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Topics in Chronicling America - The Pinkertons

What began as a detective agency in Chicago grew into a national private police force. The Pinkertons stood against organized labor at nearly every turn from Haymarket to Homestead and famously took down the Molly Maguires, while instilling fear in the hearts of fugitives across the country. Read more about it!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection ( Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.

Picture of the Pinkertons.

Jump to: Sample Articles

Important Dates:

  • January 26, 1875. Pinkerton detectives raid a farm house in search of Frank and Jesse James. During the failed raid, the Pinkerton detectives threw a hand grenade into the house, killing their younger brother and severing their mother’s arm.
  • June 21, 1877. 17 members of the Molly Maguires are executed due to the testimony of Pinkerton Detective, James McParlan, who successfully infiltrated the Mollies.
  • July 1, 1884. Allan Pinkerton, founder of Pinkerton National Detective Agency, dies in Chicago, IL.
  • July 24, 1886. Andrew Johnson, a Pinkerton detective who had been undercover with the International Workingmen’s Union, is called to testify in the Haymarket bombing trial.
  • July 6, 1892. Pinkerton men are called in by Carnegie to break the Homestead Strike. After a 13 hour firefight, the Pinkertons surrender unconditionally to the strikers.
  • July 8, 1892. Kentucky General Assembly introduces a bill to ban the employment of Pinkertons in Kentucky.
  • July 28, 1892. Billy and Robert Pinkerton are called to testify before Congress about the Homestead incident.

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Allan Pinkerton, Billy Pinkerton, Robert Pinkerton, Pinkertons, Pinkerton National Detective Agency, Morris Friedman, Harry Orchard, Western Federation, Jesse James, Molly Maguires, Chicago, The Eye that Never Sleeps, Franklin Gowen, Jim McKenna, James McParlan, Charles Siringo, Haywood, and Haymarket.
  • It is important to use a specific date range if looking for articles for a particular event in order to narrow your results.
  • James McParlan’s last name has many different spellings in early news stories including McPartlan and McFarlen • Allan Pinkerton’s first name is often reported as Allen

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

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  July 2, 2014
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