A Pinkerton is a Western Character, specifically a Detective working for the infamous Pinkerton National Detective Agency. The Pinkertons were known for their ruthlessness and brutality in pursuit of criminals. They were practically a private army, often called in by Barons and Bosses as Strike Breakers and to investigate or bring to "justice" labor movements and other enemies of the big railroad companies. They were also employed as Security Guards, and to hunt down outlaws who had robbed trains, large banks, wealthy individuals, or the US Government.
The Pinkerton motto is "We Never Sleep". The company logo is that motto beneath a drawing of an eye. This is the likely origin of the term "Private Eye".
History of the Pinkertons:
- 1850s - Founded by Allan Pinkerton
- 1871 - Department of Justice founded, but underbudgeted, so the DOJ hired the Pinkertons to catch those who broke Federal Law.
- 1874 - Gunfight between Pinkertons and the Younger Brothers
- 1870s - Pinkertons vs the Molly Maguires and Ancient Order of Hibernians in a bloody vigilante war in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania
- 1892 - Homestead Strike - 300 Pinkertons called in to break the strike. 7 Pinkertons and 9 striking laborers killed. It took 2 Brigades of State Militia to restore order.
- 1893 - The "Anti-Pinkerton Act" passed by Congress, preventing the US Federal Government (or the District of Columbia) from employing Pinkertons
- 1895 - H.H. Holmes, the first known serial killer in US history, was arrested by the Pinkertons
- 1930s - After the rise of the FBI, and public revelations of various unscrupulous activities the Pinkertons had engaged in while strike breaking, the company switched over to being mostly a security company.
- 2003 - Merged with William J. Burns Detective Agency, both are now subsidiaries of Securitas AB.
Game and Story Use
- The Pinkertons are a powerful threat to hold above the heads of characters who are stirring up too much trouble. Wealthy NPCs Villains of the 1800s will probably hire the Pinkertons should the local supply of Henchmen and Mooks prove incapable of handling the PCs.
- If the PCs are outlaws in the Wild West, especially Robin Hood types, they might end up with a Pinkerton-organized posse after them.
- Pinkertons are active into the era covered by most Call of Cthulhu campaigns. They could be breaking up cults and secret societies, or defending corrupt cultist industrialites. In this era, they're being pinched by many circumstances. They might be willing to do anything for a job, no matter how distasteful, but will be extremely careful about public opinion and keeping up appearances.
- Player Characters could be "Special Officers" of the Pinkerton Agency in a game set in the 19th Century or early 1900s. They'd fill a role similar to the FBI or a spy agency does in later eras, but would have a lot more resources than official agencies of the time (and very little oversight or red tape to deal with).
- The Pinkertons could serve as a model for any detective agency, paramilitary organization, spy ring, bounty hunter service, or private army in another setting. They had their fingers in everything, as could the forces of the Big Bad in your setting.
- As the PCs enter the latest Adventure Town, they see a big demonstration and picket lines. The local Bosses have called in undercover Pinkerton agents to break the strike, and violence is set to explode at any moment. Can the PCs find a peaceful resolution, or will they be forced to pick sides and get swept up in vigilante bloodshed?