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Allan Pinkerton: Much More than Meets the “Eye” Americans frequently associate the name “Pinkerton” with security, home protection, and the Secret Service.

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Presentation on theme: "Allan Pinkerton: Much More than Meets the “Eye” Americans frequently associate the name “Pinkerton” with security, home protection, and the Secret Service."— Presentation transcript:

1 Allan Pinkerton: Much More than Meets the “Eye” Americans frequently associate the name “Pinkerton” with security, home protection, and the Secret Service. While he did contribute significantly to these areas, Allan Pinkerton did not always serve as a detective. His journey from the life of a craftsman to the upper realm of corporate espionage management was unexpected and unique, stemming from a combination of hard work and intuition. Background/historical context Allan Pinkerton was born in the Gorbals of Glasgow, Scotland, the youngest of William’s Pinkerton’s eleven children. His parents raised him with traditions and morals prompted by “the People’s Charter,” ideals that strongly supported equality, democracy, and workers rights. Thus, from his early days and into adulthood, Pinkerton was an unabashed, vocal advocate for these Chartist issues, a dedication that was made apparent by his support of the abolitionist John Brown. In addition, Pinkerton was trained in a field of skilled labor, apprenticed and later working as a cooper. He therefore was no stranger to hard work or the struggles of middle class life. 1 Movement into Detective Work In 1842, Pinkerton moved to America, where he initially worked in his craft. His legendary jump into detective work occurred while he was collecting wood to make his barrels. He stumbled upon evidence of counterfeiters, patiently waited for them for days, and eventually caught them red-handed. He was offered part-time duty as a county sheriff, from which he quickly climbed through the ranks, eventually opening and operating his own detective agency. 2 Work with General McClellan His repute earned him the top intelligence position under General George McClellan, where he was “assigned to find out the strength of the Confederate Army which General Johnston had waiting in Virginia.” Unfortunately, he did not seem to possess the knack for army estimations and battle plans like he did for civil crime detection. According to the war reports, he grossly over exaggerated the enemy’s power, and that false information, combined with McClellan’s infamous reluctance to attack, proved a disaster for the union. 3 1.Hunt, America’s First Private Eye, 1; McKay, The First Private Eye, 5, 18, 23, 25; Death of the Great Detective, 2 2.Crissey, Eye that Never Sleeps 2, 4; McKay, The First Private Eye, 10; Hunt, America’s First Private Eye, 2. 3.Lloyd, “Lincoln and Pinkerton,” 372, 373; Fishel, “Mythology of Civil War Intelligence,” Lloyd, “Lincoln and Pinkerton,” 374; Fishel, “Mythology of Civil War Intelligence,” 349; Fishel, “Pinkerton and McClellan,” Fishel, “Mythology of Civil War Intelligence,” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/counterintelligence Not A Military Failure Though scholars have offered explanations for Pinkerton’s incompetence, the common assumption that Pinkerton was a complete Civil War failure is a myth. While “as an intelligence officer Pinkerton was altogether as sorry a performer as reputed,” he made considerable contributions in the area of counterintelligence. His success should be measured by the “decline of quality and timeliness of information that the Confederates were able to get out of Washington,” his “success in keeping track of the composition of Confederate forces.” 4 Why He Succeeded His strengths, his talent of noticing the little things, of piecing together a puzzle to solve a crime, qualities that would support a counterintelligence effort, seem to be inherit. His childhood principles continued to guide him; his dedication to worker freedom and commitment to perseverance propelled his career past normal bounds. He had a knack, a gift; but he did not waste it. With the influence of his original craftsman training, he was able to conjure the dedication to pursue his true passion. He had remarkable intuition, and paired with his self-confidence and relentless drive, he was an unstoppable force in the detective world. “ Four months [after McClellan’s army embarked at Alexandria for the Peninsula in March and April 1862], a spy obtained a correct though incomplete list of the units that had left. Four months later, however, a pair of spies who got into Washington and out again gave information about Pope’s army that was not only incomplete but in error on every major point that it touched. And by the spring of 1863 Southern espionage directed at the enemy capital was faring even worse. One spy could get no closer than Baltimore.” 5 Counterintelligence: organized activity of an intelligence service designed to block an enemy's sources of information, to deceive the enemy, to prevent sabotage, and to gather political and military information 6 Army of the Potomac Campaign Map: Williamsburg to White House Kane County, Illinois Allan Pinkerton on Horseback Allan Pinkerton to Abraham Lincoln Monday, June 2, 1862 ` Portrait of General George B. McClellan Scouts and Guides for the Army of the Potomac Berlin, MD, October George M Bernard, "Allan Pinkerton, Chief of McClellan's Secret Service, with his Men Near Cumberland Landing, Va.," May 14, 1862, from National Archives Military History, Pictures of the Civil War. 2. "Campaign maps, Army of the Potomac Map No. 2 Williamsburg to White House," map, from Baylor Digital Collections, The "War of the Rebellion Atlas.” 3. Alexander Gardner, "Allan Pinkerton on Horseback," September 1862, from The Library of Congress, American Memory. 4. "Glasgow Maps and Orientation," map, World Guides: City Guides and Travel Information. 5. Allan Pinkerton to Abraham Lincoln President, June 2, 1862, in The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress. 6. "Scouts and Guides for the Army of the Potomac," October 1862, The Civil War Home Page. 7. "Portrait of General George B. McClellan," Civil War Photos 8. “Eye that Never Sleeps,” Chicago Daily Tribune, June 30, ProQuest Historical Newspapers: Chicago Tribune ( ) “Eye that Never Sleeps,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 1890 Glasgow, Scotland Kathleen Faulkner First Year Writing Seminar: Civil War Through Biography


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