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Armstrong, John Barkley (01 January 1850–01 May 1913), Texas Ranger, was born in McMinnville, Tennessee, the son of John B. Armstrong, a medical doctor, and Maria Susannah Ready. Whereas many people of the mid-nineteenth century were nearly illiterate, as the son of a doctor Armstrong received an above average education for the times....

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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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Byrnes, Thomas F. (15 June 1842–07 May 1910), New York City police official, was born in Ireland, the son of William Byrnes and Rose Doyle. The family immigrated to New York City when Thomas was an infant. After a limited formal education and training as a gas fitter, he joined the Union army in 1861. When his term of enlistment ended in 1863, Byrnes joined the New York Metropolitan Police Department. He rose rapidly through the ranks: he became a roundsman (a title then used for a first-level supervisor) in 1868, a sergeant in 1869, a captain in 1870, and the head of the detective bureau with the rank of inspector in 1880. Byrnes made his reputation by arresting members of the gang that in 1878 robbed the Manhattan Bank that was located in the precinct he commanded....

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Curtis, Edwin Upton (26 March 1861–28 March 1922), police commissioner and mayor of Boston, was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, the son of George Curtis, a lumber merchant and Republican politician, and Martha Ann Upton. Curtis attended the Roxbury public grammar and Latin schools and Bowdoin College (A.B. 1882; A.M. 1885; LL.D. 1914). He read law at a Boston firm and attended Boston University Law School. Admitted to the bar in 1885, he practiced law and in 1888 became secretary of the Boston Republican City Committee. Elected city clerk of Boston in 1889, he served for two years....

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Wyatt Earp. Reproduction of a drawing by Alan Riley, c. 1949–1956. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93572).

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Earp, Wyatt (19 March 1848–13 January 1929), outlaw, gambler, and lawman, was born Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp in Monmouth, Illinois, the son of Nicholas Porter Earp, an adventurer and frontiersman, and his second wife, Virginia Ann Cooksey. After the Civil War the entire Earp family moved from Missouri to Iowa and then wandered westward until reaching California. After three years of farm life, Nicholas Earp’s sons struck out on their own....

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Garrett, Pat (05 June 1850–29 February 1908), sheriff, was born Patrick Floyd Jarvis Garrett in Chambers County, Alabama, the son of John Lumpkin Garrett and Elizabeth Ann Jarvis, farmers. When Garrett was three, his family moved to Claiborne Parish, Louisiana, and operated a small plantation. There he attended a country school. At the age of nineteen he left home for Lancaster County, Texas, before drifting to the buffalo ranges of Texas and New Mexico. In November 1876 Garrett killed Joe Briscoe, a fellow buffalo hunter, during an argument. Nearby Fort Griffin, Texas, authorities declined to prosecute him. Garrett next appeared in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, where he likely worked as a cowboy for ...

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Glassford, Pelham Davis (08 August 1883–09 August 1959), army officer and public safety official, was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico, the son of William Alexander Glassford, an army officer, and Allie Davis. He ranked eighteenth of 124 graduates in his West Point class (1904), leading all cadets in Spanish and drawing. Commissioned in the field artillery, he spent three years on the faculty at West Point and was a captain when the United States declared war on Germany. Arriving in France in an early echelon of the American Expeditionary Force, Glassford instructed at artillery schools until July 1918, when he gained command of the 103d Field Artillery. That October he took over the Fifty-first Field Artillery Brigade, making him the country’s youngest general. His troops fought in the Marne defensive and the St. Mihiel salient. He was wounded by shellfire and decorated with the Distinguished Service Medal and the Silver Star....

