Allan Pinkerton made history with his links to Abraham Lincoln, a renowned firm which pioneered in the ‘private eye’ industry, and he even fought to abolish slavery. Importantly, he also hailed from Glasgow.

Glasgow has arguably produced some of Britain's most brilliant detectives.

Many have been pioneers in the field of criminal investigation including the use of forensic science like fingerprinting and DNA.

However, the city can also lay claim to have given birth to America's most famous and influential crime fighter.

A controversial and divisive figure whose influence still lives on to this day in movies, books, and television and in the shape of a multinational security firm.

Allan Pinkerton was born in the Gorbals on August 25, 1819, the son of Isobel McQueen and William Pinkerton.

His father had been a police sergeant but died after being injured while policing a political riot in Glasgow in the late 1820s.

Following his death, Pinkerton was forced to leave school at the age of ten to support the family and became an apprentice barrel maker in the local McCauley Cooperage Works.

However, he made up for his lack of education by reading any book he could get his hands on in his spare time.

By 1842 - at the age of 23 - the self-educated man had also become politically active in the working-class Chartist movement, which was campaigning for reforms to the political system and an end to poverty.

But their demonstrations in Glasgow often ended in violence and disorder and a warrant had been issued for his arrest.

Around this time Pinkerton married a woman from Duddingston in Edinburgh, Joan Carfrae.

A few days after the wedding, they learned he was about to be detained by the authorities for his Chartist activities.

Pinkerton faced the possibility of being shipped to Australia as a convict, a common punishment then for any type of law-breaking.

The two newlyweds decided they had to get out of Glasgow and bought two one-way tickets to Chicago, Illinois, in the USA.

There Pinkerton worked for a brewery.

He then set himself up as a cooper in the nearby immigrant town of Dundee where he noticed a gang of counterfeiters was operating.

Pinkerton reported the gang to a Chicago sheriff and even went with him on a raid, armed with a shotgun.

The pair caught the gang and smashed the lucrative counterfeit ring they were running.

The sheriff, impressed with the Scot's honesty and endeavour, gave him a job as a local Deputy and then hired him as Chicago's first detective.

The city that would produce mafia boss Al Capone 75 years later was already riddled with crime.

Having followed in his father’s footsteps as a cop, Pinkerton never looked back.

In 1848, he recorded Chicago's highest number of arrests

Pinkerton's reputation as an honest and effective police officer began to spread and he realised there was a money-making gap in law enforcement for his skills.

Most American cities, unlike Chicago, had no police force and relied on private detectives.

They in turn had a poor reputation for honesty and integrity, unlike Pinkerton.

In the early 1850s, he left the Chicago police to set up the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.

His agency’s slogan was “we never sleep” and its symbol was the now famous unblinking eye - which first gave the world the term ‘private eye’.

Pinkerton's new firm was a trailblazer and the first to deploy techniques now routinely used by law enforcement authorities across the world.

This included the surveillance of suspects and using undercover agents to infiltrate criminal gangs.

Pinkerton even devised the idea of honey traps, using attractive young women to lure gullible male suspects into confessing their crimes.

His main targets were organised crime gangs who robbed banks and trains.

However, Pinkerton refused to take divorce cases and anything else he considered morally unacceptable.

Despite his moral scruples his firm quickly achieved a reputation for toughness and effectiveness.

Within a few years, he had agents spread across the USA from the north to the Deep South.

He had an eye for publicity with newspapers covering stories of his successful cases, which made him and his agents well-known public figures.

At that time thousands of immigrants were settling in the USA, in turn creating jobs and wealth.

Railroad companies and banks hired him to protect their money as it was transported across the country.

In one case, he recovered $700,000 which had been stolen at gunpoint - a considerable fortune then.

Pinkerton was also hired to pursue some of the Wild West’s most notorious criminals of the time including Jesse James, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the Reno Gang.

His successes brought him to the attention of George McClellan, who was vice president of the Illinois railroad and one of Abraham Lincoln's close confidants.

Lincoln had been impressed by the Scot and later called on his services when he was elected President in 1861 and made him his personal bodyguard.

They also had a shared interest in ending slavery.

After his arrival in the USA Pinkerton became involved in the anti-slavery movement, helping to create the “underground railroad” which helped slaves to escape.

