Professional Thieves and the Detective [Autographed by Robert A. Pinkerton].

Includes an autobiography by detective and spy Allan Pinkerton, founder of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency—“The Pinkertons”


Autobiography and crime memoir by Allan Pinkerton (1819–1884), noted Scottish-American private detective and spy. This copy has a presentation inscription from Pinkerton’s son and successor, Robert Allan Pinkerton (1848–1907).

The inscription reads in full: “Comr. Frank Stott with compliments of Robt. A. Pinkerton.” Francis Horatio “Frank” Stott (1832–1900), the son of a woolen mill owner in Stottsville, Columbia County, New York, was for many years the “Commodore” of the Atlantic Yacht Club of Brooklyn.

After the death of his father, Robert A. Pinkerton and his twin brother, William, became co-directors of their father’s detective agency, the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.

Professional Thieves and the Detective opens with an autobiographical section entitled “How I became a Detective.” Allan Pinkerton describes how in 1847 he was instrumental in breaking up a gang of counterfeiters in Dundee, Illinois.

Allan Pinkerton emigrated from Scotland to the United States in 1842. Moving to Chicago in 1850, he investigated counterfeiting for the U.S. Treasury Department, mail theft at the Chicago post office, and railroad theft, the latter involving an elaborate spy system. At this time, Pinkerton set up a private police force which later became known as the Pinkerton National Detective Agency—popularly called “The Pinkertons.” Pinkerton’s motto, “We Never Sleep,” along with an image of an eye is stamped in gilt on the upper cover of the book.

Pinkerton’s spying for the federal government continued during the Civil War. Notably, he foiled an assassination attempt against President-elect Abraham Lincoln. Pinkerton is also noted for his controversial work in infiltrating the secret Irish-American fraternity, The Molly Maguires, and for policing labor strikes. Pinkerton agents also helped to search for and kill such Wild West outlaws as Jesse James and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The main body of Professional Thieves and the Detective describes numerous criminal cases throughout the United States and Pinkerton’s and his Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency’s work in solving those crimes. The crimes involved railroads, banks, murder, robbery and burglary, the use of telegraphy to commit crimes (“Lightning Stealers”), fraud, forgery, prison escapes, etc.

According to American National Biography (ANB), “To tap into the popular ‘yellow book’ publications glamorizing the exploits of detectives, and at the same time correct many misrepresentations, [Allan] Pinkerton published sixteen detective books between 1874 and 1884. Some were matter-of-fact ‘true detective stories,’ which retold past cases, while others were not stories at all but descriptions of various crimes and criminals. Like Pinkerton’s detective activities, his literary efforts were a cooperative endeavor—different authors under his supervision put his memories on paper.”


Description: Professional Thieves and the Detective [Autographed by Robert A. Pinkerton].

New York: G.W. Carleton & Co., Publishers, MDCCCLXXXI [1881]. [i]–xvi, 17–598, [2 (ads)]pp. + Illustration plates. Small, thick 8vo. Publisher’s illustrated red-brown cloth, stamped in gilt, black, and blind. Inscribed on preliminary leaf by author’s son, Robert A. Pinkerton. Some wear to binding at extremities; frontispiece slightly sprung; boards rubbed; spine slightly faded; about very good.

[3726642]

Price: $250.00