Pinkerton (detective agency)
|Industry||Private security contractor|
|Founded||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
(c. 1850; 172 years ago)
|Headquarters||Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.|
|Services||Security management, risk management consulting, investigations, employment screening, protective services, security, crisis management, intelligence services|
|Parent||Securitas AB (1999–present)|
Pinkerton, founded as the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, is a private security guard and detective agency established in the United States by Scotsman Allan Pinkerton in the 1850s and currently a subsidiary of Securitas AB. Pinkerton became famous when he claimed to have foiled a plot to assassinate president-elect Abraham Lincoln in 1861. Lincoln later hired Pinkerton agents to conduct espionage against the Confederacy and act as his personal security during the Civil War. The Pinkerton National Detective Agency hired women and minorities from its founding, a practice uncommon at the time, as they were useful as spies. At the height of their power, the Pinkerton Detective Agency was the largest private law enforcement organization in the world.
Following the Civil War, the Pinkertons began conducting operations against organized labor. During the labor strikes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, businesses hired the Pinkerton Agency to infiltrate unions, supply guards, keep strikers and suspected unionists out of factories, and recruit goon squads to intimidate workers. During the Homestead Strike of 1892, Pinkerton agents were called in to reinforce the strikebreaking measures of industrialist Henry Clay Frick, who was acting on behalf of Andrew Carnegie, the head of Carnegie Steel. Tensions between the workers and strikebreakers erupted into violence which led to the deaths of three Pinkerton agents and nine steelworkers. During the late nineteenth century, the Pinkertons were also hired as guards in coal, iron, and lumber disputes in Illinois, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Pinkertons were also involved in other strikes such as the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 and the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921.
During the twentieth century, Pinkerton rebranded itself into a personal security and risk management firm. The company has continued to exist in various forms through to the present day, and is now a division of the Swedish security company Securitas AB, operating as "Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations, Inc. d.b.a. Pinkerton Corporate Risk Management". The former Government Services division, PGS, now operates as "Securitas Critical Infrastructure Services, Inc.".
In the 1850s, Allan Pinkerton, a Scottish immigrant met Chicago attorney Edward Rucker in a local Masonic Hall. The two men formed the North-Western Police Agency, later known as the Pinkerton Agency. Pinkerton used his skills in espionage to attract clients and begin growing the agency.
Historian Frank Morn writes: "By the mid-1850s a few businessmen saw the need for greater control over their employees; their solution was to sponsor a private detective system. In February 1855, Allan Pinkerton, after consulting with six midwestern railroads, created such an agency in Chicago."
Among the business's early operations was to safely deliver the newly elected President of the United States Abraham Lincoln to Washington, D.C., in light of an assassination threat. Pinkerton detective Kate Warne was assigned and successfully delivered Lincoln to the U.S. capital city through a series of disguises and related tactics that required her to stay awake throughout the entire long journey. As a result of the public notoriety of this success, the business adapted an open eye as its logo and the slogan, "We never sleep."
US Government Contractor
In 1871, Congress appropriated $50,000 (about equivalent to $1,131,000 in 2021) to the new Department of Justice to form a sub-organization devoted to "the detection and prosecution of those guilty of violating federal law." The amount was insufficient to fashion an internal investigating unit, so they contracted out the services to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.
However, as news leaked about the Pinkerton's involvement in strikebreaking became public knowledge, lawmakers began pushing against the government contracts with the Pinkertons. The Pinkertons reached their zenith in the 1870s and 80s which saw them frequently engage in violent crackdowns against striking workers. The most notable example of this was the involvement of the Pinkertons in the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. However, it was the confrontation in Homestead, Pennsylvania that led to a national outcry against the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Following the strike, Congress took swift action against the Pinkertons and passed the Anti-Pinkerton Act in 1893, which severely curtailed the relationship between the federal government and the agency. The act states that, "individual employed by the Pinkerton Detective Agency, or similar organization, may not be employed by the Government of the United States or the government of the District of Columbia."
Chicago "Special Officers" and watchmen
- July 27, 1877: J. J. White, who had been hired as a "Special Officer" during a strike, was shot and killed.
- July 19, 1919: Hans Rassmuson, Special Officer, was shot and killed.
