Detecting the West
Have you ever wondered where the term “private eye” came from? Well, you can thank Mr. Pinkerton for that. Allan Pinkerton that is, of Pinkerton National Detective Agency fame. Mr. Pinkerton, along with his brother, started the first private detective agency in the United States way back in 1850. Pinkerton was a barrel maker by trade and a very successful one at that. Just how he got into the detective business is a story worth knowing. Furthermore, his Agency is still in operation today and many of his methods of detection and crime solving are still being used. The Pinkerton Detective Agency played a role in capturing or eliminating many of the criminals of the 19th century, among them, Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, the Wild Bunch, and others. He was a friend to President Lincoln and foiled an early assignation attempt. He organized a spy ring to infiltrate the Confederate Army and obtain vital wartime information. He hired the first female detective – forty years before it became accepted as the status quo. And last, but not least, he was a larger than life character who wrote prolifically of his exploits and adventures. And by the way, the picture below shows his famous logo and is the origin of the term “private eye.”
Here is some good fiction related to Mr. Pinkerton and his National Detective Agency.
- Wages of Sin by Matt Braun
- Crossfire by Matt Braun
- Pinkerton's Secret: a novel by Eric Lerner
- Yesterday's Shadows by Lee Roddy
- So Brave, Young and Handsome by Leif Enger
And, once again, the truth may be more fasicinating than the fiction.
- Allan Pinkerton: the first private eye by James Mackay
- Allan Pinkerton: the original private eye by Judith Pinkerton Josephson
- American spies and traitors by Vincent Buranelli