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

By Frank Morn | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE

Private Detection to Private Security

WILLIAM BURNS did not slip into obscurity after his tenure at the Bureau of Investigation. In 1927, Henry Sinclair, the oil tycoon involved in the Teapot Dome scandal, asked Burns to keep his jury under surveillance to guard against tampering. When Sinclair was acquitted, the judge in a fit of fury fined the detective one thousand dollars. Burns reacted with some harsh remarks and was cited with contempt of court. Later, when the case was being appealed, the Supreme Court denounced the Burns agency for contaminating the processes of justice. 1 Thereafter, his two sons, Raymond Burns and Sherman Burns, took over the agency and instilled a more cautious style into their business. When their father died in 1932, the William Burns International Detective Agency was the second largest detective business in America, and it made a concerted effort to specialize in guard services.

Rapid changes came to both private and public policing after World War I. Beginnings of these changes were evident earlier. When Robert Pinkerton died in 1907, for example, his son, Allan Pinkerton II, took over the New York office. The young Harvard business school graduate had little toleration for the informant system created by his father and uncle. William Pinkerton was busy trying to sell the idea of a National Bureau of Criminal Identification to members of the police establishment, and Allan Pinkerton II simply began dismantling the system. 2 On one level this was a tactic to protect the agency from any unfavorable publicity, as numerous exposés were attacking the private detective system. On another

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