KING OF THE SLEUTHS
__ R. WILLIAM A. PINKER
#T "1 TOX was engaged in his pri
f if vate office.
I f One of the several clerks
i fn his outer office gaye. me
% this information with a chair.
The others did not lift their
eyes from their ledgers or typewriters
or memoranda or whatever occupied
them at the moment of my entering the
It was a very handsome and spacious
THE CALL SUNDAY Sunday Edition
room, one of a suite on the second floor
of the Crocker building. I could read
backward the gilt letters on the great
arched windows which announced to
the world without that this was an of
fice of the Pinkerton Detective Agency,
founded by Allan W. Pinkerton in the
year 1S50; that Its other offices were in
New York, Chicago, Boston, St. Louis,
St. Paul and Kansas City, "Portland,
Oregon, and a few other places; that its
correspondents were in all parts of the
world; that its Principals were Robert
A. Pinkerton and William A. Pinker
ton—sons of that famous Pinkerton the
first, whose pictured face, of the grim,
strong, granger type, high-boned, keen
eyed, clean-shaven to the beard
beneath the chin, hung on the
west wall of the room. Oppo
site hung the portrait of a young
and a very different looking man, and
this, although I did nr»t know it then,
was William A. Pinkerton, his son.
Beneath a windc/w stood the man
ager's desk, and before it stood the
manager. He was running busily
through some papers in his hand. There
was no sound In the place except the
rustling of these papers, the scratching
of pens, the tap-tap-tapping of type
writers, the light footfall, the subdued
tones of a 'clerk who left his desk to
consult with his superior and returned
quietly as he came.
There is an office stillness eloquent
above words of the Importance of vast
businesses. It belongs exclusively to
them. It is a quiet distinct and apart
from silence imposed on employes by
the starchiest of small shoppers and
little professionals. It is the actual dig
nity of the big enterprise which com
municates itself, perhaps without his
consciousness, to the least who serves
You are impressed, solemnized by this
atmosphere at the Pinkerton Detective
Agency. It is as respectable as a bank.
bomehow you do not expect this.
There is no reason why you should not
There is no- real reason why you should
respect the detective less than the
criminal lawyer. If you are handling
crime what difference does it make
whether you pick it up by the head or
the tail? If you are stalking the crimi
nal what difference does it make
whether you run him into jail or onto
the gallows? Only it is not the real
but the imaginary differences which are
of the greatest importance in this world
and half the accepted facts in life are
standing without a,ny legs under them.
Society, which is more particular than
Just, admits the detective to her fearful
need. And so, for the matter of that,
she doea the hangman. But she does
not concede either of them to be quite
respectable. She sets the detective at
the stalking of her crimes and makes
it nip and tuck and toss a coin between
the hunter and his quarry. It is only
when her relatives are found mysteri
ously murdered in their beds or her
family plate and jewels are taken from
beneath her pillow while she sleeps that
she seeks to know what manner of man
he is. and then she goes about it as if
she were pawning her watch.
For myself, I never before thought of
the office side of detective work. I have
pictured the ferret of the law ever in
the act of ferreting. He has coursed
through my mind hot on the trail of
crime, disguised beyond recognition by
his own mother, schemes in his head,
handcuffs in his pocket, Bix-shootera
under his duster, transacting such busi
ness as he might have to transact other
than pursuit in the dark hallways of
low lodging-houses, the skulking back
chambers of little evil inns.
After this ingenuous confession It Is
superlluous to say that I read the elder
Pinkerton faithfully in my youth—
without the knowledge of fond but un
romantic parents— and if the portly,
dressy, prosperous, comfortable man
who now opens the door of Mr. William
A. Pinkerton's private office and waves
me cordially to enter in is not the old
sleuth of many a dear and troubled
dream it is through no fault of his
father. No, nor of Mr. Nick Carter's
He is of great breadth as well as
height, Mr. William A. Pinkerton, a
man of quite unusual size, with a rather
heavy, string- featured face, a good
brow, deep-set eyes, one of which is
gray-brown and the other brown-gray,
so that the difference is quite notice
able as he sits facing the light, a full,
dark mustache and a sporty taste in
clothes. His invisible check suit was
cut by a good tailor, his linen is fine
and his gray silk tie admirably in sea
son. He wears a superb emerald and
diamond ring on his left hand, a fine
sapph're in his shirt bosom, elaborate
link? of cats' eyes set with diamonds
in his cuffs and a gold and Jeweled
dagger, sheathed, which may be a
pencil, or a toothpick, or a cigar
cutter, or a court-plaster «ase, or
a mere watch charm, dangling from
a chain, but whatever it is it
is large enough to be seen. His
manner is easy, natural, dignified and
modestly reserved — all agreeable ciiar
acteristics of a manner, even when con
sidered separately — altogether irresist
ible when taken in a lump. I decide
that I shall like Mr. William A. Pin
kerton very much, in spite of his jew
elry, of which I am naturally a little
envious, but of course I can never love
him as I loved his father.
