Allan Pinkerton

Allan Pinkerton

The first private Detective 1819 - 1884

Allan Pinkerton is an enigmatic figure when viewed through contemporary eyes.

A Scot who emigrated to America in the 1840's, Pinkerton was very much on the side of black Americans and was involved in hiding, succouring and securing their freedom from their southern "owners" during the American Civil War.

Pinkerton is generally acknowledged as being the head of the world's first detective agency, even as the progenitor of the modern CIA. In pursuit of his business, he was very astute in the employment of black southern Americans, recognising the value that having "in-situ" agents had, a lesson that the modern day intelligence chiefs have forgotten (think Bin-Laden et al).

Yet Pinkerton was also a strike breaker who sent in "heavies" to break strikes by organised labour unions who, in Pinkertons' opinion, were bad for the workers.

In a nice wee twist, in a show of national solidarity, one of his largest clients was Andrew Carnergie, a fellow Scot from Dunfermline and one of the largest American employers of the time.

If viewed entirely through strike breaking, anti-union eyes, then Pinkerton was a nasty piece of work, and Carnegie little better.

Some dozen or so Irish labourers lost their lives on the judicial gallows thanks to Pinkerton agents who infiltrated the Molly Maguires, an Irish trade confederation fighting for workers rights against oppressive employers. The employer in question being Dale Carnegie.

Pinkerton agents infiltrated the Molly Maguires and in several instances gave the key evidence that led to the execution of members of the confederation.

Pinkerton agents were also involved in the futile hunt for Jesse James. James had massive public support in his native Texas, but that didn't stop Pinkerton agents raiding the James' farm looking for Jesse. Shrapnel from an explosive blew an arm off his mother, Zerelda, and killed his 11-year-old half-brother, Archie. Jesse was not home. So much for intelligence.

Not good eh? In modern parlance, this is called collateral damage.

Great Scot, or does FirstFoot need to start another section called "Great Bastarding Scot"?

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