William Pinkerton dreamed of
a worldwide web of data and social control,
dreams that later saw greater expression in the development of
the FBI's fingerprint files and
IBM's early punch-card technology.
PINKERTONS' ALL-SEEING EYE
(and the history of fingerprinting)
Last year I read an interesting book, LEAVENWORTH TRAIN by Joe Jackson; published by Carrol and Graf, 2001. Its main theme is the true story of an innocent man who, through guilt by association, is convicted of train robbery in 1910. He's thrown into the recently built and much feared Leavenworth Prison in Kansas and, by chance, becomes part of a break-out. He manages to stay free and escape to Canada where he assumes a new identity and avoids detection for twenty-four years, even though he is wanted DEAD OR ALIVE, and is unceasinlgy pursued by the private company PINKERTONS and its publicly funded successor, the FBI.
This book is worth reading for its historical significance alone, let alone its great story. The author is an experienced writer, having been a journalist for years covering crime and punishment issues, including death row inmates and their executions. He writes so descriptively that reading it is like a flash-back in time. The reader is taken back to the way America was in the late 1800s, and early to mid 1900s. He concentrates on the economic times and paints a vivid picture of the gap between the multi-millionaire industrialists and - at the other end of the spectrum - the penniless, unemployed hoboes. The story takes in the settlement of the west, the gold rush, the dust bowl and the dirty-thirties.
But what I found MOST interesting was his exposure of the inequality of the justice system and the origins of surveillance.
All the best,
(page 4]: The prison's main building was modeled after the U.S. Capitol Building; its two main cellhouses, each rising seven stories and stretching longer than a football field, were copied after the chambers of the Senate and the House of Representatives. These cellblocks formed the front wall of the prison, facing south toward town; they were joined in the center by a rotunda, a smaller version of the Capitol dome. The penitentiary's silver dome would rise 150 feet above the grass when completed and was planned at the time as the second-highest dome in America, surpassed only by the original in Washington, D.C. ...
(pages 98-108): In many ways, the history of train robbers in America was the history of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. It has often been said that the Pinkertons shaped the course of twentieth-century American law enforcement. ...It can also be said that the railroads shaped American justice, too. The Pinkertons began as railroad dicks, were sidetracked into the labor wars through railroad connections, and returned to these roots when the taint of labor struggles left the organization in shambles. By the early 1900s, the Pinkertons gloried in their identification with the great western railroads - the Union Pacific, Sante Fe, Great Northern, and others. They'd nearly eradicated the old and infamous gangs with a one-two punch of old fashioned dilegence and newfangled science.
...The Civil War was the young agency's first real break, providing future contracts and profits totalling $40,000. The Founder, as Allen Pinkerton called himself, expanded business on a national scale. He installed his youngest and favorite son, Robert, in the newly opened New York office, while keeping oldest son William with him in the Chicago World Headquarters. ... At this point a symbol arose that progressed from marketing ploy to corporate identity and finally to frightening reality: a godlike omnipotent watchfullness that French phenomenologist Michel Foucault more than a century later would call "The Gaze". The detective's "gaze" was all-important, the essence of his professional being; an unobservant detective was an unabshed failure. By paying underworld snitches for information, he had eyes everywhere.
... Allan Pinkerton was no philosopher, but there is no doubt that he understood, at least instinctively, the power and fearsomness of the Gaze. His agency's motto, WE NEVER SLEEP, was stripped across the front of the Chicago headquarters; its logo, the huge unblinking eye, watched the streets below. ... In his later years, Pinkerton told his clients that criminals everywhere feared him and, as a superstitious mark of respect, had named him "The Eye." Whether true or not, the story was good marketing and in time entered the vernacular, tagging detectives and operatives everywhere with Pinkerton's logo. Henceforth, these men would be known as "private eyes."
...Pinkerton predated and influenced American law enforecment's frequent declaration of "total war" on crime. And just as total war allows excess under the guise of divine or royal mandate, Allan Pinkerton's hatred for criminals shaped his agency's penchant for stretching and breaking the law.
The phrase "The ends justified the means" characterized Pinkerton justice -- a form that favored the client and overlooked the law's inconvenient niceties. It also reflected a new style of enforcment arising after the Civil War.
