Allan Pinkerton

History of War - Spies




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Allan Pinkerton was a Scottish American who made history in the United States on two fronts. The first being he created the very first detective agency in the United States, but more importantly Allan Pinkerton was also the very first leader of the Union Intelligence Service which is seen as the father of the U.S Secret Service today.

While Allan Pinkerton was not born in the United States, the work he did in his lifetime and during the American Civil War literally changed the face of the American nation and the world forever as you are about to find out.

A Young Allan Pinkerton

Allan Pinkerton was born on the 25th of August in the year 1819 in Glasgow, Scotland. Little is known about his child years besides the fact that his family lived in a house in central Glasgow.

What we do know is that Pinkerton was a cooper (someone who makes wooden casks like those used to store alcohol) from a young age and that he married a local girl to the Glasgow area called Joan Carfrae. Joan Carfrae was a singer and Pinkerton became enamoured with her and gained her hand in marriage in 1842 when he was 23 years of age.

Shortly after marrying the newlyweds secretly moved to the United States where they felt their fortunes would be favoured.

Within 7 years of being in America and at the age of 30 Pinkerton was made the first detective of Chicago. The following year in 1850 Pinkerton formed the North-Western Police Agency with a local attorney; this detective agency was soon changed in name to Pinkerton National Detective Agency (still in existence today).

During the 1850’s the Pinkerton detective agency was pivotal in solving quite a few cases including those of train robbery, which was big business at the time. These exploits won Pinkerton the interest of Abraham Lincoln and other men of note.

Allan PinkertonAllan Pinkerton

Pinkerton and the Civil War

At the outbreak of the American Civil War Pinkerton joined the United States forces and became the leader of the newly formed Union Intelligence Service. During his service in the Union Intelligence Service Pinkerton formed a massive network of spies leading all the way into the heart of the Confederate army.

Pinkteron devised the techniques still in use today by intelligence agencies such as shadowing where you carry out surveillance on someone and assuming a role where you go undercover. Using these practises Pinkerton managed to get his agents to work undercover as Confederate soldiers and sympathizers to gain important information.

Pinkerton’s work in the Civil War is most noted for saving the life of Abraham Lincoln, something that has had far reaching outcomes for changing the face of America and the world. In 1861 to 1862 Pinkerton managed to break up an attempted assassination plot on Abraham Lincoln that was to take place when Lincoln was on his way to inauguration as President.

Pinkerton after the Civil War

After the Civil War was over Pinkerton went back to what he knew best, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Here he continued tracking down train robbers on behalf of the large railroad companies. The only time he failed in his attempt to track down a train robber was when he tried to pursue the notorious Jesse James and failed.

Pinkerton passed away on the 1st July 1884 in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 64 years.





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