Allan Pinkerton and His Agency
The Pinkerton Detective Series...EXTRA
Allan Pinkerton immigrated to the United States in 1842. Disheartened by the failure of his
homeland's efforts to win suffrage from Britain, he sought his own freedom in America. He and
his wife, Joan, settled in Dundee, Illinois where Pinkerton built a cabin and opened his own
cooperage, making barrels.
His passion for freedom and justice put him in sympathy with abolitionists in America. By 1844,
his home, just fifty miles northwest of Chicago, became a regular stop along the Underground
Railroad. However, his service to others did not end there.
Late in the 1840s, the population of Chicago was safeguarded by fewer than a dozen policemen.
Most of them were corrupt officers, either working in collusion with criminals or too afraid to
address the threats facing the populace. Recognizing this calamity, Pinkerton joined the Chicago
police force, but refused to succumb to the status quo.
Tough, fearless and cunning, Pinkerton used his uncanny knack for reading people to become a
"genuine" policeman. He was successfully solving cases, bringing miscreants to task and earning
a reputation as a man of integrity. He was promoted to detective, the first in the city's history.
But despite his devotion to his work, his meager salary made it impossible for him to support his
Faced with the choice of returning to his cooperage or starting his own private investigation
business, Pinkerton sent out inquiries to possible clients. These were people in Chicago whom
he'd helped in the line of duty; among them were the president of the Rock Island and Illinois
Central Railroad, George B. McClellan, and the Railroad's attorney, Abraham Lincoln.
Encouraged by the support of McClellan, Lincoln and others, in 1850 Pinkerton teamed with a
local attorney named Edward Rucker to form the North-Western Police Agency, which would later
be known as the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.
Gradually, Pinkerton began building a full-fledged organization of hand-picked agents and staff;
all of whom were required to adhere to Pinkerton's strict code of ethics (See Pinkerton Code).
Pinkerton offices began to stretch out across the U.S., reaching from New York to California
down into Texas and as far north as Montreal, in Canada.
Over 2,000 active agents handled everything from embezzlement, murder, theft, and military
intelligence to Presidential security. The agency specialized in protecting railroad shipments and
strike breaking. It famously pursued notorious outlaws including Jesse James, the Dalton Gang
and Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch; all the while promoting an image of dogged
determination, fostered largely by the Agency's motto; "We Never Sleep".
Pinkerton himself came to be known as "The Eye" and his revolutionary advancements in
fighting crime, including "shadowing", working undercover, and compiling a criminal database
are tactics law enforcement still rely upon today.
Born: August 25, 1819 - Glasgow, Scotland
Parents: William Pinkerton & Isobel McQueen
Siblings: 1 of 11 children (4 died in infancy)
Married: March 13, 1842- Glasgow, Scotland to Joan Carfrae, a singer
Children: William Pinkerton, Robert Pinkerton, Joan Pinkerton, Belle Pinkerton
(2 others died as children, Mary (age 7) and another Joan (age 2))
Professions: Cooper, Policeman, Detective
Death: July 1, 1884 in Chicago / Buried: Graceland Cemetery