- March 12, 1924: Frank Miller, Pinkerton Watchman, was shot and killed.
In the 1870s, Franklin B. Gowen, then president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, hired the agency to "investigate" the labor unions in the company's mines. A Pinkerton agent, James McParland, using the alias "James McKenna", infiltrated the Molly Maguires, a 19th-century secret society of mainly Irish-American coal miners, leading to the downfall of the labor organization.
The incident inspired Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes novel The Valley of Fear (1914–1915). A Pinkerton agent also appears in a small role in "The Adventure of the Red Circle", a 1911 Holmes story. A 1970 film, The Molly Maguires, was loosely based upon the incident as well.
On July 6, 1892, during the Homestead Strike, 300 Pinkerton agents from New York and Chicago were called in by Carnegie Steel's Henry Clay Frick to protect the Pittsburgh-area mill and strikebreakers. This resulted in a firefight and siege in which 16 men were killed, and 23 others were wounded. Following the confrontation the Governor of Pennsylvania, Robert E. Pattinson mobilized state law enforcement and the National Guard. Private and government forces broke the strike and workers returned to the steel mill.
The strike, dubbed "The Battle of Homestead" by local media ignited a firestorm around the United States. Americans were outraged at the conduct of the Pinkertons and how strikers were treated. The Homestead Strike of 1892 is regarded as a turning point in American labor history and prompted Congress to begin a crackdown on the Pinkertons.
Steunenberg murder and trial
Harry Orchard was arrested by the Idaho police and confessed to Pinkerton agent James McParland that he assassinated former Governor Frank Steunenberg of Idaho in 1905. Orchard testified (unsuccessfully), under threat of hanging, against Western Federation of Miners president Big Bill Haywood, naming him as having hired the hit. With a stirring defense by Clarence Darrow, Haywood and the other defendants of the WFM were acquitted in a nationally publicized trial. Orchard received a death sentence, but it was commuted.
Outlaws and competition
Pinkerton agents were hired to track western outlaws Jesse James, the Reno Gang, and the Wild Bunch (including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). On March 17, 1874, two Pinkerton Detectives and a deputy sheriff, Edwin P. Daniels, encountered the Younger brothers (associates of the James–Younger Gang); Daniels, John Younger, and one Pinkerton agent were killed. In Union, Missouri, a bank was robbed by George Collins, aka Fred Lewis, and Bill Randolph; Pinkerton Detective Chas Schumacher trailed them and was killed. Collins was hanged on March 26, 1904, and Randolph was hanged on May 8, 1905, in Union. Pinkertons were also hired for transporting money and other high-quality merchandise between cities and towns, which made them vulnerable to outlaws. Pinkerton agents were usually well paid and well armed.
G.H. Thiel, a former Pinkerton employee, established the Thiel Detective Service Company in St. Louis, Missouri, a competitor to the Pinkerton agency. The Thiel company operated in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Due to its conflicts with labor unions, the word Pinkerton continues to be associated by labor organizers and union members with strikebreaking. Pinkertons diversified from labor spying following revelations publicized by the La Follette Committee hearings in 1937, and the firm's criminal detection work also suffered from the police modernization movement, which saw the rise of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the bolstering of detective branches and resources of the public police. With less of the labor and criminal investigation work on which Pinkertons thrived for decades, the company became increasingly involved in protection services, and in the 1960s, even the word "detective" disappeared from the agency's letterhead. The company now focuses on threat intelligence, risk management, executive protection, and active shooter response.
In 1999, the company was bought by Securitas AB, a Swedish security company, for $384 million, followed by the acquisition of the William J. Burns Detective Agency (founded in 1910), longtime Pinkerton rival, to create (as a division of the parent) Securitas Security Services USA. Today, the company's headquarters are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Pinkerton has not gotten entirely away from its anti-labor past; in 2020 they were hired by Amazon to spy on warehouse workers for signs of union activity.
Appearance in popular media
- In the Sherlock Holmes novel The Valley of Fear, Birdy Edwards is a Pinkerton agent. Another Pinkerton agent, Leverton, makes his appearance in the short story "The Adventure of the Red Circle".
- Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op detective stories were based on his experiences working for the Pinkerton agency for several periods during 1917–22. The Baltimore branch, where Hammett first worked, was housed in the Continental Trust Building; the Pinkerton agency was not named. Hammett also worked in the San Francisco office, thus many of the Op stories were set in that city. They were published in Black Mask magazine from 1923 to 1930. There have been several Continental Op book collections. Four of the stories were combined to form Hammett's first novel Red Harvest.
- Many Louis L'Amour books contain references to the Pinkertons, including Milo Talon.
- In the James Bond novels, Felix Leiter becomes a Pinkerton detective between Live and Let Die and Diamonds Are Forever.
- Former Pinkerton agent Charlie Siringo published an exposé on methods used by the Pinkertons during the 1880s and 1890s in his 1914 book Two Evil-Isms: Pinkertonism and Anarchism. The agency soon suppressed publication of the book and made a request to the Governor of New Mexico, William C. McDonald, to arrest Siringo for criminal libel and extradite him to Chicago. Governor McDonald denied their request, but the agency was successful in obtaining a court order to impound all existing copies of the book.
- In the 1970 film The Molly Maguires Richard Harris portrays Pinkerton Detective James McParland whose undercover work leads to the execution of "Black Jack" Kehoe, played by Sean Connery, who had befriended him.
- Allan Pinkerton and several agents play a vital role in the film American Outlaws (2001), starring Colin Farrell and Gabriel Macht as Jesse and Frank James. Pinkerton and his detectives are hired by the owner of the fictional Rock Northern Rail Road to track down Jesse James and his gang following a series of robberies aimed at his company.
- The Pinkertons have been featured in the 1980 movie The Long Riders, where Pinkerton agents are depicted investigating the criminal activities of the James brothers.
- Pinkerton detectives are featured in the 3:10 to Yuma remake featuring Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, appearing at the start of the film defending a stagecoach from bandits.
- In the 1994 western film Bad Girls the three main characters are being tracked down by two Pinkerton agents after committing murder.
- In the 2005 film Legend of Zorro, a pair of Pinkerton agents sees Zorro's face and recognise him. The following day, the Pinkertons confront his wife, Elena, and blackmail her into divorcing him in order to get close to the main antagonist; Armand and learn of his plans without the aid of Zorro, as they dislike Zorro and his vigilante ways.
- In the 2017 Kenneth Branagh film Murder on the Orient Express, Cyrus Bethman Hardman is revealed to be an undercover Pinkerton detective.
- In the 2019 western film Badland, the protagonist was a Pinkerton detective in New Mexico authorized by the President and directed by a black Senator to track down and hang Confederate war criminals.
- In the television series Damnation, Creeley Turner, one of the two lead characters, is a Pinkerton agent sent to Iowa by a powerful industrialist to stop a farmer strike.
- The Pinkertons, a scripted one-hour syndicated starring Angus Macfadyen as Allan Pinkerton, debuted in 2014.
- Cole Hauser plays Charlie Siringo, a Pinkerton investigating Lizzie Borden, in the 2015 mini-series The Lizzie Borden Chronicles.
- In the Canadian-American television drama When Calls the Heart, Pinkerton security officers are employed by the mining company managed by Henry Gowen (Martin Cummins)
- Allan Pinkerton was portrayed by Charlie Day in the second-series episode of Drunk History entitled "Baltimore". The episode relays the story of Allan Pinkerton successfully protecting Abraham Lincoln, portrayed by Martin Starr, from assassination.
- "Bloody Battles", the second episode of the 2012 miniseries The Men Who Built America, focuses on the relationship between Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick, which is damaged by the 1892 Homestead strike when Frick hires the Pinkertons.
- In the television series Deadwood, the Pinkertons are prominently featured as mercenaries paid for by George Hearst, the final season's antagonist.
- In Czechoslovak–West German television show Dobrodružství kriminalistiky (The Adventure of Criminalistics) it is a criminal story about Pinkerton Detective Agency from 1912.
- In the television series 1883, Shea Brennan (played by Sam Elliott) and Thomas (played by LaMonica Garrett) are Pinkerton Agents.
- The protagonist of the video game BioShock Infinite, Booker DeWitt, is an ex-Pinkerton and former member of the "goon squads" used by the agency to suppress strikes. One of the game's trophies, awarded for completing the highest difficulty, is titled "Stone Cold Pinkerton".
