The Pinkertons

I love TV westerns. From the good old days with Bonanza to more recent times with Longmire, I truly enjoy getting lost in a good western tale of cowboy heroes with grit and honor. Several months ago I discovered a new offering on Netflix that immediately piqued my interest. I love a good crime drama as much as I love my westerns, and here was a show that combined them both – The Pinkertons.

This beauty of a show was actually made in Canada even though it follows the cases of Pinkerton Detectives in Kansas City, Missouri following the end of the Civil War. My favorite thing about this show is that it is officially licensed with the Pinkerton Detective Agency, and its episodes as based on actual cases taken from the Pinkerton Detective Agency archives from the 1860s.

While Allan Pinkerton, founder of the agency does occasionally make an appearance on the show, the two main characters are Will Pinkerton (Allan’s son and Pinkerton agent) and Kate Warne (a Pinkerton and the first female detective in US history).

Kate Warne was a widow by the age of 23 and joined the Pinkerton Agency in 1856.

Pinkerton, in his book, The Spy of the Rebellion: Being a True History of the Spy System of the United States Army During the Late Rebellion… described her as:

[a] commanding person, with clear cut, expressive features…a slender, brown-haired woman, graceful in her movements and self-possessed. Her features, although not what could be called handsome [beautiful], were decidedly of an intellectual cast… her face was honest, which would cause one in distress instinctly [sic] to select her as a confidante.

Warne walked into the Pinkerton Detective Agency in response to an advertisement in a local newspaper. When she walked into Pinkerton’s Chicago office, according to Pinkerton company records, he further described her acquaintance:

“[he] was surprised to learn Kate was not looking for clerical work, but was actually answering an advertisement for detectives he had placed in a Chicago newspaper. At the time, such a concept was almost unheard of. Pinkerton said ” It is not the custom to employ women detectives!” Kate argued her point of view eloquently – pointing out that women could be “most useful in worming out secrets in many places which would be impossible for a male detective.” A Woman would be able to befriend the wives and girlfriends of suspected criminals and gain their confidence. Men become braggarts when they are around women who encourage them to boast. Kate also noted, Women have an eye for detail and are excellent observers.”

Warne’s arguments swayed Pinkerton, who employed Warne as the first female detective. Pinkerton soon had a chance to put Warne to the test. (source)

There is only one season available of this show, but it contains 22 episodes. I’m about halfway through them right now and savoring each one.

Click cover to order.


As it turns out, I have Pinkerton detectives in my most recent book, Heart on the Line. And in my story, the Pinkertons themselves are the mystery. Fraudulent identities and corrupt agents make it unclear who can be trusted. Yet in the end, I think Allan Pinkerton would be pleased with how things turned out.


Do you like stories about Pinkertons?

What historically set shows do you enjoy watching?

(I’m always on the lookout for something new to add to my queue.)

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For those who love to smile as they read, bestselling author Karen Witemeyer offers warmhearted historical romance with a flair for humor, feisty heroines, and swoon-worthy Texas heroes. Karen is a firm believer in the power of happy endings. . . and ice cream. She is an avid cross-stitcher, and makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at:

34 thoughts on “The Pinkertons”

  1. Karen- great article. I love shows aboutvtve old west. Gunsmoke, The Rifleman, and all those back in day. Many movies as well. Outlaw Of Josie Wales, especially. Now those are great ones. This past Season I watch The Son with Pierce Bronson. Loved loved it. You have a great day!!

    • Hi, Tonya. Those are some great ones! I can remember watching The Rifleman and still picture that opening scene with him and his repeating rifle when I have gunfight scenes in my own books.

  2. We adored this show! It had some great humor sprinkled into it. I love reading anything about Pinkertons.

  3. Karen, thanks for mentioning this show. We tuned in to The Son for its first go around. We really enjoy westerns… they just don’t make enough of them anymore!

  4. Hi Karen, thank you for this post! I love the Pinkertons. I read a book about Kate Warne and that inspired my Undercover Ladies series. Pinkerton had an entire department of female detectives. Unfortunately, the Chicago fire destroyed the records, so we’ll never know their names or anything about them.

    I agree with Debra; we need more Westerns!