One of the old books, bound in red,
pictured outwardly with the great gilt
eye and the motto, "We Never Sleep,"
lies on the son's table. I pat it in lov
"I have read them all," I said. "I
think I should like to read at least one
of them again."
"Yes?" replies Mr. Pinkerton, coldly.
"We do not approve of them, you
"You do not approve of your father's
"Of what I might call detective liter
ature," he replied. "We believe it
hurts the dignity of the profession. It
creates an entirely false impression
concerning it and exerts a bad influ
ence on young mincls."
Mr. Pinkerton passed a strong: hand,
on which the handsome emerald
glowed greenly, across his brow.
"My father's name has been used,"
he continued, "by a number of unscru
pulous men to sell books which were
in every sense unreliable and perni
cious. The name is, of course, widely
known, and we endeavored to bring
persons who were trading on it to Jus
tice, but on questioning several firms
which sold the so-called Pinkerton
books -we found they had purchased the
right to use the name Pinkerton from
some obscure newspaper man in the
South. He may be a Pinkerton as he
claims to be, but we never heard of
Mr. Plnkerton paused. "You se<-,"
he went on gravely, "we have extended
the business greatly since my father's
death and it is carried on now on prin
ciples that I am sure he would apjrove,
but which were not possible In his
time. We are now a very large con
cern, with offices in the principal Amer
ican cities, and correspondents every
where. We particularly dislike and
avoid anything approaching sensation
alism. We handle no scandals. We
accept no family cases."
"Divorces and such matters. Whon
a divorce case requires detective work
it argues scandalous details. We do
not care to lend our name to histories
of that nature. We are practically the
agents in our line of all the large
banks, mercantile houses and Jewelers'
establishments in America. Our busi
ness is almost exclusively in, that di
rection. We do the work [ of three
thousand banks alone."
"That, of course, means big bank
"Robberies, forgeries, confidence
games and," Mr. Plnkerton smiled,
"preventing them. I presume you have
heard of the Jewelers' Protective As
sociation? No? Well, that was formed
for the protection of traveling men —
traveling for large jewelry houses, you
understand. They used to be the great
est sufferers from hotel and railway
thieves. You see a jewelry drummer
has his fortune, or a good bit belonging
to his firm, in his trunk or whatever
baggage he carries— all the way from
five hundred to twenty-five thousand
dollars' worth of stock. The minute he
takes his eye or his hand off his bag
gage he's running a risk. Well! they
used to be robbed right and left. So
all the big Jewelry houses entered into
a Protective Association with us. The
firms pay an initial fee and every dfum
mer has to belong and pay his fee; then
if he's robbed on the road he imme
diately notifies our nearest agent and
we act under instructions from that
office, so that there's a hand out every
where for that jewelry thief. Luck
went with us from the first. We got
the men and the jewelry the first three
cases running. Then of course the
word got round that it wasn't a safe
lead, and now a jewelry drummer's
pretty seoure. When you hear of one
being robbed to-day you can be pretty
sure It's the work of an amateur. Reg
ulars don't want to touch it. That's
what I meant when I said we prevented
crime. The success of this work led to
the establishment of the Jewelers' Se
curity Alliance. That is about the"
same thing for the protection of Jew
elers'^ safes. You see, a Jeweler's capi
tal is in his safe. Then there's the
American Bankers' Union. They're all
on the same order and all In our hands.
We've *een wonderfully successful. We
lose some few cases, but we usually get
both the men and the property."
"Which do you want to get most?" I
asked out of a desire to know.
"We want the men," replied Mr. Pin
SAN FRANCISCO, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 23, 1898.
kerton promptly, "and the owner wants
So the spirit of the chase is in it still,
"Luck's been with us a good deal,"
he went on reflectively, "and luck is
nearly everything in this business."
"And, I suppose, experience is some
thing, and, in your case, perhaps he
"Training more than heredity. Luck
and training make a good detective."
