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Allan Pinkerton's Detective Agency Badge

Updated on October 9, 2010

Allan Pinkerton Scotland

On the 25th of August 1819 in The Gorbals in Glasgow a son was born to William a Police Sergeant, and Isabell Pinkerton.

Allan Pinkerton, was just eleven years old his father William was maimed in a riot and died of his injuries soon after.

This meant even at his tender age Allan was to become the breadwinner for the family.

He became an apprentice barrel maker in the McCauley Cooperage Works and he soon became a master of his trade.

During these years he became an active member of the Charterist movement

Chartism was a movement for political and social reform in the United Kingdom during the mid-19th century between 1838 and 1848. It takes its name from the People's Charter of 1838, which stipulated the six main aims of the movement as:

Universal suffrage for all men over the age of 21

Equal-sized electoral districts

Voting by secret ballot

An end to the need for a property qualification for Parliament

Pay for members of Parliament

Annual election of Parliament

Chartism was possibly the first mass working class movement in the world.

In 1848 he married Joan Carfrae and shortly after the wedding, he received word that he was to be arrested for his involvement in the Chartism movement.

Allan and Joan Pinkerton set sail for The America's soon after.

Allan and his Wife Joan

Alan Pinkerton America

The ship they travelled in ran aground in Nova Scotia and was so badly damaged, that it left the young couple no option but to make their way on land by foot to the New world, penniless they learned to live off the land as they travelled, fishing, trapping and eating fruits and vegetables that they came across.

They finally settled in a small immigrant town called Dundee on the outskirts of Chicago, where he soon set up a very successful cooperage.

During his time in Dundee, he became an active Anti-slavery campaigner and using his cooperage business as a cover he joined the "underground railroad" helping escaped slaves to reach freedom in Canada.

One day whilst out sourcing wood for his cooperage, Pinkerton stumbled on a hide out which he discovered was being used by a counterfeit gang to print money, he informed the authorities and even helped the police to capture the gang.

As a result of this capture, he was appointed deputy sheriff of Kane County and in 1849 he became Chicago's first full time Detective.

Detective Pinkerton on Horseback

Pinkerton(left) with Abraham Lincoln

The Pinkerton Detective Agency

Pinkerton was a natural detective, and in 1850 he founded the National Detective Agency in Chicago. "We Never Sleep" became the company Motto and its logo was a large unblinking eye or the all seeing eye as some call it.

The Agency created a lot of new techniques that are still used by detectives across the world to this day, including surveillance of suspects, and using undercover agents to infiltrate criminal gangs.

The Agency quickly achieved a reputation for toughness and effectiveness, and came to prominence after tracking down a number of train robbers during the 1850s.

In 1861 During an investigation, Pinkerton uncovered a plot to assasinate Abraham lincoln as he travelled through Baltimore on route to his Presidential inauguration. the plot was foiled.

A year later During the American Civil War, Lincoln appointed Pinkerton as his head of The Union Intelligence service. where he often went under cover posing as a confederate officer.

When the war ended Pinkerton returned to his detective agency, and his reputation grew from strength to strength, after a string of high-profile cases such as the Frank and Jessie James case.

1819 - 1884

Allan Pinkerton the Author

Pinkerton left the running of the detective agency to his two sons and begun writing detective stories including, Professional Thieves and the Detectives,The Railroad Forge and the Detectives, Claude Melnotte as a Detective and Other Stories and many others.

Pinkerton died in Chicago, Illinois, in 1884, as a result of infection after biting his tongue when he slipped on a sidewalk.

The legacy of Allan Pinkerton lives on today, The Union Detective agency was the forerunner of the US secret service and the Pinkerton Detective agency is still going strong as a part of the international security company "Securitas"




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    • profile image

      anthony tango 

      7 years ago

      A former Pinkerton's Detective, New Orleans, 1981-1988 - the sunburst type badge with a minor resemblance to the nypd detective badge,numbered "101" was the badge assigned to the agency head, a member of the Pinkerton family until the late 80's when the last living Pinkerton sold out.

      The badgenumber "101" on other badges is often used to denote ther Chief, or Director.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      well great story of someone's real life. you provide one of great collection for my real life story. if you have any more collection like that pls share i am waiting...........

    • profile image

      RJ Provost 

      9 years ago

      I was a Pinkerton Detective from 1981 to 1984. The company published an in house magazine, "The Investigator." On the front page was a picture of a Pinkerton Detective Badge which was numbered "101." I've never been able to find the significance of this badge number or who it belonged to. Were y'all aware that a number of famous and notorious persons worked as Pinkrton Detectives and that the company was the first to use a female Detective? Notable employees included Dashiell Hamett, Tom Horn, Bat Masterson, Charlie Siringo, etc.

    • Frieda Babbley profile image

      Frieda Babbley 

      9 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

      Eww! This story is right up my alley. I love it. Now I do have a question. Are you related to him? Because there's an uncanny resemblance. You didn't mention it, but I don't know whether you would or not. Fascinating piece. Great title.

    • profile image

      The Pirate of Wisdom 

      9 years ago

      what a knowledgeable read! thank ye! yargh!

    • talford profile image


      10 years ago from U.S.A.

      Good read!


    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks For All The Info!!!!!!!!!!!!!++++++++++++++++++++++|))))))))))))))((((((((((((((((((((((((((******&&&&&&&&&&&&&

    • J D Murrah profile image

      J D Murrah 

      10 years ago from Refugee from Shoreacres, Texas

      Fascinating read. With Pinkerton's involvement in Chartism, could he be called a socialist? I had read that he had associations with the socialists ant some of the 1848 revolution folks. Please help me by clarifying this one for me.


      Jeff Murrah

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 

      10 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Fascinating life story - thanks for this one.


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