This was in Scotland and times were tough where they lived in Glasgow. His father was a policeman who was shot on the job. He would later die from the injury. Al, a younger brother and mother were all faced with then living in near poverty. They no doubt dreamed of better days!
Al was just 8 years old at the time!
By age ten he had left school, became a heavy reader and self taught himself to be a weaver, and then a cooper, the trade of making barrels etc.
Soon formal recognition was given for his abilities in the coopering trade. This led to not only doing a lot of work outside of Glasgow, but in teaching the trade to others.
Al would soon get involved in labor and political reform matters. He became an active leader in the Chartist Movement that demanded expanding of voting rights and more.
These actions got the folks in England to put out a warrant for his arrest. But the Scottish liked him so much they ignored the warrants. Then came down the word that British authorities would soon be coming to get him. So Al had to make a move... literally!
The family had relatives in American and so they dreamed of joined them and starting a new life away from the Brits.
Al's younger brother and wife had traveled that route earlier so Al, and his wife, (who got married a year under age) and Al's mother set off for America. En-route they were shipwrecked when blown off course some 250 miles south east of Halifax near Sable Island, Nova Scotia. While apparently losing everything except ..."twenty five pennies," Al, wife and mother were rescued by another vessel. They were carried off, possibly to Halifax. soon they would make it to Quebec where he would earn his living briefly back in the building of barrels. Saving up his funds, the family then saw a move to Montreal where he again earn funds from barrel making.
Al provided for his wife and mother by going back to his trade as a cooper and making barrels for a living in Canada.
B 1842 or 1843 Al and family had moved to a small township, about 50 miles He later uses some savings to get to the US. Still dreaming of meeting up with relatives some day, Al got to work building a log cabin not far from Chicago. He also set himself yet again in the coopering business.
As work progressed he had to wander about looking for wood for his barrel making. While searching on Bogus Island he found something rather curious. it was a small fire pit in the middle of what appeared to be no-where. Having his father's keen eye for illegal activities Al returned several nights to find the same pit being used again.
Thinking it might be a money forgery site, he finally told the local sheriff, who deputized him. The two then returned and found the men in the act of making fake bills. arrests where made and Al would continue snooping about and making connections to the Chicago Police and by 1849 being appointed its first ever first ever police detective in the Chicago police.
Still dreaming for more, in 1850 he and a lawyer joined forces to create the North Western Police Agency.
Not long after (he he) Al would grow a surname.... it was Pinkerton!
And the above business name would soon change to Pinkerton and Co., and still later to the Pinkerton National Detective Agency.
Back in those days towns had there own laws and crooks could easily escape by simply moving on to another jurisdiction. The railways in particular had a real concern about this as robbers would easily escape robbing trains and the "locals" were powerless to deal with them because of the jurisdictional matter.
But with the advent of Pinkertons, that had no boundaries to challenge their activities, that was all to change.
And a big part of this change came along with Al's meeting up with a railway engineer by the name of John McClernand, who later became a railway's president and, later a politician and Civil War Union Major General. And it didn't hurt to have as the railway's lawyer a fellow named Abraham Lincoln.
The Pinkerton dreams continue on Sunday the 9th in this space.
(And by the way a very belated Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.}
Hope to see you then,