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Article: The History of the Private Investigator

In 1833 a French soldier called Eugène François Vidocq, who was also a, criminal and privateer, founded the first known private detective agency, "Le Bureau des Renseignements Universels pour le commerce et l'Industrie" (Office of Intelligence) and hired ex-convicts.

Official law enforcement tried to shut it down many times. In 1842 police arrested him in suspicion of unlawful imprisonment & taking money on false pretences after he had solved an embezzling case. Vidocq later suspected that it had been a set-up. He was sentenced for five years with a 3,000-franc fine but the Court of Appeals released him. Vidocq is credited with having introduced record-keeping, criminology and ballistics to criminal investigation. He made the first plaster casts of shoe impressions. He created indelible ink and unalterable bond paper with his printing company. His form of anthropometrics is still partially used by French police. He is also credited for philanthropic pursuits – he claimed he never informed on anyone who had stolen for real need.

After Vidocq, the industry was born. Much of what private investigators did in the early days was to act as the police in matters that their clients felt the police were not equipped for or willing to do. A larger role for this new private investigative industry to was to assist companies in labor disputes. Some early private investigators provided armed guards to act as a private militia.

In the U.S., the Pinkerton National Detective Agency was a private detective agency established in 1850 by Allan Pinkerton. Pinkerton had become famous when he foiled a plot to assassinate then President-Elect Abraham Lincoln. Pinkerton's agents performed services which ranged from undercover investigations and detection of crimes to plant protection and armed security. It is sometimes claimed, probably with exaggeration, that at the height of its existence the Pinkerton National Detective Agency employed more agents than the United States Army.

During the labor unrest of the late 19th century, companies sometimes hired operatives and armed guards from the Pinkertons similar agencies to keep strikers and suspected unionists out of their factories.

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