Allan Pinkerton

Allan Pinkerton

Glasgow, Glasgow City, Scotland
Death 1 Jul 1884 (aged 64)
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Burial Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Memorial ID 817 · View Source
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Civil War Union Detective. Born in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Scotland, the son of Isabell and William Pinkerton, an ex-policeman removed from active service after an on duty injury. William died in a political riot in Glasgow, and Pinkerton left school to support his family, becoming a runner for a pattern maker. He then apprenticed as a cooper in the McCauley Cooperage Works. Pinkerton became active in the Chartist Movement which advocated political and social reform. On his 1842 wedding day to Joan Carfrae, Pinkerton and his bride boarded a ship for the United States just ahead of soldiers holding a warrant for his arrest based on his political activities. Upon his arrival in the US, he settled in Dundee, Illinois. In 1849, Pinkerton was appointed as the first detective in Chicago. In 1850, he partnered with Chicago attorney Edward Rucker in forming the North-Western Police Agency, the first legitimate private investigation agency. The partnership was dissolved within a year and Pinkerton operated the agency himself. By 1852 it became known as the Pinkerton Agency. The comapany logo was the now famous unblinking eye and the motto "We Never Sleep." Pinkerton and his men earned a reputation for both toughness and efficiency. The Pinkerton Agency became well known for its investigative work in union activities. The agency also solved a series of train robberies during the 1850s. Pinkerton was hired as President-elect Abraham Lincoln's bodyguard, and the agency uncovered a plot to assassinate the President as he travelled to his inauguration. Lincoln agreed to follow any of Pinkerton's instructions on security measures, and the plot was foiled. Following the outbreak of the Civil War, Pinkerton became head of the Union Intelligence Service. Following Pinkerton's service with the Union Army, he continued his pursuit of train robbers. The Pinkerton Agency's pursuit of the outlaws Frank and Jesse James was legendary, and they were often hired as strike-breakers, although their tactics were sometimes less than scrupulous. In later years, Pinkerton wrote detective stories. In 1884, Pinkerton slipped on a Chicago street, and when his chin hit the pavement, his tongue was severely lacerated. A gangrenous infection which then set in proved fatal. At the time of his death, he was working on a system that would centralize all criminal identification records; an idea utilized and maintained in the present day by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Pinkerton was inducted into the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame. His sons, Robert and William, kept the agency going after his death, eventually turning from detective work to security work. The company still exists today under another name.

Bio by: Iola

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find A Grave Memorial 817
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Allan Pinkerton (25 Aug 1819–1 Jul 1884), Find A Grave Memorial no. 817, citing Graceland Cemetery, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .