The Pinkerton Detectives

  • The Pinkerton Detective Agency was founded by a former police officer – Allan Pinkerton – in 1850.
  • Their first office was in Chicago.
  • During the Civil War the Pinkertons gained fame as the personal body-guards to the president-elect, Abraham Lincoln.  They claimed to have foiled an early assassination plot against him.
  • At the height of its power the Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency was the largest private law-enforcement agency in the world.
  • They also acted as strike-breakers, sometimes hiring goon-squads to intimidate workers during labor disputes.
  • Kate Warne became the first female detective in 1856.
  • John Scobell was their first African-American Intelligence Agent during the Civil War.
  • Their Conduct Code included: 1. No bribes – 2. No compromising with criminals – 3. Support local law-enforcement – 4. Refuse divorce cases – 5. Avoid scandal cases – 6. Do not accept reward money – 7. Only raise client fees with prior notification – and 8. Give clients regular updates on progress.
  • The Pinkertons were hired to pursue the James-Younger Gang, the Dalton Gang, and Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch.
  • They were the first detectives to collect mug shots and develop a criminal database.
  • When Allan Pinkerton died in 1884 the business passed to his sons, Robert and William.  Later it went to his grandson, Allan Pinkerton II (1907), and then to his great-grandson, Robert Pinkerton II (1930).
  • In 1906 there were 20 U.S. offices, and when the corporate office moved to New York in 1960 the agency began expanding internationally.
  • Today, it is the largest security services provider in the world and recently relocated to a new global headquarters in Michigan.
  • Their famous logo – “We Never Sleep” – triggered the nickname private eye for all future detectives.


History Lists, “10 Things You May Not Know About The Pinkertons,” at, “History,” at

Wikipedia, “Pinkerton (detective agency),” at


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