Monday, June 17, 2013

The Eye That Never Sleeps


No, not that eye (but it is a great 'eye' pic, don't you think?); I'm talking about the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which happens to play a part in my novel, PARADISE. Having decided to use the agency, my next task was to learn all I could so that whatever ended up in the book would be true to history.

Here, in five parts, I'll tell you a little about the Pinkertons, their founder, and how they figure in my tale.

PART ONE

The Pinkerton Detective Agency was founded in 1855 by Allan Pinkerton - a Scottish immigrant and son of a policeman. Pinkerton and his new bride settled in Chicago first, and then Dundee, where he worked as a cooper. However, it wasn't long before he was drawn into what would become his life long profession.

At that time counterfeit currency was a huge problem and although Pinkerton himself wasn't affected, the people upon whom he depended for business were. When he "accidentally" discovered the counterfeiter's  camp he wasn't long in returning with the county sheriff who was so impressed he asked for Pinkerton's help. Although initially reluctant Allan agreed to look out for counterfeiters on a "part-time basis."

By early 1850 Pinkerton was well-known as a deputy in Kane County and had come to the attention of the federal government which hired him to investigate counterfeiting. Additionally, he became a special agent for the Chicago post office which had seen a rise in mail robberies. Apparently, the folks who sorted the mail had figured out which envelopes had money in them and which didn't. Pinkerton sent a decoy letter which soon resulted in the arrest of one Perry Denniston and his brother Theodore. At the apartment of the latter, $4000 was found pasted to the backs of wall pictures.

By this time, railroad expansion brought to light a weakness in the local police force. The problem was that once the train left the city it was essentially unprotected until it reached its destination. If cargo was stolen or passengers robbed, the railroad had no recourse. Of additional concern were the employees themselves such as the conductor who could let friends ride for free, sleep on the job, or pocket the money collected for tickets. In 1855, six mid-western railroads gave Pinkerton $10,000 "and the North West Police Agency was created."


(to be continued tomorrow.)

34 comments:

  1. He solved one mystery which lead to more.
    And even back then postal employees were stealing things.

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    1. It wasn't just the postal employees, it was the railroad employees, too, usually conductors because they got the money first.

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  2. I have images of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in my head right now.

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  3. I have the same images at M.J. So interesting learning his history.

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    1. That's what I majored in and it still interests me. But I'm not sure what you do with a degree in history if you don't teach.

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  4. Yep, I'm wondering if Butch used enough dynamite on the safe now. :P

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  5. that devil Theodore..... he's my old nemesis!

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  6. Oh wow!!! Nice to meet Allan Pinkerton and how he founded his agency!! I love railways too - and their history and so the detail here is fab! Yay! Take care
    x

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    1. I love the railways, too, wish it was bigger here in the US.

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  7. Very thorough history, Marcy!

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  8. Boy you've either really done your research or you have an imagination that just won't quit. I'm very impressed.

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    1. Oh, I wish I was that brilliant, Michael, but the truth is I have books on Pinkerton and his agency; I'm not spouting from memory. Not that I hadn't heard about him before and I could probably tell you about my favorite case without referring...
      :)

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  9. Ha, I WAS thinking of the Eye of Sauron when I saw your post title.

    Interesting how Pinkerton didn't actually MEAN to start a whole new profession that would actually be named after him!

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    1. I know; he and his agency were quite interesting to read about.

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  10. I love learning about stuff like this. Looking forward to more.

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  11. Okay, I'm just floored by this. Now I'm excited to learn more :-)

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    1. Great, cuz I love sharing history :)

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  12. i love reading about pieces of the past and i know you did a great job weaving it into your story!
    thanks for the lesson! and i'm excited to read paradise!

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  13. He was the first to go after counterfeiters? Well, considering that the Secret Service wasn't set up until 1865, I guess there was a need.

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    1. He wasn't the very first person but back then the local police could only do so much and there was a lot of territory that had no official - or unofficial - law enforcement.

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  14. Interesting how some people make plans to do one thing with their life, and end up doing something entirely different. The poor guy just wanted to settle down with his bride and make barrels... and maybe fill a couple with whiskey.

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    1. Maybe he started that way but his father was a policeman so I think that kind of work was something he was interested in.

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  15. So, did they really wear those long coat always shown in the movies?

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  16. Very interesting! I love this stuff.

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