- In the online game Poptropica, Pinkerton's services are used to catch a thief on Mystery Train Island. They are also revealed to be protecting President Grover Cleveland.
- Pinkerton detectives appear as antagonists in Red Dead Redemption 2 and Red Dead Redemption. In Red Dead Redemption 2 they act primarily as mercenaries and investigators employed to track down the Van der Linde gang. Take-Two Interactive, parent company of game publisher Rockstar Games, received a cease and desist notice from Securitas AB, asserting that Red Dead Redemption 2's use of the Pinkerton name and badge imagery was against their trademark of both their name and likeness. Securitas AB further demanded royalties for each copy of the game sold or that they would take legal action. Take-Two filed a complaint against Securitas in January 2019, asserting that the Pinkerton name was strongly associated with the Wild West, and its use of the term did not infringe on the Pinkerton trademark. Take-Two sought a summary judgment to declare the use of Pinkerton in the game as allowed fair use. By April 2019, Securitas withdrew its claims and Take-Two moved to withdraw its complaint and the Pinkerton name remains displayed in the game.
- Anti-union organizations in the United States
- Anti-union violence
- Baldwin–Felts Detective Agency
- Battle of Blair Mountain
- Coal and Iron Police, a Pinkerton-supervised private police force in Pennsylvania
- Colorado Labor Wars
- George Samuel Dougherty, a leading private detective for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency from 1888 to 1911
- Morris Friedman, author of Pinkerton Labor Spy
- Dashiell Hammett, author and former Pinkerton operative
- Industrial Workers of the World
- Labor spying in the United States
- Frank Little, American labor leader; lynched in 1917, allegedly by Pinkerton agents
- List of worker deaths in United States labor disputes
- Timothy Webster
- "Pinkerton Government Services, Inc.: Private Company Information – Businessweek". investing.businessweek.com. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
- Green, James (2006). Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America. Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-375-42237-4.p. 43
- "Today in History - August 25". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2022-04-21.
- Seiple, Samantha (2015). Lincoln's spymaster: Allan Pinkerton, America's first private eye. New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN 978-0-545-70901-9. OCLC 922643750.
- TM Becker (1974). "The place of private police in society: An area of research for the Social Sciences". Social Problems. 21 (3): 438–453. doi:10.2307/799910. JSTOR 799910.
- "The Strike at Homestead Mill | American Experience | PBS". www.pbs.org. Retrieved 2022-04-20.
- "Strike at Homestead Mill". Public Broadcasting System. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
- Krause, Paul (1992). The Battle for Homestead, 1890-1892: Politics, Culture, and Steel. University of Pittsburgh Press. ISBN 0-8229-5466-4. p.20-21
- Krause, Paul; Krause, Paul; Paul Avrich Collection (Library of Congress) DLC (1992). The battle for Homestead, 1880-1892: politics, culture, and steel. Internet Archive. Pittsburgh : University of Pittsburgh Press.
- "Press Kit" (PDF). Justia Law. 2018. Retrieved February 9, 2021.
- Foner, Eric; Garraty, John Arthur, eds. (Oct 21, 1991). The Reader's Companion to American History. Houghton Mifflin Books. ISBN 0-395-51372-3.p. 842
- Robinson, Charles M (2005). American Frontier Lawmen 1850-1930. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-575-9.p. 63
- Horan, James David; Howard Swiggett (1951). The Pinkerton Story. Putnam.p. 202
- Morn, Frank (1982). The Eye That Never Sleeps: A History of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-32086-0. p. 18
- O'Reilly, Terry. "How a detective used a disguise to save the life of a president". Under the Influence. CBC. Retrieved 22 January 2021.
- Churchill, Ward (Spring 2004). "From the Pinkertons to the PATRIOT Act: The Trajectory of Political Policing in the United States, 1870 to the Present". The New Centennial Review. 4 (1): 1–72. doi:10.1353/ncr.2004.0016. S2CID 145098109. Archived from the original on October 20, 2009.
