The Eye that Never Sleeps: A History of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency

By Frank Morn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3 Pinkerton and the Pinkerton Men: The Detective as Administrator

THE IMMEDIATE FLUSH of postwar prosperity encouraged Pinkerton to open two new offices; one in New York started business in November 1865 and another in Philadelpha did so in May 1866. By 1870 he supervised over twenty detectives and some sixty watchmen. The vagaries of business expansion and the growth of his own business as well as that of his clients became a main preoccupation for a decade after the Civil War. Tied so closely to the business elites, he had easily adopted similar world views and life styles. Now, like other business leaders, he became concerned with similar problems of internal management. Police personnel were called officers (connoting "official") or patrolmen (referring to work function). Pinkerton's detectives, on the other hand, were named operatives. That word was used frequently in nineteenth century industry. An operative was someone who operated a machine in a factory. Skill was required, but, nontheless, the person was merely a cog in a process, a process that transcended the individual. By naming his men operatives and himself the "principal," Pinkerton declared his affiliation to the business world and made statements on his own administrative philosophy.

After his death the agency experienced another spurt of growth, but the period between 1865 and 1875 was a time for consolidating gains and confronting problems of management due to the first phase of growth. By now Pinkerton's reputation as America's most notable detective was firm, but, in reality, he was becoming a manager of detectives. Rapid economic growth prompted a need that in

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