Pinkerton worked for abolitionist leaders, and his Dundee home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

He attended the secret meetings held by anti-slavery campaigner John Brown in Chicago along with other abolitionists

At those meetings, they helped purchase clothes and supplies for escapee slaves.

Following the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861 between the North and the South, Pinkerton joined Lincoln's Union Army as head of the intelligence services and was given the rank of major.

Photographs from the time show both him and Lincoln standing together during a battle in 1862. Such was his influence on the President.

Pinkerton spread of agents on the ground in both the north and south made his company invaluable to the war effort.

They often worked undercover as Confederate soldiers and sympathizers to gather military intelligence.

Pinkerton even went on several undercover missions himself as a Confederate soldier using the alias Major E.J. Allen.

He worked across the Deep South, focusing on identifying troop numbers, their camps and battle plans.

He was recognised one day in Memphis, Tennessee from his newspaper photograph and barely escaped with his life.

In the early days of Lincoln’s presidency, Pinkerton also unearthed a plot to assassinate him on a train as he travelled to Washington DC. from Baltimore for his official inauguration.

Pinkerton persuaded the President to change his travel plans and the assassination was thwarted.

Saving the President enhanced Pinkerton's reputation across the USA even further.

By this time Pinkerton, ever the innovator, had hired America's first-ever female detective, Kate Warne.

She had convinced Pinkerton that women could get information that would be impossible for a male detective including the wives and girlfriends of suspected criminals.

Three years after she was hired, Warne was part of the team that foiled the assassination plot after she posed as a woman who was sympathetic to the plotters who wanted to separate from the United States.

Warne would often pose as his wife while both worked undercover prompting speculation that they were lovers.

She was later put in charge of the Female Detective Bureau established by Pinkerton. Her title being Supervisor of Women Agents with the rank of Superintendent.

Pinkerton was in another part of America when actor John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln dead in 1865 at Washington's Ford Theatre where he had been attending a play with his wife.

Booth was also a Confederate sympathizer and opposed the abolition of slavery in the United States.

By the end of the American civil war, Pinkerton's agency was well established and was quickly signed up to deal with thousands of armed bandits running wild all over the country.

Soldiers, particularly from the losing Confederate side, had no homes or farms to return to. After years of fighting, they continued to do what they had become good at - killing and robbing.

It was a difficult job for the private eyes since the bandits were either not known or not recognisable.

That's when Pinkerton got the idea of compiling photographs of suspects called mugshots.

They were an early form of the databases used today by every police force in the world.

By the 1870s, Pinkerton's had the world's largest collection of photographs of criminals and suspects.

Armed with the mugshots, Pinkerton's agents became famous for being fast and ruthless in capturing the bandits.

However, they had less success with Jessie James and his gang.

After Pinkerton failed to capture him, the railroad bosses who were among the victims withdrew their financial support for his private eye work.

Undeterred Pinkerton continued to track James at his own expense.

He dispatched three of his top agents, who were all killed by the gang in less than a week.

Pinkerton agents were then said to have bombed the home of James's mother when they thought he and his brother Frank were visiting.

But Jesse and Frank weren't in the house. The bomb killed their young half-brother and blew off their mother's arm.

The James gang held up several trains after the bombing, not looking for loot but for Allan Pinkerton himself. There's no doubt they planned to kill the Scot but failed to find him.

Jessie James was also seen as a freedom fighter in the south and Pinkerton's agency became hated there overnight.

Even the future president, Theodore Roosevelt said: "Jesse James is America's Robin Hood."

Pinkerton didn't agree and was desperate to bring him to justice.

He even saddled a horse and set off after James and his gang. One by one, he killed them himself, apart from Jesse and his brother Frank.

Another rare failure was the hunt for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, known as the Hole in Wall Gang.

Their robberies infuriated the railroad companies and the banks.

Pinkerton detectives were hired to hunt them down and they did for years.

However, they never caught up with the pair immortalised by Robert Redford and Paul Newman in the 1970's movie of the same name.

Pinkerton's biggest success was against The Reno Gang - a group of brothers - who carried out high-value train robberies in the Midwestern states during and after the American Civil War.

The Reno Gang were ruthless and one passenger George Kinney who later identified two of the robbers following a raid was later shot and killed, to prevent him from giving evidence.

