1 Born in Glasgow just over 200 years ago, Allan Pinkerton is considered the founding father of America’s intelligence services. A barrel-maker to trade and a political activist, he fled to Chicago in 1842 as he feared he would be arrested for his political activities.

2 In Illinois, he got involved in the anti-slavery movement, helping to create the “underground railroad” which helped slaves to escape. It was a chance encounter with a gang of counterfeiters - whom he managed to have captured - that resulted in Pinkerton’s change of career, firstly, to deputy sheriff of Kane County and then as Chicago’s first full-time detective.

Glasgow Times:

3 In 1850 he resigned to set up the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, which got a reputation for toughness. The agency’s slogan was “we never sleep” and its symbol was an unblinking eye - hence the term, ‘private eye’. Detectives were trained to shadow suspects and work undercover. Pinkerton also pioneered the compilation of a ‘rogues’ galler’y of mugshots, a forerunner of the databases now used by police forces around the world. Pinkerton’s team pursued some of the Wild West’s most notorious criminals, including Jesse James and Butch Cassidy, forcing the latter to flee to South Carolina.

4 Pinkerton was employed by Abraham Lincoln as his bodyguard and helped to foil a plot to kill the newly-elected president. He died in 1884 and is buried in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, where his memorial states: “A Friend of Honesty and a Foe to Crime”.

Glasgow Times:

5 Historic Environment Scotland announced last month that a blue plaque in honour of Pinkerton will be installed at Legal House in the Gorbals, close to his birthplace - a tenement house in Muirhead Street, now occupied by the Central Mosque.