  5. Karen, as Tonya said, there’s a western series with Pierce Brosnan called The Son on the USA channel. I’ve heard it’s excellent. There aren’t many these days. I miss Hell on Wheels. Some thought that that show was too gritty and gruesome and some parts were, but I loved Cullen Bohannon. He fought a lot of inner demons. I didn’t know about The Pinkertons on Netflix but I’ll have to find it.

    Hugs and lots of wishes for your new book!

    • I watched the first episode of The Son and decided it wasn’t for me. I really wanted to like it. I’ve loved Pierce Brosnan since his Remington Steele days. πŸ™‚ I just didn’t care for the manipulations and killings perpetrated by the “hero” and his family. Even the one son who seemed to be trying to do what was right ended up killing a man and then hiding the body. I know life was difficult back then and people often did hard things to survive, but I just found it a little too dark for my taste.

      Just the fact that it was a western being produced with star power made me super excited, though. I hope they continue to follow this baby trend and bring us more stories.

    • Me, too. Saturday mornings were my western rerun days. I fell in love with all the classics there. The Big Valley, Wagon Train, Bonanza, The Rifleman. Loved them!

  6. I have a younger sister who is very petite and unassuming…she made a great undercover detective in real life! I’m so glad she decided to “settle down” because she made us all very nervous with the many things she could not talk about! She would have made Allan Pinkerton proud.
    I need to tell my husband about this series. He watches much TV while I live in books.

  7. Hi Karen, My love of cowboys developed from watching the old TV westerns with my dad–only they weren’t “old” back then. I do enjoy a good Pinkerton story, when they aren’t portrayed as the bad guy. I’ll have to look up the Pinkerton series. I haven’t heard of it before. Blessings!

    I watched it on my Netflix app on my iPad…..that<<<<<<<< what I just said? Is almost a foreign language and forgive me but I am feeling very high tech right now.

  9. Thanks for the Netflix tip! Love the Pinkerton’s as well. Thanks for the background info

  10. We have enjoyed Outlander, although we were both a bit shocked at what can be shown. We do not normally watch made for cable shows. We have enjoyed just about everything PBS has shown. BBC is such a wonderful source. Anne of Green Gables and Avonlea, which was a Canadian series, were both excellent.
    I really miss the Westerns on TV. Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and Young Riders are the last I can remember watching. I never did know about Longmire. I just looked it up and it sounds good. Will have to see if there is a way for me to watch it here. We have never done Netflix. I would really enjoy The Pinkertons, but I have no idea how to use Netflix. Is there another way to watch either show?
    I will have to check out Heart On The Line. I have enjoyed all of your books that I have read. There are a few more on my list and this is one of them.

    • Thanks, Patricia. Hope you enjoy Amos and Grace’s story.

      As for Netflix, you have to pay a monthly fee for a subscription. You can opt for just the online shows which is a little cheaper if you don’t want access to the DVDs. I’m pretty sure Longmire is a Netflix exclusive because they actually produced the last couple seasons. Not sure about The Pinkertons. You might be able to find them elsewhere. I just looked on Amazon and you can buy the DVDs for a little under $25.


  11. Such a fun and engaging article, Karen! I love a good Western!
    I remember watching Bonanza (theme song is currently running through my head-lol) re-runs growing up. My sister & I used to debate which Cartwright brother was better…she always liked Little Joe & I always had a thing for Adam- something about those eyes & that voice- he also seemed so brooding & somewhat mysterious…always dressed in all black.
    I’m for sure going to check out that Pinkerton show on Netflix….it looks really good!

  12. Thanks for this post,Karen! Wasn’t even aware this show was on. I’ve always liked stories featuring the Pinkertons and have found many CF stories with them featured.(Oh,just a bit of random info,but did you know Dashiell Hammett ,author of The Maltese Falcon, was a Pinkerton agent? ) Not watching any historical shows at this time,but will probably check out this one and am looking forward to the proposed Little Women series on PBS.

    • Cool trivia, Lynne. I had no idea about Dashiell Hammett, but it makes a great deal of sense.

      And a new Little women series??? I hadn’t heard about that. Now I’m extra excited. Yay!

  13. Hi Karen, I’ve read a few books with the Pinkerton Agency in them. The most current one was Odessa Fremont (Guardians of the Time Stream 0.5). It was a fun read, with it also being Steampunk. I am currently watching Murdock’s Mysteries on Netflix and enjoying it. Will have to check out the Pinkerton’s. Thanks. Can’t wait to read “Heart on the Line” series.

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