Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency was 19th-century America’s premier private police force, the leader of a flourishing industry that offered solutions to the chaos and corruption of the nation’s law enforcement. But the Pinkertons were more than just detectives. By the 1890s, they were a private army-on-call for powerful corporations. In the first episode of this two-part series, we’ll chart the birth and evolution of the Agency — from its founding by a radical immigrant in the 1850s to its bloody pursuit of outlaws and Irish labor groups in the decades after the Civil War.
Music: “Fratres (for violin and piano)” by Arvo Part, from the album Tabula Rasa (ECM Records, 1984).
Pamela Bedore, Dime Novels and the Roots of American Detective Fiction (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)
Kevin Kenny, Making Sense of the Molly Maguires (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998)
Frank Morn, The Eye That Never Sleeps: A History of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982)
S. Paul O’Hara, Inventing the Pinkertons, or, Spies, Sleuths, Mercenaries, and Thugs (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016)
Allan Pinkerton, General Principles and Rules of Pinkerton’s National Police Agency (Chicago: George H. Fergus, 1867)
——————– The Expressman and the Detective (New York: G.W. Carleton, 1875)
——————– The Molly Maguires and the Detectives (New York: G.W. Carleton, 1877)
——————– Thirty Years a Detective: A Thorough and Complete Expose of Criminal Practices of All Grades and Classes (New York: G.W. Carleton, 1884)
Edgar Allan Poe, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” in Great Short Works of Edgar Allan Poe, edited by G.R. Thompson (New York: Harper & Roe, 1970), 272-313
Beau Riffenburgh, Pinkerton’s Great Detective: The Amazing Life and Times of James McParland (New York: Viking/Penguin, 2013)
Robert Michael Smith, From Blackjacks to Briefcases: A History of Commercialized Strikebreaking and Unionbusting in the United States (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2003)
Francois Eugene Vidocq, Memoirs of Vidocq: Master of Crime, trans. Edwin Gile Rich (Edinburgh: AK Press / Nabat, 2003, originally published 1828)