Friday, June 21, 2013

The Eye That Never Sleeps - part five

So today I said I'd tell you about my Pinkerton agents, the fictional ones who inhabit the pages of my novel, PARADISE (scheduled for release next year!!!). I can't tell you much without giving things away but their names are Jim Woolbridge and Larry Sweet and they are quite opposite in character and temperament. Jim is the slow methodical type, a pipe smoker and a rule follower. Larry, on the other hand, is a sharp dresser, a people person, and it is he who generally questions suspects. My main character Jack doesn't like either of them when he first meets them.

And now for the last tale I'm going to tell you about the Pinkertons...


By the late 1870s the Pinkerton Agency was primarily managed by Robert and William Pinkerton due to their father's failing health. Among the stranger cases (I had never heard of this before reading it!) was one in which the Pinkertons assisted the Secret Service "in finding and arresting the ghouls who had attempted to steal the body of Abraham Lincoln from it's marble sarcophagus in the Springfield memorial."

Jim Kinealy, a counterfeiter and leader of a small gang, came up with the plan to steal the body and demand a ransom for its return. Unfortunately one of his gang squealed to a woman who tattled to the police. Kinealy escaped but two other counterfeiters (Terence Mullin and John Hughes) thought they'd make a go of the caper and took in Lewis C. Swegles, a horse thief and 'roper' (aka stool pigeon). He informed a Chicago Secret Service operator who called in the Pinkertons for assistance.

Nevertheless, in spite of the preparations made to capture the criminals, Swegle failed to "warn the detectives in time and an accidentally discharged pistol allowed the criminals to escape." They were apprehended a short while later but because there was nothing in Illinois statutes that covered grave robbing the only charge that could be made against the pair was "conspiracy to steal the coffin, which was valued at $75." Both men were sentenced to a year in prison.

And that ends our history lesson, which I hope you all found interesting. At the very least, I'll bet you didn't know that anyone tried to steal Lincoln's body or that ghouls were grave robbers. As for Allan Pinkerton, founder of the agency, he died on July 1, 1884, with his family at his side. The Agency he founded lives on.


The quoted material came from two books: The Eye That Never Sleeps, A history of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency by Frank Morn and The Pinkertons: The Detective Dynasty That Made History by James D. Horan. 



27 comments:

  1. Fascinating stuff! A year in prison? Now people commit worse crimes and serve no time. Shame, huh?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, our justice system needs an overhaul.

      Delete
  2. Excellent again, should be a damn good book.

    ReplyDelete
  3. stealing dead bodies ... that's just nasty!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'll have to check the first four parts of this. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Those sound like interesting books to read for research.

    Your characters, Larry and Jim, sound like they'll have some interesting conversations!

    ReplyDelete
  6. They do say truth is stranger than fiction :) Sometimes I think it's just plain interesting enough on its own!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love history. Whenever I delve I always find something interesting or crazy or amazing.

      Delete
  7. I like how your characters are so well developed. I instantly get a mental image of what they must look like.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I did know the definition of "ghoul", and I knew Lincoln's body had been briefly snatched, but I didn't know any of the details. It's especially interesting that there were no laws against grave-robbing at the time, so they were charged with stealing the coffin. Thanks! Interesting stuff!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought someone might and I'm not surprised it's you! I had never heard of anyone trying to snatch Lincoln's body until I started reading about the Pinkertons.

      Delete
  9. Interesting stuff. Such great stories in real life! :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. I had heard the story about the theft of Lincoln's body. Did you know that at that time, body stealing was a fairly popular crime? Thieves would take the bodies of prominent people and charge a ransom to get them back.

    It says a lot about a culture that this was once a problem and now it no longer is.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did not know that body kidnapping was a popular crime. Just thinking about it makes me shudder. I can't imagine digging up some corpse and then do what with it while you wait for the ransom money? I'll repeat: Ick!

      Delete
  11. I never heard of that crime. Sounds very interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  12. The Pinkertons were an interesting group, for sure. Your story sounds like a great one, too :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Extremely interesting! I learned a lot while researching.

      Delete
  13. Intriguing. I love history lessons of this sort.

    ........dhole

    ReplyDelete
  14. I worked for Pinkerton as a security receptionist at the Gap's Corporate office in SF. A long time ago.

    ReplyDelete

If you're interested in my blog I'm interested in your comments.