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

By Frank Morn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 8 Pinkerton Operatives and Operations

BY THE TURN of the century, reformers were pressuring city authorities to centralize the organizational structure of police departments. Part of the Progressive agenda was to increase the power of the police chiefs, reduce the position of midlevel captains and lieutenants, and diminish the strength of rank-and-file policemen. 1 Pinkerton private police became an attractive administrative model because both the watchmen and the detectives seemed so tightly controlled. The stern standards of the founder reappeared in 1905. "The character of the operative must be above reproach and only those of strict moral principles and good habits will be permitted to enter the service." Gambling and liquor were forbidden except "as a means to accomplish an end in the detection of crime which cannot otherwise be attained." 2

Between 1900 and 1910, the Pinkerton agency was applauded for its sophisticated managerial style. In 1893 there were eight offices. William Pinkerton had direct responsibility for five while Robert Pinkerton administered three. By 1906, however, there were twenty offices, and the Pinkerton empire was divided into administrative districts. There were the New York, Chicago, and Denver divisions. Later, the Pittsburgh division would be added, but at this time the Denver office under James McFarland came into its own. 3

In the first decade of the twentieth century ultimate power in the Pinkerton organization resided in seven men: William Pinkerton, Robert Pinkerton, Allan Pinkerton II (Robert's son), John Cornish, Edward S. Gaylor, James McFarland, and general manager George

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