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SEPTEMBER 15, 2016 | The Jewish Home

Forgotten Her es

A Tale of a Few Spies How the Pinkerton Detective Agency Came to Be By Avi Heiligman

Three Pinkerton spies, 1880. William Pinkerton, Allan’s son, is in the middle


here was a time when war was thought to be only fought by gentlemen. Way before the FBI or the CIA existed, spying and going directly after the enemy leader was consider rude and was not an accepted war practice. During the American Civil War these ideas were thrown out the window as spying became a lucrative venture for those brave enough to cross enemy lines. President Abraham Lincoln hired out a private detective agency whose founder was credited with saving the president’s life. His name was Allen Pinkerton and he wasn’t even American. Allen Pinkerton was born on Glasgow, Scotland, in 1819 and moved to the U.S. in 1842. A year later he settled near Chicago where his home

Allan Pinkerton, Abraham Lincoln and General McClemand

became a stop on the Underground Railroad. He was a barrel maker by trade and only became a detective by accident. While looking for wood for barrels he stumbled across a notorious band of counterfeiters. After stealthily spying on the gang he reported the activity to the police who swooped in to make the arrests. This suddenly made him a local hero and he soon found himself as a sheriff in a small town. In 1849 Pinkerton was appointed the first detective ever in Chicago. At first he worked for both the police and the post office, and in 1850 he opened up the private investigation firm that became famous worldwide. Known as the Pinkerton National Detective Agency they were soon hired by railroads to protect trains from bandits.

The agency was successful in solving several train robberies in Illinois and their success soon reached the ears of one of the train company’s lawyers. That lawyer was Abraham Lincoln, and the chief engineer of the Illinois Central Railroad was soon to be famous as the general of Lincoln’s army George B. McClellan. Early on the agency had several rules and policies that distinguished them from other agencies. No bribes were to be accepted and there were no compromises with criminals. By partnering with local law enforcement agencies they were able to arrest criminals nationwide. They decided not to accept any reward money, to raise fees without the knowledge of the client and to keep the client in the loop with the inves-

tigation. Soon they coined the term “private eye,” using the logo of a single eye with the slogan of “We Never Sleep.” Surveillance and undercover work became the norm for Pinkerton agents. In 1856 they made headlines again when they hired Kate Warne as the first female detective in the U.S. Just two months before the Civil War started in April 1865 Lincoln hired Pinkerton to provide private security for the president-elect on his way to Washington. There were rumors that pro-slave sympathizers would try to cut the railroad lines in Baltimore. A cable was intercepted that indicated that Lincoln was at risk of an assassination attempt. With the help of Kate Warne and other agents, Pinkerton managed to change Lincoln’s schedule and

Profile for Yitzy Halpern

Five Towns Jewish Home - 9-15-16  

Five Towns Jewish Home - 9-15-16

Five Towns Jewish Home - 9-15-16  

Five Towns Jewish Home - 9-15-16