Famous Private Investigators In History From Sherlock Holmes To Alan Pinkerton

Everyone likes a good “who-done-it” story, whether it’s by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or James Patterson. The detectives made famous by these authors have astounded readers for decades with their investigative skills.

Eugene Francois Vidocq Private InvestigatorAlthough Sherlock Holmes, private investigator, is a fictitious character, he is based on a real person, a Frenchman who was an ex-soldier, criminal and privateer by the name of Eugene Francois Vidocq. Vidocq was flamboyant in his style, and very much the showman. Vidocq started his private detective agency in 1833. He enjoyed going “undercover” in disguise to catch the wrongdoers.

Vidocq actually met Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and this is how Doyle came to know about him. Holmes decided to use Vidocq as his model for the character, Sherlock Holmes. Vidocq was responsible for the creation of a number of investigative techniques used today. Invisible ink, unalterable bond paper used to make checks, plaster casts and ballistic tests are just a few of his contributions.

In 1852, a policeman with the Metropolitan Police in England retired from the force to open a private detective agency. His name was Charles Frederick Field. He also was to meet up with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Doyle wrote a number of books using Field as the private investigator in his stories.

pinkerton private detective agencyIn the 1850’s, the first detective agency in the United States was founded by Alan Pinkerton. Known as the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, the logo of the agency is an open eye,the motto, “We Never Sleep.” Pinkerton was a pioneer in modern police work and private investigative technique. During the Civil War, he worked for the Union, his agents involved in military intelligence duties. A good friend of Abraham Lincoln, Pinkerton’s military agents became the precursor of the U. S. Secret Service, based on Lincoln’s bidding.

Later in the 19th century, Pinkerton men were used to keep strikers and pro-unionists out of factories, paid for by the business owners. Alan Pinkerton was well liked and respected all across the country. When the FBI was being formed in 1909, Alan Pinkerton’s plan of business for his agency was used as a model.

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