Pinkerton Preventive Police Flyer, 1871
Allan Pinkerton emigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1842, when he was 23 years old; he soon settled in the town
of Dundee, northwest of Chicago. By the beginning of the 1850s, Pinkerton and a partner had established the North-Western
Police Agency, which had its offices at Washington and Dearborn Streets in Chicago. One of the first private detective agencies
in the United States, this company worked for the Illinois Central and other railroads. By late 1850s, Pinkerton employed
15 operatives. During the Civil War, the company provided intelligence to the Northern armies that was not particularly accurate.
After the war, promoting itself with the slogan “we never sleep,” the company opened offices in New York City and Philadelphia.
Much of its business came from banks and express companies, who wanted to deter robberies. Starting in the 1870s, Pinkerton
detectives also began to work for industrial companies as spies and strikebreakers, and they quickly became despised by American
labor. The company's most infamous strike-busting operation came in 1892, when 300 Pinkerton employees fought with workers
at the Homestead, Pennsylvania, steel plant owned by Andrew Carnegie. When the two sides exchanged gunfire, nine strikers
and seven Pinkerton agents were killed. By the time Allan Pinkerton died in 1884, his sons William and Robert Pinkerton were
leading the company, which had about 2,000 full-time employees and several thousand “reservists.” During the 1920s, annual
revenues approached $2 million. In 1937, Robert Pinkerton II, a great-grandson of the founder, ended the firm's antiunion
operations. By the late 1960s, just after the name of the enterprise became Pinkerton's Inc. and the corporate headquarters
moved to California, it had 70 branch offices (including central offices in Chicago and New York), about $75 million in annual
revenues, and some 13,000 full-time employees worldwide. In the mid-1970s, the company had about 800 employees in the Chicago
area. By the end of the century, the enterprise founded a century and a half earlier had become a subsidiary of a large Swedish
corporation called Securitas.