Born 25th of August 1819, in Glasgow, Scotland. His father, William, was a policeman and died in a political riot. He was never a scholar and after his father's death, he quit school and found work as an apprentice cooper to help support his family. As a teen, he joined the Chartist Movement that at its core favored social reform. It is alleged that he was being sought by police when he married Joan Carfrae and boarded a sailing ship for America.
After a ship wreck and crossing the Canadian-American border, the newlyweds arrived in Chicago without a dime to their name. Pinkerton returned to his trade of being a barrel maker. After breaking up a gang of counterfeiters along the Fox River, he was appointed a deputy sheriff and his future was set. He joined the Abolitionist Movement and there are reports that his home was a safe house for slaves on their way to Canada.
Around 1848, the family moved back to Chicago and Pinkerton became the city's first detective. The Pinkerton Detective Agency was founded in 1852 and used the "eye" as a logo and the slogan "We Never Sleep." He became the personal bodyguard for Abraham Lincoln and exposed an attempt to assassinate the President in Baltimore on his way to Washington. He became a player in the American Civil War and established the forerunner of the US Secret Service.
After the war the Agency grew and earned a reputation as a strike-breaker using strong-armed methods. Pinkerton gradually turned the business over to his two sons who moved more into security than investigations. The father began to write detective novels. He bought property near Onarga, Il. and that will be the subject for tomorrow. I would also like to write about the youngest daughter, Joan. She said her father blamed himself for the death of the President because he was in New Orleans and not at the President's side. He cried for days on end.
Just before his 65th birthday in 1884, Allan Pinkerton slipped on a Chicago sidewalk and after a few days of illness died. He is buried at Graceland along with other members of his family, friends and employees.
(It is not good to reduce a great man's life to these few comments, but there is a lot more information on the Internet and several books are also available. The story of his home in Onarga is interesting, I think. It still stands on private property but is in terrible condition. The owner of the property has refused all offers to save the historic house.)