...By the turn of the century the Pinkertons had carved a place for themselves unlike that of any other public or private detective agency.
...The Pinkertons incorporated science and a nationwide organization that paralleled in scope the industries it served. The Pinkertons succeeded by being everywhere or at least by making others believe they were.
...The Pinkertons made themselves indispensible in ways no other law enforcement agency had or would until their shoes were filled and their style emulated by Hoover's FBI.
In the process, the Pinkertons, a nineteenth- and early twentieth-century for-profit law enforcement agency with all the private sector stress on image and marketable results, presaged and shaped public-sector crime fighting for our time. Allan Pinkerton's early methods of infiltrating criminal groups was imitated and perfeted by federal and metropolitan forces, yet the success of this method ultimately lay with the skill of the operative and was thus hard to predict and control. More successful and far-reacing was the work of Allan's older son. William Pinkerton decided in the 1890s to centralize criminal records within their own national bureau of identification, the basis for the FBI's enormous present-day files. It was an effort to "weave together the bits and pieces of crime," William Pinkerton said. Anything about anyone could be contained in a file.
The ultimate heart of the Pinkertons' contiued success was this criminal file. Through contacts as varied as frontier sherriffs, city policemen, and underworld snitches, the Pinkertons collected all known data concerning criminals, including their origins, associates, methods of operation, meeting places, and known and suspected crimes. One constant source of information was the newspaper: As crimes and criminals were reported, field agents clipped and sent in the stories, along with extra notations, all stored diligently in the criminal's file. Photographs found among the effects of killed and arrested men were forwarded to central offices, with as much information as could be obtained. The mug shot, a Pinkerton innovation, soon spread to police and other detective agencies, yet the Pinkertons didn't stop there but made efforts to get photographs from friends, families, and associates as well as from local photogaphers. ...In addition, the files were international, virtually unheard of at the time. The Gaze extended to every corner of the world; there was nowhere to escape the Unblinking Eye. ...By 1894, the Pinkerton gallery of criminals was the largest in the nation and one of the largest in the world. Yet that was not enough. William Pinkerton dreamed of a worldwide web of data and social control, dreams that later saw greater expression in the development of the FBI's fingerprint files and IBM's early punch-card technology.
Pinkerton made early efforts to link his agency to the great European police forces, like Scotland Yard and the Surete, in hopes of creating an international exchange of information and assistance, a forerunner of Interpol. In North America, he helped create an association of police chiefs in the big cities of the United States and Canada that came to be called the International Associaton of Chiefs of Police (IACP). Pinkerton, a governor of its board from 1898 to 1923 suggested that a central bureau be created, and in 1897 the National Bureau of Criminal Idenificiation was born. First located in Chicago near Pinkerton headquarters, and later in Washington, this bureau served as a vast data bank of criminal information made available to subscribing members, who in turn provided copies of their own files. The data bank remained under IAP auspices until 1924, when it was transferred to young J. Edgar Hoover's Bureau of Investigation, one year after William Pinkerton's death.
If a single word describes Pinkerton operations, it has to be "control." Belief in control pervaded the agency, from founder Allan through sons William and Robert and down to the superintendents in the twenty branch offices coast to coast. Allan Pinkerton admitted he was a tyrant, both in the office and at home....Emerging technologies, especially those in communcations, extended their control.
... Once the Pinkertons set their unblinking eye on a man or group, no matter how scant the evidence, that party must be guilty. Mix with this a complete identification with their clients -- the railroaders, mine owners, and other industrialists -- and by the turn of the century the Pinkertons had developed a Bourbon cast of mind. They were ultraconservative and could do no wrong, true practitioners of Social Darwinism who resisted social reform and were dedicated to the rule of the status quo. "Never has the private detective been used to such an extent, or with such unscrupulousness," as during the first decade of the twentieth century, Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, later said. "They have been not only private soldiers, hired by capital to commit violence, and spies in the ranks of labor; they have been ... used in the capacity of agents provocateurs -- that is, in disguise, as union men, to provoke ill-advised action, or even violence, among workingmen." ...
