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Allan Pinkerton led quite an adventurous and accomplished life. During his varied and long career he was known as a patriot and a traitor, an idealist and a thug, a police officer and an outlaw, a trampler of rights and a defender of liberty, a rogue, an innovator, a remodeler, but most of all, he was a detective.

Allan Pinkerton was born in the footsteps of his father who was a police sergeant. His father died when Allan was a young child, therefore his family was living in poverty. In 1842 he moved to the United States and settled in the Chicago area. One day he discovered and captured a gang of counterfeiters while he was cutting wood and working on his cabin. Soon after, he was appointed deputy sheriff of Kane County in 1846 and soon after he became deputy sheriff of Cook County, with its headquarters being in Chicago.

In the 1850’s Pinkerton was busy working in both the private security and law enforcement fields. He was appointed to Special Agent for the U.S. Postal service and did covert work and investigated counterfeiting. In 1855 he created the Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, which provided different private detective services which specialized in train robberies, counterfeiters, and private security for industries.

During this time, much of the United States was still known as the “Wild West”. The few police forces that did exist were restricted and confined to larger cities, and were often unorganized and incompetent. This left the rural country will barely any law enforcement at all. Pinkerton recognized the opportunity to succeed in the private sector as he understood well that the police could not service every need of the public. Post offices and railroads, which had to operate in the vast rural wilderness areas, became the agency’s most common clients. Pinkerton and his operatives gained a reputation for being tough, relentless, and thorough. They maintained huge files on suspects and kept case journals and all of their criminals. They would crack cases using research, undercover, and surveillance methods.

In the mid-nineteenth century, much of the United States was still the "Wild West." What few official police forces existed at the time were for the most part confined to the larger cities, and they were often less than organized and often embarrassingly incompetent, leaving large sections of the still mostly rural country with virtually no law enforcement at all. The railroads and the post office, two businesses that were forced to operate in this lawless wilderness, quickly became two of the agency's most lucrative clients. In contrast to the public police of the time, Pinkerton and his private operatives quickly gained a reputation for toughness, thoroughness and relentless professionalism. They compiled huge files on suspects, and were credited with creating the first rogue's gallery and being the first to use photographs to identify criminals. Operatives had to keep case journals and documentation. They cracked cases and prevented crime through meticulous and painstaking research, often perilous undercover work and exhaustive surveillance.

By the 1870’s, his agency had grown an extensive collective of criminals and provided mug shots which became a model for other police forces. He also utilized tactics and business which are still in place today such as “shadowing” which is following a suspect and provide private security for industries. Police forces also began mug shots to get word out on a wanted person ("Allan j. pinkerton," 2008).

The Pinkerton National Detective Agency became one of the most famous organizations of its kind. His company is still in existence today which is known as Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations, which is a subsidiary of the company Securitas AB. His business insignia was a wide open eye which displayed the caption “We never sleep” (Simpkin, 2010).

One success involved the capture of the principals in a $700,000 Adams Express Company theft in 1866 ("Allan pinkerton biography," 2011). Another famous success story Pinkerton is credited with is the thwarting of an assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln in February of 1861. He also headed an organization whose main purpose was to gather information on the Southern States.

After the civil war he resumed management of his detective agency. He went on to write many works which included the Molly Maguires and the Detectives, The Spy of the Rebellion, his account of Lincoln's journey to Washington in 1861; and Thirty Years a Detective.

Works Cited

Allan pinkerton biography. (2011). Retrieved from

Allan j. pinkerton. (2008). Retrieved from

Simpkin, J. (2010). Spartacus educational. Retrieved from…...

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