Allan Pinkerton

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Glasgow, Scotland
Birth Sign
Glasgow, Scotland

The ‘Pinkerton National Detective Agency’ was formed by Allan Pinkerton, a Scottish-American detective. Despite the lack of technology in the secret service during the Civil War, Allan and his troops did their utmost to obtain military intelligence. He was one of the first few people to demonstrate the world how to gather information from enemy territory by functioning as a “undercover agent.” Many people know Allan as the brilliant guy who thwarted an assassination attempt on the renowned American icon Abraham Lincoln while he was visiting Maryland. This episode piqued the interest of several contemporary filmmakers, who replicated it on film. Pinkerton Consulting and Investigations, the detective business he co-founded more than two centuries ago, is still in operation today. Pinkerton was a strong defender of laborers and opposed the idea of aristocracy or powerful individuals in society repressing the working class. Allan was also recognized for being completely honest with the people that needed his help. He never increased his charge without consulting the client first.

Early Years and Childhood

Isobel McQueen and William Pinkerton gave birth to Allan on August 25, 1819 in Glasgow, Scotland. Allan’s house, which was also his birthplace, was eventually demolished, and the iconic Glasgow Central Mosque was built in its stead. Allan worked as a cooper and was also involved in the British Chartist movement. The workers’ movement aimed to introduce a few political improvements to the country.

In 1842, Allan moved to America. During his early years in the United States, he continued to work as a cooper. To carry with this business, Allan established a cooperage near Dundee, Illinois. Allan was appointed as a detective in Chicago after working for abolitionist groups for a period of time. In 1850, Allan formed the ‘North Western Police Agency,’ which subsequently became known as the ‘Pinkerton National Detective Agency,’ with Chicago Attorney Edward Rucker.

During the American Civil War, from 1861-62, Allan was selected as the Director of the Union Intelligence Service. During his presidency, he was instrumental in thwarting an attempt on President Abraham Lincoln’s life at Maryland. At the time of the Civil War, Allan and his comrades worked as undercover agents under the alias ‘Major E.J Smith’ in order to obtain military intelligence. Later, the ‘US Secret Service’ was given to this group of undercover officers.

Following the Civil War, Allan was tasked with apprehending criminals like Jesse James, who robbed trains and caused a disturbance on a regular basis. This time, however, Allan not only failed to apprehend the criminal, but he also lost one of his operatives to Jesse James’s assassination attempt. Allan was chastised for his inefficiency, and the job turned out to be the worst chapter in his professional life.

One point of contention about Allan Pinkerton’s career is that he was tasked by the Spanish government with crushing a slave-free revolution. It’s unclear whether Allan agreed to this because, early in his career, he advocated for slavery abolition.

Work on the Big Picture

‘Spy of the Rebellion,’ written by Allan Pinkerton, was published in 1883. This novel, based on Allan’s real-life experiences as a detective, has sparked numerous debates. Pinkerton’s goal to write the book as a tool to advertise his agency has been criticized by many. Allan is also said to have engaged a ghostwriter to write the book.

Life and Legacy of an Individual

Before the couple came to America together, Allan married soprano Joan Carfrae in 1842. During their early days in the United States, he spent about a year away from his wife while establishing the cooperage in Illinois. At the age of 64, Pinkerton died in Chicago on July 1, 1884. Various researchers have disagreed about the cause of his death. Few people believe Allan died of gangrene, which he contracted after biting his tongue while falling on the pavement. The man died as a result of a stroke, according to a few additional sources.

Following his death, his agency’s employees mismanaged the business, paving the ground for a wave of anti-labor strikes. The ‘Homestead Strike,’ ‘The Pullman Strike,’ and ‘The Ludlow Massacre’ were only a few of these anti-labor uprisings. Strikes and agitations, on the other hand, were completely alien to Allan Pinkerton.

Estimated Net Worth

Allan is one of the wealthiest law enforcement officers and one of the most well-known. Allan Pinkerton’s net worth is estimated to be at $4 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


More than a dozen Hollywood films have been based on this well-known American investigator. ‘The Life and Legend of Wyatt Yerp,’ ‘Saving Lincoln,’ and ‘American Outlaws’ are among the more notable of them.