In his book TWO EVIL ISMS: PINKERTONISM AND ANARCHISM (1915), former Pinkerton detective Charley Siringo detailed the way the agency overcame obstacles to get their men, including breaking the laws they were sworn to protect. He said: "The Pinkerton National Detective Agency was above the law. A word from [William] Pinkerton or one of his officers would send any "scrub" citizen to the scrap heap or the penitentiary. This is no joke, for I have heard of many innocent men "railroaded" to prisons, and my information came from inside the circle. A man without wealth or influence trying to expose the dastardly work of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency would be like a two-year-old boy blowng his breath against a cyclone to stop its force."
It was no coincidence that the slang term to railroad, meaning to send to prison with summary speed or by means of false evidence, came into wide us at this time.
(pages 177-179): ...In 1888, Sir Francis Galton, Charles Darwin's cousin and the founder of eugenics, began a study of fingerprints in the belief that they, not cranial capacity , were the key to determining race and heredity. Galton was not the first to notice the individuality of the ridges, spirals, and loops left behind by an impression of the fingertips; in ancient Babylon, fingerprints were used on clay tablets for business transactions, while the ancient Chinese left thumbprints on clay seals. In fourteenth-century Persia, a doctor observed that no two fingerprints were exactly alike; in 1686, Marcello Malphghi, a professor of anatomy at the University of Bologna, noted the whirls and ridges; in 1823, John Evangelist Purkinje, an anatomy professor at the University of Breslau, identified nine fingerprint patterns. Other English and American researchers took up the study of "skin furrows," but none developed a workable classification system.
Galton's book Fingerprints, published in 1892, changed all that. ...He succeeded in proving what others had suspected -- that fingerprints do not change over one's lifetime. More important for law enforcement, he proved scientifically that no two fingerprints are exactly the same. In fact, he calculated the odds of two prints matching as one in 64 billion. Galton delineated the characteristics by which prints could be identified: these "minutia," often referred to as Galton's Details, are basically still in use today.
... In 1901, prints were introduced as a basis for identification in England and Wales, and in 1902 the New York Civil Service Commission began taking prints as part of their files. ... In 1905 Leavenworth Prison began taking fingerprints of all newly arrived men. By 1906 the file included 3,000 prints. By 1907, there were 20,000 prints in Leavenworth's files. In time, Leavenworth would be named the Identification Center of the United States. Their files became the core of the FBI's fingerprint system when 800,000 prints were sent in 1924 to Washington.
It was the germ of a technological revolution, a system that in years to come would keep tabs on millions of Americans.
Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and the Murder Case That Launched Forensic Science, by Colin Beavan
Finding Bobby Fischer (took on Soviet empire pawn by pawn). Bennington Banner, Jul 19, 2004. Go to 38.Cellars & 22.Doublethink & UNCLE SAM FINDS BOBBY FISCHER
POW flies out of North Korea (faces court martial in USA). CNS News, Jul 21, 2004. Go to 40.Electric Shock Brainwashing & 7.Systems & 22.Doublethink UNLCE SAM SAYS POW DESERTED
USA to screen Canadians (massive invasion of privacy). Toronto Star, Jan 6, 2004 & JFK's Foreigner Finger Scans ($368-million program named US-VISIT). New York Post, Jan 6, 2004. Go to 21.Crimestop & 3.Surveillance & 20.Thought Police
USA visitors face new rules (fingerprinted & photographed & biometric chips in passports). USA Today, Nov 3, 2003. Go to 20.Thought Police & TERROR BILL IS TERROR
WATCHING YOU (the world of high-tech surveillance). National Geographic, Oct 28, 2003. Go to 3.Surveillance
USA expanding DNA database (adding adult arrestees and juvenile offenders). USA Today, Apr 16, 2003. Go to 3.Surveillance & 20.Thought Police
Fingerprint checkouts for groceries (will expand to stores nationally). NBC News, Nov 27, 2002. Go to CASHLESS SOCIETY
Information Awareness Office (IAO) ("All-Seeing Eye" is logo & "Knowledge is Power" is motto). Go to FREEDOM IS SLAVERY & 2.Big Brother
Pentagon to track your purchases (database created by DARPA run by Information Awareness Office). Fox News, Nov 2O, 2002. Go to 20.Thought Police & Snitches & "ALL-SEEING EYE" ON PYRAMID (is logo of new organization). Illuminati Conspiracy, Jul 22, 2002. Go to 30.The Brotherhood
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