low on wood in the area, so he had to go to a nearby island for some more wood. While chopping up wood on the island, he found a deserted fire and proof that somebody had been using the island. As he later wrote: There was no picnicking in those days, people had more serious matters to attend to and it required no great keenness to conclude that no honest men were in the habit of occupying the place.

He became very curious and returned to the island many more times to find out more. Finally one night he saw men gathering around a fire. He had the idea that they were planning a job. The next day he told the sheriff about it and together they went to the island and one night they were able to catch the men - who were actually a band of counterfeiters. After the incident, some local shopkeepers asked Pinkerton to do some detective work, "What do I know about that sort of thing?" was his reply. However, he gave in and found he was thrilled by it. He decided to move to Chicago for the city life.

He became a policeman in 1847 and then in 1850 he was appointed Chicago's first detective. Throughout his times he gained a reputation as a courageous and incorrputable man who hunted down criminals, even when putting his own life at risk. He had made a lot of enemies in the crime world and was not surprised that someone might try to kill him. With his experience and great ambition to do good, he wanted to open his own private detective agency. By 1853, The Pinkerton Detective Agency was going strong. It was the first national detective bureau; this meant that its agents could arrest criminals anywhere in the country.

In 1861, he and his agents learned of a plot to assassinate Lincoln as he went through Baltimore on his way to his inauguration. The plan was to kill Lincoln while he was switching trains on the afternoon of February 22nd , he advised Lincoln to leave a day early for Washington. Lincoln didn't quite believe it at first until he got separate reports from General Winfield Scott that confirmed the scheme. He did all he could in order not to attract attention. From Philadelphia, Lincoln (wearing an overcoat and disguised in a brown hat) slipped into the last sleeping car of a train heading for Baltimore. With Lincoln posing as brother of one of Pinkerton's female detectives. Pinkerton and Wark Hill Lamon travelled with him. The next morning at six o'clock the train arrived safely in Washington. After they arrived, he sent a coded message to Philadelphia telling that the President arrived safely. Pinkerton, however, used awkward code names for him and the President. Pinkerton was Plums and Lincoln was Nuts. Therefore the message read "Plums arrives safely with Nuts." If it hadn't been for Pinkerton and his men, there would have been a good chance that Lincoln would have been assassinated before his inauguration. Although some critics may disagree and say that Pinkerton made up the story to make him look like a hero and gain credibility with Lincoln, there was evidence that the assassination plot was real. Soon after Lincoln arrived in Washington, there was a riot in Baltimore.

A big part of many of the Southern victories during the Civil War was due one of the South's most effective spies. Rose O'Neal Greenhow (known as "the Southern Rose") was one of the South 's most dedicated spies. She became one of his most challenging opponents. She had given a lot of military information to the South, one of her reports contributed to the Battle of Bull Run. After the Battle of Bull Run, Lincoln appointed George McClellan in charge of the Army of the Potomac.and Pinkerton was appointed to accompany McClellan. He was excited because now he had his chance to organize a secret service. Pinkerton realized he first had to arrest Rose Greenhow. Pinkerton and his men were able to find many military plans that Rose intended to send to the South. They were especially amazed by her network of spies. They also found a book with a list of names of all Greenhow's messengers and how they dispatched the information. Rose and her daughter were finally taken to prison.

Allan Pinkerton was greatly involved in America's history: from being America's first private detective to organizing America's first secret service during the Civil War. He was a hard-working man who risked his life chasing and catching criminals. During his career he and his detective agency had investigated over one thousand cases. His agency's motto being, "The Eye That Never Sleeps" (which was also the root of the expression "private eye"). Allan Pinkerton perfected the thrilling and dangerous world of espionage


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