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William J. Burns. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114556).

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Burns, William John (19 October 1861–14 April 1932), detective, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of Michael Burns, a merchant tailor, and Bridget Trahey. The family moved to Columbus, Ohio, where William attended parochial schools and business college. In 1880 Burns married Annie Maria Ressler; the couple had six children. When his father won election as police commissioner of Columbus, Burns first developed his detective skills by assisting in a number of important cases, including discovery of fraudulent voter tally sheets in an 1885 election and conviction of a gang of arsonists who had extorted thousands of dollars from insurance companies....

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Horn, Tom (21 November 1860–20 November 1903), scout, detective, and assassin, was born near Memphis, Scotland County, Missouri. His parents, whose names are no longer known, were farmers. He attended school irregularly during winter months, did hard farm work, enjoyed hunting, and became an excellent marksman. At about age fourteen and after an argument and violent fight with his father, he ran away to Santa Fe and may have worked as a stage driver. While in that region, he learned to speak Spanish. In 1876 or so he went to Prescott, in Arizona Territory, where he met Al Sieber, the famous civilian chief of scouts for various U.S. Army units in the San Carlos area. Little is known of Horn’s activities for the next several years. In 1882, according to Sieber, Horn worked as an army packer. He undoubtedly participated in the army pursuit of Apaches fleeing from the San Carlos Reservation. American cavalry units commanded by Tullius Cicero Tupper and William Augustus Rafferty, both captains, followed the Apaches into northwest Chihuahua, Mexico, and engaged them in April 1882 in a standoff at Sierra Enmedio, in Sonora....

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Hume, James B. (23 January 1827–18 May 1904), peace officer and detective, was born near South Kortwright, New York, the son of Robert Hume, Jr., and Catherine Rose, farmers. Hume was a typical farm lad in the Catskills and in Lagrange County, Indiana, where his father migrated with his family when Hume was almost ten years old. The boy seemed destined to follow the plow for the rest of his life, although he rebelled against his dour puritanical parent and threatened to leave home. His father relented and began to treat him as an adult. Hume’s only education was that of winters in a one-room rural grammar school, plus only two twelve-week winter quarters sometime between 1841 and 1849 at Lagrange Collegiate Institute, but he continued his learning by zealous reading....

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Gaston B. Means Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109386).

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Means, Gaston Bullock (11 July 1879–12 December 1938), spy, swindler, and detective, was born in Blackwelder’s Spring, North Carolina, the son of William Gaston Means, an attorney, and Corallie Bullock. Means grew up in Concord, North Carolina, in a family that had lost most of its considerable wealth during the Civil War. He left the University of North Carolina in 1900, early in his third year, and served for two years as the superintendent of the elementary schools in Stanly County, adjacent to Concord. In 1902 he took a job as a salesman for the Cannon textile mills, living in New York City and traveling widely....

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Allan Pinkerton Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-B8171-7468).

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Pinkerton, Allan (25 August 1819–01 July 1884), private detective, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of William Pinkerton, a handloom weaver and jailer, and Isabella McQueen, a mill worker. Ironically, Pinkerton, renowned in America as an enemy of organized labor, fled Scotland in 1842 because of police persecution over his involvement with the Chartists, a workers’ protest movement in Great Britain. With him was Joan Carfrae, his new bride, with whom he had three children who lived to adulthood. They lived briefly in Canada and Chicago before settling in a small Scottish-dominated town called Dundee, forty miles north of Chicago. While hunting wood for barrel-making in a shop where he employed eight apprentices, Pinkerton in 1847 stumbled upon a camp of counterfeiters. Returning with the sheriff, who arrested the gang, Pinkerton became a local hero. When despite his renown he lost his bid for election to the state’s constitutional convention in 1848 (probably, according to Pinkerton, because of his strong abolitionist views), Pinkerton sold his prosperous business and moved to Chicago in 1850....

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Ruditsky, Barney (03 January 1898–18 October 1962), policeman and private detective, was born Barnett Ruditsky in London, England, the son of Phillip Ruditsky, a boot finisher, and Blooma Marin. He was taken as a child to South Africa by his parents, but the family then returned to England. About 1908, they moved to New York and settled in the East Side of Manhattan. In 1916 Ruditsky served with the U.S. Army along the Mexican border, and during World War I he was stationed in France....

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Siringo, Charles Angelo (07 February 1855–18 October 1928), cowboy, detective, and author, was born on Matagorda Peninsula, in Texas, the son of an Italian immigrant (first name unavailable) and Irish-born Bridgit White, farmers. His mother was widowed in 1856, married a drunkard named Carrier in 1868, lived with and then without him in Lebanon, Illinois, and next moved to St. Louis. Siringo had no schooling during the Civil War years in Texas, became a cowboy at age eleven, ran cattle for an employer named Faldien, worked at odd jobs in Lebanon (1868–1869), and was a bellhop for a year in a St. Louis hotel. After a fight with another employee he made his way to New Orleans, where he was befriended by a childless couple who sent him to school until a near-fatal knife fight, which he won, caused him to decamp for Texas in 1871....