We Never Sleep–The Pinkerton Detective Agency

“With shelves of books behind him, Clyde David Robert III settled in his library chair  … he grabbed the rolled up paper [inside his desk] from the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

“Spreading out the gold sheet, he examined it once more along with the agency’s guarantee of finding his daughter. The document was dated March 21, 1896. Where was she? How could his daughter have escaped without detection?”

-An excerpt from Janet Syas Nitsick’s recent release, The Heiress Comes to Town.

          Slipping out of her father’s New York mansion on her wedding day, Nina Robert . . . leaves her luxurious life to settle on the Plains where she discovers romance, but all could end with her father’s hiring of the Pinkerton Detective Agency to find her and enable him to fulfill his arranged marriage contract.

The Pinkerton Detective Agency

Motto: We Never Sleep

Formation and Prominence

          The private-eye detective business began with the formation of the Pinkerton Detective Agency by Allan Pinkerton in 1850.

          But they did not become famous until credited with foiling a plot to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln, as he was to take the reins of his first term.  

          How did the Pinkerton Agency claim to do this? With the help of the first female detective hire, Kate Warne, a widow, this woman and other agents arranged for President-elect Lincoln to board an overnight train hours before he was publicly scheduled to appear.

Abraham Lincoln posed as Warne’s invalid brother, and agency’s operatives cut telegraph lines, so Southern sympathizers could not communicate with one another.

The Civil War

          The detective agency continued to make its mark during the Civil War with its enemy spy rings of Southern sympathizers in the North. The operation did not always go well.

          One such misstep was in the 1862s during the Peninsula Campaign when spy intelligent agents reported Confederate forces around Richmond were more than twice as large as their actual number.

          The result was General George B. McClellan delayed the Union’s advance in part due to his request for more troops. But the intelligence was wrong since McClellan’s Army of the Potomac was in fact much bigger than the Confederates.

Wild West Bounty Hunters

          The Reno Gang

          The Pinkerton Agency often was employed to chase after Wild West bandits, which began with the Reno gang of John and Simeon Reno holding up an Ohio and Mississippi railroad train in Jackson County Indiana. What was different about their holdup?

           A booty of $13,000 and no detection since they committed their crime on a moving train – the first such type train robbery – while traveling in a sparsely populated area. However, the Pinkerton agents often get their man, and they did the same to the Reno gang by infiltrating it.

          Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch

          Remember Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch? Well, the Pinkerton detectives chased after them, too.

          Jesse James and his Gang: A Pinkerton Failure

          The pursuit of bank robbers, Jesse and Frank James, by the Pinkerton agents started in the 1870s.

          One detective attempted to infiltrate the Missouri-based gang but was exposed and then murdered. Then two more agents died in a shootout.

           If this was not bad enough, the hunt for the James brothers ended in 1876 during a raid on his mother’s home. The famous brothers had been tipped off and had left the premises.

          The Pinkertons questioned James’ mother. An argument pursued. During the standoff, a posse member tossed an incendiary device through a window, which blew off part of her arm and killed James’ 8-year-old half brother.

          Journalists portrayed the Pinkerton agents as murderers. Humiliated by their depiction of his detectives and the public outrage, Allen Pinkerton stopped pursuing the James gang. Thus Jesse James was able to continue his havoc for seven more years until 1882 when an assassin’s bullet killed him.         

Larger than the United States Army

          In the 1890s, the agency grew until it had 2,000 detectives and 30,000 reserves. This was larger than the United States Army at the time.

The Agency Exists Today 

It operates today as Pinkerton and is a private security and guard service.


*Janet Syas Nitsick is offering a signed paperback copy of The Heiress Comes to Town, a Christian, historical, page-turner mystery and clean romance to one person picked at random from those who leave a comment today.

The Heiress Comes to Town

by Janet Syas Nitsick is on Nook, Kobo, iBooks.

 Click here for the Kindle and paperback link on Amazon:

Janet Syas Nitsick

Shy, natural redhead Janet Syas Nitsick’s writing passion began as a child when she wrote a neighborhood play at 10-years-old. In 2010 Janet’s story, “The Silver Lining,” placed 10th in the Writer’s Digest mainstream/literary competition.

Janet writes suspenseful, clean, Christian, historical, homespun-romantic tales set in Nebraska. She is married and has four sons – two with autism. Her late father, Nebraska State Sen. George Syas, served 26 years in the Unicameral.

Click here to check out Janet’s website, blog or Facebook page.

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42 thoughts on “We Never Sleep–The Pinkerton Detective Agency”

  1. Janet- This was a beautiful blog. Very interesting history you incorporated. I love a great historical book, mystery book, And inspiring book. You have all 3 wrapped into one. Thanks for visiting. I’m live just below you here in Kansas.

    • I’m happy you enjoyed it. I love mysteries as well and am cotton to the psst, especially the beautiful clothing women wore during those times. I do prefer today’s bathrooms, though. Smile. Smile. Of course, I also love inspiring tales. Kansas and Nebraska are quite similar like the rows and rows of lovely farmland. God bless.

  2. I always enjoy learning as I read and I would love to read The Heiress Comes to Town. Thanks for sharing.

    • I do, too. That’s why I always include some historical tidbits in my writing. We never are too old to learn. Hope you entered the giveaway for a chance to win a paperback. Book, though, also on e-book channels if you prefer reading books that way. God bless.

    • Thank you, Tonya Cherry. Don’t forget to enter the paperback giveaway if you enjoy reading books that way. It is on several e-book channels if you prefer to read books that way. God bless.

  3. My husband worked for Pinkerton as a security officer at a Manufacturing company in my hometown. I would have loved to be a female Pinkerton officer back in the late 1800’s. I loved your blog. I’ve never read one of your books and would love the opportunity!

    • How interesting that your husband worked for Pinkerton as a security officer. Time moves on, but in some ways it doesn’t when an agency of the 1800s still is in existence today. Of course, not in the way it was in the past. Visit my above listed Web site, and I have links to this book, The Heiress Comes to Town, and other works, such as my Great Plains series. Hope you entered the giveaway for a chance to win a paperback copy of The Heiress Comes to Town. However, it also is on e-book platforms if that’s what you prefer. God bless.

  4. Thanks for the fascinating history of the Pinkerton agency Very interesting. You’re a new Author for me so I’m looking forward to your books. Have a great weekend !

  5. I have always been fascinated by stories about The Pinkerton Detective Agency – they seem to be part of so much. And it gets especially interesting when you learn how many women were involved. Thanks for a great post and giveaway.

    • You are welcome Sally. Yes, the Pinkerton Detective Agency played a big part in our country’s history and seeing women involved in the agency early on was eyeopening. God bless.

  6. This was so interesting since The Pinkerton’s were important and made an impact upon many places.

    • Thank you. I loved learning more about this agency’s past as well. There was so much more about them that I did not know until I did the research. Happy you enjoyed the article. God bless.

  7. Learning about The Pinkerton Agency was wonderful. Knowing about the background and stories made this come alive. Thanks.

  8. My goodness … I have to let this blog sink in! The history is amazing. Thank you for writing such a thought provoking historical piece. I absolutely was mesmerized! Your book sounds incredibly interesting too. You are a new author for me to get acquainted with too. I’ll be checking your books out more this evening. Again, thank you for sharing all this Pinkerton information with us. Truly enjoyed reading this blog.

    • Kathy, the Pinkertons were really vital to this country. But Jesse James really frustrated them which led to them killing Jesse’s younger brother (I think he was 12 and shooting their mother.) That put a stain on their reputation. But overall, they went a long way to taming this country.

      • History … how we need to teach our kids these vital moments in our history.

        We missed the turn off to go to Billy the Kids grave and I always regret that we didn’t turn around. I did see the memorial in a museum but it is not the same.

        Jesse James days are celebrated in Northfield, Minnesota where he and his gang tried to rob a bank. He was actually a very handsome man. Dead at 34 by one of his own men wanting to collect a bounty on Him. How is reputation has kept him front and center in the tales of the Wild West.

  9. You are a new to me author. I enjoyed your post about the Pinkerton Agency and look forward to reading your book.

  10. Very interesting post. I enjoyed reading it. I have always had some fascination with the Pinkertons.

  11. Janet, I’m sorry I missed you yesterday, but welcome. Thank you for coming. The Pinkerton Detective Agency is so interesting. Jesse James really frustrated them which led to them killing Jesse’s little brother and shooting their mother. I think that only fueled the fire. Congratulations on your new book! It looks so good.

  12. ohh this book sounds wonderful. I love to read about the Pinkerton agents and read about their history. Thank you for sharing this wonderful information today.

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