One of the companies whose money had been stolen used the insurance payout to hire Pinkertons.

The firm showed they meant business and regularly engaged in shootouts with gang members they went to arrest.

Their first success was John Reno who was later sentenced to 25 years in the Missouri State Penitentiary in 1868.

That same year Frank, William and Simeon Reno were caught by Pinkertons led by Allan's son William.

However, while being held in Floyd County Jail in Indiana vigilantes overpowered the sheriff dragged the three brothers from their cells and hanged them

In the late 1870s, Pinkertons were also earning a reputation and criticism as strike breakers hired by large companies in fear of the growing trade union movement in the USA and Canada.

A sharp contrast to his days in Glasgow as a working-class political agitator.

Pinkertons had accepted a commission to break up the Molly Maguires, an Irish group who used violence to force mine owners into giving the workers better conditions.

A Pinkerton agent infiltrated the Maguires and gave evidence at their trial leading to ten of them being hung.

It was a difficult time for the detective agency, but worse times were to befall its leader.

In June 1884, Pinkerton tripped on a pavement, fell, and banged his chin - biting his tongue. Never one to fuss, he refused medical treatment.

A few days later he contracted gangrene and died, aged 65.

However, it has also been suggested that he may have suffered a stroke or even died from malaria, which he had contracted during a trip to the Southern United States.

In his later years, the avid reader became an author and wrote about his experiences with the Molly Maguires and Lincoln.

Following his death, the business was taken over by his three children and went from success to success.

It did, however, continue to attract criticism for its strike-breaking activities on behalf of employers.

Following one strike in 1892, the US government was banned from hiring Pinkerton detectives.

This had a major effect on the reputation of the company reputation for years to come.

Pinkerton appears then to have been a man of many contradictions.

The man who was prepared to break the law for his political beliefs was also ruthless in upholding it.

However, he was a great innovator in the field of criminal investigation.

His pioneering work led to the formation of the FBI and the American Secret Service.

Over the years the story of Allan Pinkerton has been told on film and TV.

James Bond author Ian Fleming had his fictional American CIA colleague, Felix Leiter, working for Pinkerton in his later books.

While Line of Duty star Martin Compston is due to take on the role of Allan Pinkerton in a new drama about his life.

In a recent interview, a distant relative of Pinkerton's David Clark said he hoped the Compston production would help give the ancestor the recognition that he deserves back in his homeland.

The 69-year-old, who is also from the Gorbals, said: “The Pinkerton National Detective Agency is more a part of American folklore than Scottish history because most people don't even know that its founder was from Glasgow.

"Not a lot is known about his early life in Scotland, but he faced great hardship as a cooper, travelling around the country looking for work and often having to sleep rough in between jobs.

"He was a short but a well-built man, which came from swinging a 10lb hammer day in and day out making oak barrels.

"He had to leave the country before he found himself on a prison ship to Australia and that's how he ended up in North America."

The late Superman actor Christopher Reeve played the Glaswegian in the 1990 TV movie The Rose and the Jackal.

Angus Macfadyen also portrayed the Scot in the 2014 miniseries The Pinkertons.

While Pinkerton has also been played by Bond actor Timothy Dalton.

David added: "People know the names of historical figures like Andrew Carnegie but they never associate Allan Pinkerton with being one of our most successful Scots. 'This man wasn't just part of history, he made history."

Pinkerton's is now part of Securitas, a Swedish group providing security services to governments and private companies throughout the world.

Its founder is buried in a family plot at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, where his memorial states: “A Friend of Honesty and a Foe to Crime”. Interestingly Kate Warne is buried in the same plot.

In 2020, Historic Environment Scotland announced that a blue plaque in honour of Pinkerton would be installed at the Legal House offices in the Gorbals.

The spot is closest to Pinkerton's tenement birthplace in Muirhead Street, long since demolished and now occupied by the Central Mosque.

Pinkerton is also a member of the USA's Military Intelligence Hall of Fame.

As his ship left Glasgow for a new life in the USA 180 years ago, he could not have dreamt of how his life was to turn out.

A 3500-mile journey into the unknown would make him one of America's most powerful and influential figures of the 19th century.

Not bad for a barrel-maker from the Gorbals.