In the mid-nineteenth century, a young man named Allan Pinkerton fled Scotland with a warrant on his head for his work agitating for labor rights. In the United States, he continued to fight for social justice. Beginning in 1844, he worked for Chicago Abolitionist leaders and his home outside of Chicago was a stop on the Underground Railroad. He was a close friend and ardent supporter of John Brown, helping him get runaway slaves to Canada.
He was working as a barrel maker when he stumbled on a gang of counterfeiters. His handling of that incident began his career as a crime-solver, and in 1849, he was hired to be the first detective on the Chicago police force. Detective work was considered sleazy at that time—a way of profiting from other’s crimes. Pinkerton gave it a new meaning by making justice his mission. He created careful “detecting methods,” using psychology, logic, and clear thinking. These tools worked, and a year later, Pinkerton was able to set up his own company known as the North-Western Police Agency. This later became Pinkerton & Co. and then the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.
In October, 1856 Pinkerton hired Kate Warne as the first woman detective in the United States. He was so impressed with her skill that he hired many other women (fifty years before any police department in America had female personnel.)
While Pinkerton insisted that detectives must combine “considerable intellectual power and knowledge of human nature,” he discouraged them from pressuring confessions or taking statements from witnesses who were drunk. Above everything else, he valued the truth.
Pinkerton ran the new spy agency, the Secret Service, for President Lincoln during the Civil War the same way he'd run his detective agency. He honed the art of “spycraft” and trained his agents the same way for both jobs, detective and spy.
“The object of every investigation. . .is to come at the whole truth. . .There must be no endeavoring, therefore, to over-color or exaggerate anything against any particular individual, whatever the suspicion may be against him.”
Pinkerton was working on a national criminal database when he died, but he left behind the legacy of his intelligence agency and a series of popular books about his cases, the first “true crime” stories in America.
A retouched photograph of Pinkerton (left) with President Abraham Lincoln and Union Major General John A. McClernand on the Battlefield of Antietam, Maryland. Library of Congress
Pinkerton is shown on horseback on the Antietam Battlefield in 1862. Pinkerton served on several undercover missions as a Union soldier using the alias Major E.J. Allen. This counterintelligence work done by Pinkerton and his agents is comparable to the work done by today's U. S. Army Counterintelligence Special Agents in which Pinkerton's agency is considered an early predecessor. Library of Congress
Award-winning author Marissa Moss has written the first children’s book about Allan Pinkerton. Everyone knows the story of Abraham Lincoln, but few know anything about the spy who saved him! Pinkerton had a successful detective agency, but his greatest contribution was protecting Abraham Lincoln on the way to his 1861 inauguration. Though assassins attempted to murder Lincoln en route, Pinkerton foiled their plot and brought the president safely to the capital. The Eye That Never Sleeps is illustrated with a contemporary cartoon style and includes a bibliography and a timeline.
MLA 8 Citation
Moss, Marissa. "How to Go From Being Wanted by the Police to Working For Them."
Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 23 May 2018, www.nonfictionminute.org/
Yes, they exist!
At the height of the Roman inquisition in the late sixteenth, early seventeenth centuries, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio ignored the rigid rules that guided what could be painted. Rather than follow the current style based on idealized human beings in ennobling religious stories, he used real people as models. More than that, he invented a genre based on daily life rather than on religious or historical stories. He taught people to see the holy in the everyday and the everyday in the holy. This alone was a tremendous act of rebellion and could have led to imprisonment, even death.
Caravaggio did go to prison, many times, but not for the crime of pictorial heresy. His first arrest was for carrying a sword without a permit— yes, you needed a sword license then, much as you need a gun permit today. His second arrest happened when an officer stopped him for carrying a weapon. Though Caravaggio had the permit, he refused to show it. The third time he was spotted carrying his sword, he showed the permit. The officer thanked him, but Caravaggio couldn't resist cursing out the policeman, so he was arrested for insulting an officer.
But the best arrest was for assault with a vegetable. This is the official deposition, taken 18 November 1599:
It was around five in the afternoon and the aforesaid Caravaggio, along with some others, was eating in the Moor of the Magdalene where I work as a waiter. I brought him eight cooked artichokes, that is four in butter and four in oil and he asked me which were cooked in oil and which in butter. I told him that he could smell them and easily know which were cooked in butter and which were cooked in oil, and he got up in a fury and without saying a word, he took the plate from me and threw it in my face where it hit my cheek. You can still see the wound. And then he reached for his sword and he would have hit me with it, but I ran away and came right to this office to present my complaint.
Caravaggio went on to be arrested many more times for more serious assaults, including murder. Now, though, he's not remembered as a criminal, but rather as an artistic genius who inspired generations of followers.
Judith Beheading Holofernes (1599–1602) is the first of several paintings in which Caravaggio chose to depict the dramatic and gory subject of decapitation. Wikimedia
Basket of Fruit, c. 1595–1596, oil on canvas. Caravaggio's realistic view of things is exemplified in this still life. The bowl is teetering on the edge of the table, some of the leaves are withered, and the apple in the front is far from perfect. Wikimedia
Marissa Moss's book Caravaggio:Painter on the Run tells a compelling story that humanizes Caravaggio while describing the political and social atmosphere in which he lived.
Moss, Marissa. "Police Reports from the Sixteenth Century?" Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 24 01 2018, http://www.nonfictionminute.org/the-nonfiction-minute/police-reports-from-the-sixteenth-century6158812.