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MormonMobster
02-08-2011, 09:34 AM
So I'm setting a story in the Wild West-ish area in the mid 1850s, a little while after the Pinkerton Detective Agency was set up. I want to have a Pinkerton Detective involved, and am doing some research to help portray the Pinkertons well.

But I want some general info and maybe a few specifics.

Info related to the Pinkertons in convenient bullet-points.

What I know (in general) already:

-The Pinkertons were a private detective, bodyguard, and essentially spy agency. They also broke up labor unions and so forth, but that's years after I want to portray them.

-Allan Pinkerton, their founder, essentially codified and created many common aspects of spy operations during (and I presume before) the Civil War.

-They were known for being doggedly persistent and ruthless in their goals.

-Still, they were very competent, at least compared to any competitors in the Confederacy (for the Civil War spy bit)

What I want to know:

-How far reaching were they? Specifically, how far into the West would their agents go?

-In their early years, did they work with individual state-level officials?

-I have a scenario in my story, that of a Mormon character (the MC) killing a respected and rich man (who is actually a supernatural monstrosity). Would the Federal government around the 1850s be suspicious enough of the Mormons as to send a Pinkerton agent to investigate the killing and bring the killer to justice?

-Were the Pinkertons nepotistic? Example: would they have high-level agents related to the founder that partially gained their rank due to family ties?

-I know they popularized the later "gumshoe" and private detective sort of investigations, but how exactly did they operate? Did they have any particular "themes" in how they worked?


Finally, any more interesting info on the Pinkertons would be much appreciated, thank you.

MormonMobster
02-09-2011, 06:24 PM
I think it's safe to bump this, so here we go.

Seriously though, any info would be much appreciated.

MormonMobster
02-12-2011, 07:05 AM
There's really no experts on the Pinkertons here? Or are you all just hiding?

Anyway, this'll be the last time I bump this, so if anyone knows anything about the Pinkertons, that'd be appreciated.

frimble3
02-12-2011, 10:53 AM
Okay, I know nothing about the Pinkertons except that my father despised them as union-busters. Wikipedia (I know, I know.. and you do to, probably) says that they were formed in 1855, so they were a brand-new thing in the time you're looking at. But after the Civil War they were government contractors, and huge in the US. They evidently rose quickly.
So, I'm speculating that: if you protrayed them as really eager to prove their usefulness, and impress potential employers, they might well have sent out feelers to every gov't official they could find, implying that they were willing and able to look into anything required.
So, the Feds have a rich, dead non-Mormon in Mormon territory, they might well have sent in a Pinkerton. Not really a government problem, but nontheless, if the dead man had powerful friends? I don't know what US government presence in Utah at the time was. Might even have been the dead man's Eastern relatives, especially if they were in industry?
Also, I gather from my late father and the movie "The Mollie Maguires" that the Pinkertons worked undercover, infiltrating organizations or towns to ferret out information and make trouble.
Could be difficult and therefore interesting for a man to try to infiltrate a fairly specific group like Mormons in Utah. Or, he's an ex-Mormon?
As for nepotism, no idea. If you're trying to make him some Pinkerton-in-law, you'd have to research the family. But the brother/cousin/nephew of a more experienced agent, or a branch manager, or whatever the structure is, would probably work. What better way to find reliable men in the days before instantaneous info transfer, and before the war (after the war presumably there would be trained ex-military men roaming the streets, looking for work.)
Good luck, sorry no-one with real information has happened by.

Maryn
02-12-2011, 08:25 PM
MormonMobster, you do know that they're still in business, right? And that many cities still have a Pinkerton office? (Mine does, and it's not a large city.) I would think that the way to do this research is to get in touch with the closest Pinkerton agency, explain that you're a writer eager to get things right, and ask if there is a public information officer either locally or national, to whom you could pose your questions.

