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Bio of Allan Pinkerton

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Biography of Allan Pinkerton
CJS 250
April 2, 2011
John Feltgen

Biography of Allan Pinkerton The name Pinkerton is synonymous with private eyes around the world. The son of a police sergeant, Allan Pinkerton was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1819. His father was injured on-the-job and died as a result of his injuries in 1828, thus causing the family to live in poverty. For a short period he worked as a barrel maker to support his family. Then in 1842, at the age of 23, young Allan Pinkerton decided to migrate to the United States. He settled in Kane County, Illinois, where he opened a cooper’s shop that would eventually become a station on the Underground Railroad (Allan Pinkerton, 2010). It was just happenstance that Allan Pinkerton became interested in detective work. His accidental uncovering of a group of counterfeiters led to his interest in detective work and an appointment to Kane County Sheriff in 1846. Within two years of becoming an investigator, Pinkerton had racked up more arrests than any other officers on the police force. Just four years later, Pinkerton was appointed first city detective on the Chicago police force (Allan Pinkerton, 2010). That same year (1850) he opened the Pinkerton Detective Agency, an agency still thought of as the first modern detective agency (Pinkertons, 2004). The agency attracted national fame for solving train and express-company robberies. In 1861, during an investigation of a train robbery, agents from the Pinkerton Agency uncovered a plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln on the way to his first inauguration (Pinkerton Detective Agency, 1998). The discovery led to his organizing and establishing a secret service to obtain military information on confederates during the civil war. Pinkerton gained additional fame with the agency’s infiltration of the notorious Molly Maguires in 1869. The subsequent result of the infiltration was the conviction and deaths of 19 members of the group. In 1877, state laws permitted corporations to hire private militias to help with labor issues. The agents employed by the agency were known as Pinkertons, and they were contracted to sabotage labor union efforts. Union strikes were causing problems for employers and the Pinkerton Agency was asked to step in and help bring an end to the strikes. The help came in two forms: the first was placing spies within the unions to identify activists, and the second was providing private armies for the employers who were locking-out their employees (Pinkertons, 2004). The role of the Pinkerton Agency in industrial disputes began to wane as a result of bad public relations and the forming of federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The formation of the Pinkerton Detective Agency was absolutely pivotal in the private security industry. It opened the doors for other security businesses, such as Burns Security, and has been instrumental in helping protect private citizens as well as businesses when public police are not able to do so. Thousands of people have relied on the use of private security and will continue to rely on it for protection. Law enforcement is not able to be everywhere at all times and the need for private security is increasing due to the financial issues most counties and cities are facing. The number of officers available at any given time is decreasing so the need to hire private protection is necessary. More than 160 years after the forming of the agency, the Pinkerton Detective Agency employs more than 47,000 people around the world and concentrates on investigating fraud, background checks, building security, and personal protection (Pinkertons, 2004). In 2001, both the Pinkerton Detective Agency and Burns Security merged with the Swedish subsidiary Securitas, thus bringing together the two most famous security firms in the world.
Allan Pinkerton. (2010). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Pinkerton Detective Agency. (1998). In the New Encyclopedia of the American West. Retrieved from
Pinkertons. (2004). In Historical Encyclopedia of American Labor. Retrieved from

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