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Alan Pinkerton:
The Original Private Eye

by Judith P. Josephson

eFrog Press March 16, 2017

When the midwestern United States was still young and rugged, a Scottish immigrant named Allan Pinkerton pioneered the detective trade. The methods he used were simple, but they broke new ground: Facts and codes were recorded in small black notebooks; his agents worked undercover, in disguise.

With keen senses and a fierce determination, Allan Pinkerton solved many of the era's most celebrated crimes. He captured gangs of train robbers and exposed the secrets and identitities of cunning Civil War spies.

In a biography that combines historical detail, photographs, and excerpts from Pinkerton's own letters and books, Judith Pinkerton Josephson takes you inside Pinkerton headquarters and out on the trail with Pinkerton and his force. Josephson also provides insight into the personality of this complex and ambitious man.

Take a Sneak Peek inside this book.

Purchase the newly revised e-book version of Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye (eFrog Press, Spotlight Biography series), available on


Judith Josephson was featured on the Discovery Channel program "On the Inside: The Pinkertons."

Clips of Judith's television appearances on A&E Biography and the Discovery Channel

The Pinkerton Agency has been around for 150 years, ever since Allan Pinkerton became the first private eye, chasing train robbers and the likes of Jesse James out of an otherwise-lawless American west. Today it's a global, billion-dollar agency.


Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye

". . .filled with anecdotal accounts of cases involving counterfeiters, bank robbers, Civil War spies, western outlaws, and militant unionists . . . though gripping stories dominate the narrative, Pinkerton's private life and dynamic, if contradictory, personality are not neglected . . . the text is straightforward and chronological . . . black and white photographs and reproductions are large enough to enhance the text . . ."

— School Library Journal

"Among Pinkerton's accomplishments recounted . . . are saving Abe Lincoln's life, starting the Secret Service, bringing down the "Irish Mafia, and fighting Jesse James. Pugnacious Allan Pinkerton loved to fight and constantly boasted that he would never be defeated . . . This fascinating story is brought to life with interviews that include Pinkerton's great-great grandson, Frederick Pullman; biographers Judith Pinkerton Josephson, James Mackay, Frank Morn . . ."

— A & E Biography, Behind the Badge series

"A complicated man, Pinkerton helped capture lawbreakers, but he also broke the law by using his home as a station in the Underground Railroad. Josephson has unearthed much interesting information, presenting it with many well-chosen photographs.

— Booklist

". . . an enjoyable read filled with personal accounts about an interesting man who had many adventures, worked closely with important people of this time, and was full of contradictions. . . The book is nicely laid out with many historic photos and illustrations to give a feel of the times. Recommended for all libraries that have a demand for biographies of historical people."


"A fascinating biography of North America's greatest private eye! From secret codes, train robbers, war spies and disguises, this book is a page turner. Did Jesse James get the revenge he swore to on Allan Pinkerton? Read and find out."

— Homeschooling News for Ontario

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