She’s a Pinkerton detective; he’s got more aliases
than can be found in Boot Hill.
Neither have a clue about love–Gunpowder Tea
After reading about Kate Warne, the first known female detective, the idea for my new book Gunpowder Tea popped into my head. I just knew I had to write about a heroine who was a Pinkerton detective.
Kate Warne worked for the Pinkerton National Detective agency from 1856 to her death in 1868. Since women were not allowed to join the police department until 1890, the firm’s founder Allan Pinkerton was well ahead of his time in hiring her. Originally, he thought she was applying for a secretary job, but she convinced him to hire her as a detective.
To a pickpocket the world is at his fingertips.–Gunpowder Tea
Quick to see the advantage of female detectives, he put her in charge of the Pinkerton Female Detective Bureau. Formed in 1860 the purpose of the female division was to ‘worm out secrets’ by means unavailable to male detectives. She also managed the Pinkerton Washington department during the war.
Little is known about Kate’s early life. She was supposedly a widow when Allan Pinkerton hired her, which may or may not be true. Her job was often to elicit sympathy and therefore confessions from the criminal element, and widowhood might have been part of her charade.
For a job that supposedly doesn’t pay,
crime has no lack of employees. –Gunpowder Tea
A master of disguise, Kate could change her accent as readily as she could change her appearance and her “Southern Belle” disguise helped save President-elect Abraham Lincoln’s life. After verifying a plot to assassinate him, Kate wrapped Lincoln in a shawl and passed him off as her invalid brother, thus assuring his safety as he traveled by train to Washington D.C. Kate never slept the whole time Lincoln was in her charge. This may or may not have been the inspiration behind the Pinkerton logo: We never sleep.
Suspicion ain’t proof unless you’re married.–Gunpowder Tea
Since the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 wiped out Pinkerton records little is known about those early days. What is known is that Kate caused trouble between Allen and his brother Robert. The two argued over Kate’s expenses, which Robert thought were excessive. He didn’t think it right for the company to pay for his brother’s “sordid affair.”
Stealing another man’s wife is a serious crime,
second only to horse rustlin’. –Gunpowder Tea
There’s no question that Allen cared deeply for Kate, but biographers are split on whether there was an actual affair. What’s not in question is Kate’s reputation as an excellent detective; her trailblazing efforts helped the Pinkerton Detective Agency rise to fame–and inspired me to write a book!