My critique group used to get into trouble with the Pinkertons. We met at a restaurant in the same building as Pinkerton, and they were real pissy about anybody using their parking spaces, even at night when the office was closed. Luckily, it didn't lead to bloodshed.

Here's a place to start: http://www.securitas.com/pinkerton/en/About-Pinkerton/The-Pinkerton-Detective-Agency-Our-History/

Maryn, hating how research sometimes means leaving the computer

quicklime
02-12-2011, 09:33 PM
there is another thread right now on approaching experts, among other things it refers to google; maybe few here know anything about Pinkerton, but my understanding is at the time they wee one part the era's thugs, one part the era's CIA, and one part the era's Blackwater. That's compelling enough I"m sure there is a lot of crap online, and finding out who has info after a day or tow of searching might also give you an idea who to get into contact with.

MormonMobster
02-13-2011, 05:42 AM
Thanks, all of you; this helped a lot. I really appreciate it.

Now for specific responses:

frimble3:This is before they got involved in so much union-busting, probably back when Allan Pinkerton himself had sympathies for the workers (he was a member of the Chartists when he was younger), so the union stuff doesn't really apply. Good thoughts, however. I'll use a fusion of both your conflict ideas.

Maryn: I did indeed know they were still in business, but I was under the impression from my limited research that they were now merely part of a larger security corporation, and so wouldn't have a separate phone number.

I found one (possibly) Pinkerton group in Utah (where I live), "PINKERTON GOVERNMENT SERVICES INC". Would that be it, or not?

Finally, it's interesting that you worked near the Pinkertons, do you know how they operate now?

quicklime: I think it's a bit unfair to call the early Pinkertons "thugs". Sure they were brutal, but from what I've read about, before they union-busted they were remarkably less corrupt than nearly every law enforcement group in the country. I'm using them in the time period when they were less corrupt for a reason. I want to have a "worthy opponent" feel to the Pinkerton's dealings with the Mormons.

Anyways, thanks again, and if you have any more info at all, it would be appreciated.

Maryn
02-13-2011, 07:23 PM
What's in my city is Pinkerton Security & Investigations, seemingly with no connection to the government. My understanding is that they're a private detective agency and security company. (I'm not positive, but I think I've seen their vehicles at entertainment venues where 'big name' people are performing, possibly as security whose focus is protecting the goods rather than controlling the crowds.) I know through a third party that they do standard detective stuff like take pictures of cheating husbands from a parked car, using a long lens.

It looks to me like Pinkerton Government Services may be an arm of the same umbrella (way to mix metaphors, huh?) but their only client is the government. That's not the ones I'd approach for more information.

I did find this, though, which might help you: Pinkerton Security & Invstgtn. Springville, UT. 801-489-5815. Give 'em a call?

Maryn, wondering if there's any more coffee

jclarkdawe
02-14-2011, 01:58 AM
I was hoping someone with more knowledge then I would answer. I'm relying here on third or fourth hand sources, so I won't want to quote me too far.

When railroads started up, people faced several new problems, including train robberies that occurred outside of towns. Although stagecoaches had this problem, it was not as major. However, much of law enforcement was based around towns, and moving to another town would work to get out of trouble. And railroads had the money to pay for a solution.

Around 1850, Pinkerton began working as a detective for the railroads coming into Chicago. Chicago, then and now, was a major hub of transportation. During the 1850s, to the best of my knowledge, Pinkerton mainly worked on cases in Illinois, although possibly sending employees further afield chasing criminals. But at some point during this period, he and Abraham Lincoln met, as Lincoln was a big-time attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad, among others.

When Lincoln became president, Pinkerton was the detective he knew and trusted. So needless to say, Pinkerton was able to become well known, especially for stopping an assassination attempt against Lincoln in Baltimore. This was the basis for the expansion of Pinkerton's detective firm after the Civil War.

