What Exactly Is a Pinkerton?

His name is Homer Jackson, and he’s “all flesh and blood.” (‘Tournament of Shadows‘)

But according to Inspector Reid, (and every minor police character on “Ripper Street”) he was also a pinkerton.

In the past few episodes, you may have noticed quite a bit of chatter concerning the term ‘pinkerton‘ in reference to Captain Homer Jackson‘s dark and mysterious past. However, the word itself has a hint of mystery behind it and may warrant an explanation.

So, what is a pinkerton?

Well it all started with a man who never intended to be a spy, which is always a great way to start off a story.

His name was Allan Pinkerton, a Scottish barrel-maker who immigrated to the U.S. in 1842, settling near Chicago, Illinois. Eventually landing in a town called Dundee, he quickly made a name for himself as a much needed quality barrel maker or ‘cooper’.

Little did he know that striving to improve his barrel business would lead him down the path to creating the most infamous mercenary group in American history.

(Civil War Talk)

When Pinkerton discovered that good quality raw materials for his barrels were easily obtained on a small, deserted island not far from town he decided to take the initiative in gathering them himself, eliminating the middle man. Upon arrival, he discovered that the remote island was actually inhabited by a number of people. To make a long story short, he became personally invested in a case involving some missing counterfeiters and ended up assisting law enforcement in finding the culprits who happened to live on this very remote island. Pinkerton enjoyed this escapade so much that it led him on to other local unsolved mysteries concerning the same case.

In 1850, Mr. Pinkerton founded his own detective agency, and was a very popular source to turn to during the Civil War, including secretly extracting information about the confederacy. After his death in 1884, the agency continued, and later became involved in working against the young labor movement in the U.S.

Unfortunately, this venture began to tarnish the agency’s reputation, swiftly becoming known as “the arm of big business.”

Episode 6, ‘A Tournament of Shadows,’ was widely based on union debates and organized anarchist groups attempting to overthrow authority. The Pinkerton Agency continued to act against labor during the late 19th and into the 20th century.

The agency’s reputation continued in a downward spiral for attempting to protect corporate property and big industry, and became affiliated with men like Andrew Carnegie. Despite its pitfalls however,  the agency still exists! Though it is now known as SECURITAS.

And now you know what all the fuss is about with Captain Jackson being involved with the pinkertons back in his Chicago days. Jackson’s association with the agency followed him into the East End, and is still causing him a world of trouble!