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.
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.)