Monday, January 5, 2009

Entry: Pinkerton National Detective Agency

I've rearranged TILfW for the new year, but I used to have a blurb in the side column about how one of these days you'll be on Jeopardy and remember something you've read in this blog.

And tonight it came true. One of the questions was "What is Burma Shave?", and none of the contestants knew it. Nobody even buzzed in. Of course, I was yelling "BURMA SHAVE! BURMA SHAVE!" at the tv, so I would have been wrong too because I didn't phrase my response as a question. But still! And it was Double Jeopardy, too. Reading Things I've Learned from Wikipedia can earn you money.*


So maybe you're a Deadwood fan, or a history buff, or just steampunk-as-Jove, but you might have heard of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, usually shortened to "the Pinkertons." If you haven't: they were a well-known private detective agency in the 19th century, well known for foiling a plot to assassinate Lincoln (a plot, not the plot) and being hired to bring various Wild West Outlaws to justice.

Getting on to What I Learned:

1) On the more controversial side, they were hired in the late 19th and early 20th century to infiltrate unions, rough up (and/or murder) organizers, and protect scabs.
2) The Pinkerton National Detective Agency is still operating, though they have been taken over by another security agency.
3) Today, the Pinkertons are organized by the Services Employees International Union.

You know, if you ever need a good example of irony.

* Results not typical.

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