Early Chicago, 1833–1871
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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September 28, 1854

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The City of London, England, formed a professional police force with uniformed patrolmen, centralized leadership, and disciplined regimen in 1829. In this country New York City founded a police force patterned after the London model in 1844. Cincinnati and New Orleans followed in 1852, Boston and Philadelphia in 1854, Chicago in 1855, and Baltimore in 1857. Each of these forces, however, was subject to the dictates of the governing political structure and thus lacked true professionalism. In each of these cities it was common practice to employ private guards and agents to protect businesses and homes.

Allan Pinkerton was born in Scotland in 1819 and emigrated to this country in 1842. He settled in Dundee in Kane County and was employed part-time as a deputy sheriff. In the 1840s, he served as an agent for the Underground Railroad. He built a reputation and in 1853 was hired as a deputy sheriff for Cook County. In 1853 and 1854 he often worked undercover on his own time in ferreting out counterfeiters and other lawbreakers. In February of 1855, he resigned from public office and established his own detective agency in Chicago with most of his clients being railroad companies that wanted their routes protected. During the Civil War he served as a spy for the Union Army and after the war he established additional offices in New York and Philadelphia. He died in 1884.

Points to Consider

Who was Allan Pinkerton (spelled "Allen" in the document)?

Why would the city need the services of a private detective?

How much did the city determine to pay him for his services?

Can you describe the Chicago police force of 1854?

See Related Document:

10, 22, 25, 34, 37, and 49

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