Going through your questions:


-How far reaching were they? Specifically, how far into the West would their agents go? Before 1860, there really wasn't much development in the West. I believe Wells Fargo may have used them a bit before the Civil War, but I'm not sure. The lack of trains west of the Mississippi limited the railroad work. I'm not sure how well they were known outside Illinois before the Civil War. After the Civil War, they quickly went national, and would work coast to coast.

One of the main claims to fame was their willingness to go however far they needed to to get their man. But I'm not aware of them appearing in the West before the Civil War. However, I don't know for sure.

-In their early years, did they work with individual state-level officials? Honest ones, probably. But there really wasn't much on the state-level for law enforcement at this time. Law enforcement was town marshals/police departments in larger cities and country sheriffs. Much of the law enforcement was based on who was paying them.

-I have a scenario in my story, that of a Mormon character (the MC) killing a respected and rich man (who is actually a supernatural monstrosity). Would the Federal government around the 1850s be suspicious enough of the Mormons as to send a Pinkerton agent to investigate the killing and bring the killer to justice? The Federal government did not start using Pinkerton until the Civil War, so no. Nor has the government ever been in the business of hiring investigators directly to investigate criminal activities. They pay a reward (same result but different thought pattern).

-Were the Pinkertons nepotistic? Example: would they have high-level agents related to the founder that partially gained their rank due to family ties? I don't know anything about his family, but my guess is he would have. Nepotism is a more modern concept and many businesses in the 1800s were family affairs.

-I know they popularized the later "gumshoe" and private detective sort of investigations, but how exactly did they operate? Did they have any particular "themes" in how they worked? I'm not sure what you mean by this question. They operated by the same means that any detective agency does. The Bow Street Runners proceeded Pinkerton by a hundred years. And there were detectives before then. What Pinkerton did was nationalize detective work, and provide a means of cross-checking quickly. Of course, without the telegraph, it wouldn't have been possible.

I'm not sure how much this helps you. And I have some reservations about how much I know.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

frimble3
02-14-2011, 04:41 AM
Around 1850, Pinkerton began working as a detective for the railroads coming into Chicago. Chicago, then and now, was a major hub of transportation. During the 1850s, to the best of my knowledge, Pinkerton mainly worked on cases in Illinois, although possibly sending employees further afield chasing criminals. But at some point during this period, he and Abraham Lincoln met, as Lincoln was a big-time attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad, among others.


Jim Clark-Dawe
This could be useful though, the Mormons had an unfortunate history in Illinois, which could make a Pinkerton connection more likely.

jclarkdawe
02-14-2011, 05:14 AM
Originally Posted by jclarkdawe http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/buttons/viewpost.gif (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?p=5822427#post5822427)

Around 1850, Pinkerton began working as a detective for the railroads coming into Chicago. Chicago, then and now, was a major hub of transportation. During the 1850s, to the best of my knowledge, Pinkerton mainly worked on cases in Illinois, although possibly sending employees further afield chasing criminals. But at some point during this period, he and Abraham Lincoln met, as Lincoln was a big-time attorney for the Illinois Central Railroad, among others.


Jim Clark-Dawe
This could be useful though, the Mormons had an unfortunate history in Illinois, which could make a Pinkerton connection more likely.

I believe the Mormons left Nauvoo, IL around 1846, which would have been before Pinkerton really started working as a detective. It's possible, but I don't think it's likely. And until the trans-continental railroad, I'm not sure how involved the Mormons were involved in railroads. Beyond railroads, I'm not sure who would have supplied Pinkerton with employment, as absent some notable exceptions (Jesse James for instance), Pinkerton seems to have liked cash on the barrelhead.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

samspade
05-03-2012, 03:09 AM
I realize this is an old thread but I might be able to help. I work for the Pinkerton's today and I am the unofficial historian for the company.

Paul
05-03-2012, 03:12 AM
I realize this is an old thread but I might be able to help. I work for the Pinkerton's today and I am the unofficial historian for the company.
welcome.
always good to have expert knowledge on board. :)
thinking of a story with a Pinky myself. down the road.