Famous Scots
- Allan Pinkerton (1819-1884)

Pinkerton was born in Glasgow. His father was a police sergeant who was maimed in a riot in 1829. He trained as a cooper but became a member of the Chartist Movement which defended workers' rights and was involved in a strike by spinners in Glasgow. He then tried to help a leader of the movement to break out of prison in 1839 and had to leave Scotland to avoid being arrested in 1842. He sailed the day after getting married.

Perhaps as a result of the police background of his father, he was appointed deputy-sheriff and then sheriff in Chicago. He started the Pinkerton Detective Agency in Chicago in 1850. The company solved a number of train robberies and foiled an attempted assassination of President-elect Lincoln in 1861. Pinkerton led the Unionist Secret Service during the American Civil War but afterwards returned to his agency.

His next success was to break a working class movement, the Molly Maguires who had been operating in the coalfields of Pennsylvania for over twenty years. He also turned his hand to writing memoirs and popular semi-autobiographical case histories. His two sons continued the agency after his death in 1884.

Return to the Index of Famous Scots

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

Separator line