Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th's Unlucky Spotlight: Allan Pinkerton

(photo @ wikipedia.com)


Allan Pinkerton was born on August 25, 1819 in Glasgow, Scotland. He spent much of his early life as a political and social reform activist for the working class as part of the Charist Movement. Unfortunately, England's government was not a fan of the group (or Pinkerton) and sent a company of soldiers to arrest him on his wedding day.

Pinkerton and his wife, Joan, decided to make a last minute change to their honeymoon plans by fleeing to the United States. They ended up in Dundee, Illinois, where he started his own successful cooperage (i.e. he made made really good wooden barrels). Being a staunch abolitionist, Pinkerton also made his business a station on the Underground Railroad, helping escaped slaves to freedom and cementing his reputation as all around great guy.

But despite how awesome and fun it is to say, "Alan Pinkerton" would not become a household name until a fateful trip he took in 1842 to gather raw materials for his business...when he happened to stumble across a band of counterfeiters. Instead of going full on Rambo or screaming about it to the authorities, however, Pinkerton convinced the town sheriff to help him stake out the group and conducted a sting operation, eventually leading to the capture of the entire operation and their ring leader.


"Not the way I woulda played it, but whatever..."



After a failed bid at running for local office, Pinkerton, his wife, and three sons moved to Chicago, where he decided to start his own detective agency...which would eventually become the legendary (and still operating) Pinkerton National Detective Agency. Pinkerton's skillful use of shadowing suspects and going undercover to gather information were considered revolutionary methods at the time and are (obviously) still used by law enforcement and detective agencies today.

He also become head of the newly formed Union Intelligence Service during the Civil War, which was the forerunner of the United States Secret Service, and built a massive network of spies throughout the Confederacy. Top top it all off, Pinkerton was also the head of a security team that foiled an assassination plot against Abraham Lincoln on the way to his presidential inauguration.

So how did this "James Bond of the Wild West" meet his demise? Was it a sting operation gone bad? A rival spy that got the jump on him? A shootout during his legendary pursuit of Jesse James?

Nope. He fell down...and bit his tongue.
              

                             freedigitalphotos.net

You can die from crying like a 
baby and screaming unintelligible swear words?



In the summer of 1884, Pinkerton was walking down a Chicago sidewalk when he slipped and fell, biting through his tongue when his chin hit the pavement. He did not tend to the wound, which eventually turned gangrenous and led to his death on July 1.

Although Pinkerton's wikipedia entry says that his "death by gangrenous tongue" is not confirmed, all of the sources I've linked in this article (and almost any others that you will find) confirm it. If that's not enough for you, his archived obituary in the New York Times agrees on this as the cause of death, as well.

Alan Pinkerton: Political activist/hero, military spy master, and legendary detective...dead at the age of 64 due to an infection from biting his tongue. Medical science has surely advanced to a point something like this wouldn't happen today, but it just goes to show that bad luck can find anyone...even if it's one of the greatest detectives and spies that ever lived.


                                                                                                    tuesday-johnson
...and the inventor of the creepiest company logo.






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