- Bilansky, Alan (2018). "Pinkerton's National Detective Agency and the Information Work of the Nineteenth-Century Surveillance State". Information & Culture. 53 (1): 67–84. doi:10.7560/IC53104. hdl:2142/97810. ISSN 2164-8034. S2CID 159007191.
- Antkowiak, Bruce (2011). "The Pinkerton Problem". heinonline.org. Retrieved 2022-04-21.
- 5 U.S. Code 3108; Public Law 89-554, 80 Stat. 416 (1966); ch. 208 (5th par. under "Public Buildings"), 27 Stat. 591 (1893). The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in U.S. ex rel. Weinberger v. Equifax, 557 F.2d 456 (5th Cir. 1977), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 1035 (1978), held that "the purpose of the Act and the legislative history reveal that an organization was 'similar' to the Pinkerton Detective Agency only if it offered for hire mercenary, quasi-military forces as strikebreakers and armed guards. It had the secondary effect of deterring any other organization from providing such services lest it be branded a 'similar organization.'" 557 F.2d at 462; see also "GAO Decision B-298370; B-298490, Brian X. Scott (Aug. 18, 2006)". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.
- "White, J.J." Homicide in Chicago 1870-1930. Retrieved 2011-03-16.
- "Rassmuson, Hans". Homicide in Chicago 1870-1930. Retrieved 2011-03-16.
- "Miller, Frank". Homicide in Chicago 1870-1930. Retrieved 2011-03-16.
- "The Strike at Homestead Mill | American Experience | PBS". www.pbs.org. Retrieved 2022-04-28.
- "The Battle of Homestead". Rivers of Steel. Retrieved 2022-04-28.
- "1892 Homestead Strike | AFL-CIO". aflcio.org. Retrieved 2022-04-28.
- Peter Carlson, Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, W.W. Norton & Company, 1983, page 90
- Peter Carlson, Roughneck: The Life and Times of Big Bill Haywood, W.W. Norton & Company, 1983, page 140
- "Deputy Sheriff Edwin P. Daniels". The Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP).
- Williams, David Ricardo (1998). Call in Pinkerton's: American Detectives at Work for Canada. Toronto: Dundurn Press. ISBN 1-550023-06-3.
- Morn, Frank (1982). The Eye That Never Sleeps: A History of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-32086-0. p. 188-189
- Morn, Frank (1982). The Eye That Never Sleeps: A History of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-32086-0. p. 192.
- The Pinkertons Still Never Sleep, New Republic, 23 March 2018
- About Securitas USA (company site)
- Katie Canales (2020). "Amazon is using union-busting Pinkerton spies to track warehouse workers and labor movements at the company, according to a new report". Business Insider.
- "The Pinkertons TV Series". Rosetta Media and Buffalo Gal Pictures. Retrieved 2014-10-11.
- Andreeva, Nellie (July 23, 2014). "Angus Macfadyen Set To Play Allan Pinkerton In Syndicated Drama Series 'The Pinkertons'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2014-10-11.
- "Dobrodružství kriminalistiky (1989)".
- "Dobrodruzství kriminalistiky (TV Series 1989–1998)". IMDb.[unreliable source?]
- Robinson, Adi (January 14, 2019). "Red Dead Redemption 2's Pinkerton agents are at the center of a lawsuit". The Verge. Vox Media. Archived from the original on January 15, 2019. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
- Valentine, Rebekah (April 11, 2019). "Take-Two, Rockstar dismiss complaint against Pinkerton". Gamesindustry.biz. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on April 11, 2019. Retrieved April 11, 2019.
- Jonathan Obert. 2018. "Pinkertons and Police in Antebellum Chicago." in The Six-Shooter State: Public and Private Violence in American Politics. Cambridge University Press.
- Jeffreys-Jones, Rhodri (2003). Cloak and Dollar: A History of American Secret Intelligence. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10159-7.
- Friedman, Morris (1907). The Pinkerton's Labor Spy. New York: Wilshire Book Co. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
- O'Hara, S. Paul Inventing the Pinkertons; or, Spies, Sleuths, Mercenaries, and Thugs (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016). x, 194 pp.
- Siringo, Charles A. (1912). A Cowboy Detective: A True Story of Twenty-Two Years with a World-Famous Detective Agency. Chicago: W. B. Conkey Company. Retrieved 2009-07-08.