Excerpts from Homestead By Arthur Bourgoyne
Excerpts from Homestead
By Arthur Bourgoyne
The agency was founded in 1850 by Allan Pinkerton, a young Scotchman, who had been brought into public notice at Elgin, Ill., by his success in ferreting out a counterfeiter. Allan Pinkerton's fame as a detective became national. He organized a war secret service, was trusted by Lincoln, whose life he once saved; by Grant and other national leaders in war times, and aroused continual interest by his strokes of skill and daring. The enterprise from which sprang the Pinkerton "standing army" of to-day was set on foot in a shabby little office in La Salle Street, Chicago, and there the headquarters of the agency still remain.
Pinkerton detectives came into great request and were soon engaged in the unraveling of crimes and the hunting down of criminals all over the continent. Allan Pinkerton meanwhile discerned a fresh source of profit and turned it to account by hiring out his men as watchmen for banks and great commercial houses. The "Pinkerton Preventive Watch," composed of trained men, uniformed and armed, and acting independently of the municipal police, was established.
The emblem adopted by the agency was a suggestive one. It consisted of an eye and the motto, "We never sleep."
As old age came on Allan Pinkerton and his business kept growing, he turned over the work of supervision to his sons, William A. and Robert A. Robert was placed in charge of a branch bureau in New York and William remained in Chicago. Agencies with regular forces of men were established in Philadelphia, Boston, St. Paul, Kansas City and Denver. By communication with these centres, the chiefs could control, at a few days' notice, a force of 2,000 drilled men, and this could be expanded by drawing on the reserves registered on the books of the agency for service on demand, to 30,000, if necessary,—more men than are enrolled in the standing army of the United States.
When a large number of recruits is needed, the Pinkertons usually advertise in the newspapers asking for able-bodied men of courage, but without stating for whose service. In New York, prospective recruits are brought to a building on lower Broadway where the44 Pinkertons have an armory, stocked with Winchester rifles, revolvers, policemen's clubs and uniforms. After the number of men needed is secured, the addresses of the eligible applicants for whom there are no places are taken and they are notified to hold themselves in readiness for a future call. Men who have served in the army or as policemen receive the preference.
Pinkerton detectives have no real authority to make arrests. They are rarely sworn in as special constables or as deputy sheriffs and the uniform which they wear is merely for show.
Of late years they have been employed very frequently to protect the property of great manufacturing corporations during strikes or lock-outs. This is, without exception, the most trying and perilous service which they have to undergo. The pay is good, however, the rate agreed upon for duty at Homestead, for example, being $5 a day for each man.
In the great strike on the New York Central railroad, which cost the Vanderbilt corporation $2,000,000, the item for Pinkerton service was about $15,000. The guards were posted at danger points all along the line. Conflicts with the strikers were frequent, and, in many cases, the guards used their rifles with deadly effect. On August 17, 1890, they killed five persons, one a woman. So freely were the Pinkerton rifles brought into play during this trouble that the people of New York state became thoroughly aroused and forced the legislature to pass an anti-Pinkerton bill.
The agency was responsible for the killing of a boy during a longshoremen's strike in Jersey and at Chicago during the Lake Shore railroa