No. 424
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
March 22, 2019

Kate Warne.

May 30, 2012
...
...


Coming Soon!
On this date in 1540, the legendary outlaw Hans Kohlhase — a crime victim turned revengeful crime lord — executed* in Berlin. It’s a classic case of stubborn cusses escalating a minor property dispute. En route to the Leipzig fair in 1532, Kohlhase (English Wikipedia entry | German) was stopped by a Saxon nobleman who […]
More...
ExecutedToday.com - 3/22/2019


`
I’m not sure when the low-rise buildings at the southwest corner of Mulberry and Grand Streets were torn down. But if there’s any upside to the bulldozing of another old New York corner, it’s that we now have an amazing side view of the Federal-style house at 149 Mulberry. The view is almost a portal […]
More...
Ephemeral New York - 3/17/2019
Welcome to the first Link Dump of Spring 2019! Time for Strange Company HQ's spring cleaning! Where the hell did we get the phrase, "red herring?" How a child's murder became folklore. Yes, they're still trying to find Jack the Ripper. And, of course, Amelia Earhart. This week in Russian Weird: nothing to see here, just mysterious black insects taking over. There's a town in
More...
Strange Company - 3/22/2019


[Editor’s note: Guest writer, Peter Dickson, lives in West Sussex, England and has been working with microfilm copies of The Duncan Campbell Papers from the State Library of NSW, Sydney, Australia. The following are some of his analyses of what he has discovered from reading these papers. Dickson has contributed many transcriptions to the Jamaica Family […]
More...
Early American Crime - 2/7/2019
Perry Harrington and his wife, Maria, were spending a quiet evening at their farmhouse in Geneva, Ohio, on December 18, 1884, when the door burst open, and a masked man boldly entered the house. He pointed a cocked revolver at Mr. Harrington and demanded his money or his life. Seeing that he and his wife were at the mercy of the intruder, Harrington went into an adjoining bedroom to get his
More...
Murder by Gaslight - 3/16/2019
Horseshoe Saloon circa 1900-1910 (Click image to enlarge) LOODY FIGHT IN A SALOON More details of the October 1, 1897 Horseshoe Saloon brawl. Up until this post, the details of this saloon free-for-all, what had actually occurred, and why, have been largely unknown. An article dated October 2, 1897 in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer gives a much better picture of the
More...
Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 3/21/2019
So- did Lizzie have a sweetheart? It would seem one Curtis I. Piece had high but unrequited hopes of winning …

Continue reading

More...
Lizzie Borden : Warps & Wefts - 2/3/2019
A Ghastly Table. | She Was Bug Crazy.

Kate Warne.

Pinkerton & Warne This is believed to be the only photograph of Kate Warne, America’s first female detective  (standing behind Allan Pinkerton.)  [more]
Forty-seven years before any American police force employed female investigators, Allan Pinkerton hired a woman operative for his fledgling detective agency. In 1856, Kate Warne, a twenty-three year old widow, answered an advertisement in a Chicago newspaper and was interviewed by Pinkerton for the job of detective. At first Pinkerton was taken aback; a female detective was simply unheard of. Mrs. Warne argued that a woman could be “must useful in worming out secrets in many places which would be impossible for male detectives.” A woman can gain the confidence of wives and girlfriends of criminals, and learn their secrets, and men become braggarts around women and would sometimes reveal too much. Pinkerton was convinced, and, against the recommendations of others in the organization, he hired Kate Warne as a detective.
Pinkerton later described her this way:
"She was above the medium height, slender, graceful in her movements, and perfectly self-possessed in her manner. I invited her to take a seat, and then observed that her features, although not what would be called handsome, were of a decidedly intellectual cast. Her eyes were very attractive, being dark blue, and filled with fire. She had a broad, honest face, which would cause one in distress instinctively to select her as a confidante, in whom to confide in time of sorrow, or from whom to seek consolation. She seemed possessed of the masculine attributes of firmness and decision, but to have brought all her faculties under complete control."
Expressman and the Detective

Kate Warne soon proved herself to be indispensable. In 1858 the Pinkerton Agency was hired by Adams Express in Montgomery, Alabama, to capture a thief who had stolen $40,000 from a locked pouch somewhere between Montgomery and Augusta, Georgia. Warne contributed to the case by gaining the confidence of Mrs. Nathan Maroney, wife of the suspected thief and obtaining information from her. The thief was convicted and all but $400 of the stolen money was recovered. The story was published by Pinkerton as The Expressman and the Detective, the first of series of books based on Pinkerton’s cases.

Kate Warne’s most important case was “The Baltimore Plot” to assassinate President Lincoln. The Pinkertons had been hired by the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, to investigate the possibility of sabotage by secessionist groups. Warne was one of five agents sent in February 1861 to Baltimore, a hotbed of secessionist activity. Posing as a wealthy southern belle, Kate Warne was able to infiltrate social gatherings. She acquired information confirming not only the secessionist’s plan to sabotage railroads, but an imminent plot to assassinate the president in Baltimore.

President-elect Lincoln would be travelling from his home in Springfield, Illinois to Washington, D.C. for his inauguration. The trip involved changing trains in Baltimore, traveling about a mile by carriage between stations. This is when the assassins planned to strike. Dubious at first, the president was finally convinced by Pinkerton of the danger, but because of scheduled public ceremonies in Harrisburg and Philadelphia, he did not want to change his travel plans.

A new plan was put into place by the Pinkertons, including code names for the principals—Pinkerton was “Plums,” Lincoln was “Nuts,” Kate Warne used two aliases, Mrs. M. Barley (M.B.) and Mrs. Cherry. Warne made arrangements for the president, incognito, to take a different train from Philadelphia. President Lincoln disguised himself as an invalid, and Kate Warne posed as his sister. They had adjoining berths in the sleeping car out of Philadelphia. Warne remained awake and alert all night until the train reached Washington. Legend says that the Pinkertons’ motto “We Never Sleep,” was inspired by Kate Warne’s sleepless train ride.

Warne Tombstone

Warne was an effective Union spy during the Civil War, and after the war continued as an active detective, as well as managing Pinkerton’s female detectives. Kate Warne and Allan Pinkerton would often pose as husband and wife during investigations, and it was rumored that they were also clandestine lovers. Kate Warne died suddenly of pneumonia in on January 28, 1868, with Pinkerton by her bedside. She was buried in Pinkerton’s family plot in Chicago’s Graceland Cemetery.

 
 
 
 
 
 

  • American Civil War Espionage. Memphis: Books LLC, 2011.
  • Mackay, James A.. Allan Pinkerton: the first private eye. New York: J. Wiley & Sons, 1997.
  • Pinkerton, Allan. The expressman and the detectives. New York: G.W. Carleton, 1886.
  • http://www.pimall.com/nais/pivintage/katewarne.html