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Hays, Jacob (05 May 1772–21 June 1850), police officer, was born in Westchester County, New York, the son of David Hays, a farmer and trader, and Esther Etting. Little is known about his childhood or education. By the 1790s Hays was living in New York City, where he pursued various occupations, including those of conveyancer and grocer, and served as captain of the watch. In 1802 he was appointed high constable. Starting in 1810, after nearly a decade of exchanging the office with several other men, he began a career as high constable through an unbroken succession of reappointments for the rest of his life. Although the constabulary was abolished in 1845, along with its adjunct the night watch, in favor of a “day and night” police, the title and salary of high constable was reserved for Hays until his death. He was also for many years the sergeant at arms of the board of aldermen and the crier of the court of sessions....

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Hickok, Wild Bill (27 May 1837–02 August 1876), western lawman and gambler, was born James Butler Hickok in Homer, Illinois, the son of William Alonzo Hickok and Polly Butler, farmers. As a young man, Hickok spent most of his time working on—and, after the death of his father in 1852, managing—the family farm. The availability of land in newly organized Kansas Territory was enticing to Hickok, and in June 1856 he and his brother Lorenzo moved westward. His mother’s illness soon prompted Lorenzo to return to Homer. Hickok remained, but he did not settle into an agrarian lifestyle. Various events offered other opportunities to him. In the pre–Civil War years, he served in General ...

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J. Edgar Hoover Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-92411 ).

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Hoover, J. Edgar (01 January 1895–02 May 1972), director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), was born John Edgar Hoover in Washington, D.C., the son of Dickerson Naylor Hoover, a printer for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, and Annie Marie Scheitlin. Born in a secure middle-class enclave of civil servants just behind the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill, Hoover attended the city’s elite public high school, taught Sunday school in the historic First Presbyterian Church on Judiciary Square, and worked his way through the National University Law School (later merged with George Washington University) as a clerk at the Library of Congress, receiving his law degree in 1916. A lifelong bachelor, Hoover’s closest relationships were with his mother, with whom he lived on Capitol Hill until her death in 1938, and with FBI subordinates at the bureau, particularly Associate Director ...

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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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Jones, John B. (22 December 1834–19 July 1881), Texas Ranger, was born in Fairfield County, South Carolina, the son of Henry Jones, a farmer and stock raiser, and Nancy Robertson. In 1838 the family migrated across the South, eventually reaching Texas and settling at Corsicana, Navarro County. Jones attended local schools but returned to Mount Zion College in Winnsboro, South Carolina, for higher education. Like his father, Jones devoted himself to stock raising and had his own spread near Frost, about twenty miles west of Corsicana. After Texas seceded in March 1861, he considered his options, finally choosing that summer to enlist as a private in the Eighth Texas Cavalry Regiment (unofficially known as Terry’s Texas Rangers). Later Jones transferred to the Fifteenth Texas Infantry Regiment, becoming its adjutant. He served in the Trans-Mississippi theater and finished the war with the rank of captain as adjutant of the infantry brigade commanded by General Camille A. J. M. de Polignac....

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John Alexander Kennedy. Daguerreotype from the studio of Mathew B. Brady. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-109831).

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Kennedy, John Alexander (09 August 1803–20 June 1873), immigration official and police superintendent, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of John Kennedy, a schoolmaster who, accompanied by his wife (name unknown), immigrated to the United States from the north of Ireland. After receiving a common school education, Kennedy learned the sign painter’s trade. Residence in the slave state of Maryland bred in him a hostility to slavery that was to prove lifelong. In 1925 he became secretary of the newly formed Maryland Anti-Slavery Society, but the society was soon forced to disband by mob action. At about the same time he became ...

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Masterson, Bat (26 November 1853–25 October 1921), frontier lawman and sportswriter, was born Bartholomew Masterson in Henryville, Quebec, Canada, the son of Thomas Masterson, a farmer, and Catherine McGurk. The name Bart was corrupted to Bat in his early years. He later assumed the name William Barclay, and it was as William Barclay “Bat” Masterson that he became a well-known frontier figure. The Masterson family entered the United States about 1861 and began a ten-year westward trek with stops in New York, Illinois, and Missouri before settling in Sedgwick County, Kansas, in June 1871. The seven Masterson children received limited formal education in one-room schoolhouses along the way....

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