"How many years of training did
"Well, I went into the secret service
of the United States Army under my
father," said the son of the famous
first, "and I was fifteen then. I served
through the war, and then I went to
school. Not for long, though. Then
I got back Into the office again and I've
been there ever since and I'm still
training. You are always learning
something in any game you play with
men. I tell my new men that. The
new ones are always the sure ones, you
know. We train our own men. We
don't want any botching to pick out
and do over, and we don't want the
tramp detective who goes from office
to office exchanging methods. We'd
rather begin with them and teach them
Btting, shadowing and roping. Those
the three Rs of this business. You
•W what they mean, don't j«du?"
Well, spotting and shadowing, yes.
"That's getting their confidence —
some offices call it worming."
"Oh! And is it hard business to learn,
No harder than any other if you
c your mind to it. You've got to
c a mind though to go with it. And
yet every man you meet thinks he'd
make a good detective. Have you ever
noticed that? We're simply besieged
with suggestions from amateurs when
ever we have a big case on. And wo
men! Do you know lots of women are
crazy to go into this business? You'd
be surprised at the number of applica
tions I get from women in private life.
Crazy over the idea! What do you
suppose it is?"
"I don't know. The roping, perhaps,
appeals to the feminine nature."
"Well, it's anything but feminine
work, I can tell you. Some women are
smart at it, but I won't employ them
on principle. I don't want to have
anything to do with unsexing women.
I like them just as they were made,
good and womanly. If they're that
they're no good as detectives. And if
they're successful detectives they're no
good as women. There are plenty of
bright men in the world who can do
that work. Of course, as I said, a
man has got to have brains, because
the business is half management, which
will come to a bright men with a little
training, and half luck — more than half
luck. Why! I have been wonderfully
successful in the business and I can
see where nearly all of it was luck.
Time and again I've had men I've been
looking for walk right Into my arms
and I pledge you my word if I'd had to
look for them I wouldn't have known
where to look for them. I've run across
a man one day — some suspicious char
acter I mean — and taken a few notes
on- him on general principle and had
a demand for that man perhaps be
fore the week was out. I was in the
Louisville (Kentucky) Jail once, and
happened to notice a couple of pretty
hard cases in for some kind of bank
work, and meeting these men in Lon
don, England, several years afterward
I put the London authorities on to
them, and when I got back to New
York I sent over their pictures to the
London office. Right after that came
the discovery of the frauds on the
Bank of England, and the English po
lice picked those two gentlemen right
out of Piccadilly, where they were liv
ing in style on the Bank of England's
money. It was nothing but luck my
meeting them in London, wasn't it? And
it was nothing but luck that I remem
bered them. Then there was that train
robbery, when Kellogg Nichols, the ex
press messenger for the Chicago, Rock
Island and Pacific, was killed. I went
into the dressing-room of the car to
wash my hands and I found the scrap
of paper that led to the identification
of the man who did the killing and
robbing. Now it was luck that took
me into that room, wasn't it?"
"And how about the rest of it?"
"Well, training," said Mr. Pinkerton
"You don't think, then, that people
are born to it, like Sherlc-ck Holmes?"
"Ha-ha!" laughed Mr. Pinkerton.
"He's a great one, isn't he?"
"Is he, really?"
"For a book he is," said Mr. Pinker
ton. "He'd make a terrible lot of
trouble in the business, though. It's
all made possible, you know — perfectly
possible — in the book — cmly things don't
happen that way in life. Some of it is
probable, too — his finding things, for in
stance, where there didn't seem to be
anything to find. I traced a big rob
bery once through three hairs from a
horse. That's so! A horse had been
seen tied in the woods, but he was
blanketed down to his hocks and the
snow had fallen thick all over his
tracks and nobody saw him ridden off.
I found two bay hairs and a long black '
one sticking to a twig, and I put him
up for a bay horse with black points,
and I set out to look for a horse like
that and a man that owned him or rode
him, and I landed my man. CNow that
was a great piece of luck, finding that
horse hair, wasn't it?"
"Great!" I said, laughing.
"That's what it was," said Mr. Pin
kerton, "and things have happened that
way often to help along' a case for me."
"What Is the most interesting piece of
luck that ever happened to you?"
"Finding that scrap of paper in the
Nichols case," replied Mr. Pinkerton
promptly. "That's my pet case. I was
greatly interested in those Bank of
England frauds, too."
"And the big strikes, when the Pin*
kerton men were all disguised among
the strikers, and ?"
"No, thank you," replied Mr. Pinker
ton. "We were too unpopular to make
that an interesting recollection. There
is a law now against that work, and I
am not at all sorry. In Chicago during
the riots over those anarchists — that
was exciting enough! But it isn't the
sort of thing you can go over. It was
being In it that made it so stirring. We
Continued on Page 2*.
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