A New Life
Allan Pinkerton was born in Glasgow, Scotland, to Isabella McQueen and William Pinkerton, a police sergeant killed in the line of duty when Allan was a child. He apprenticed to a cooper, or barrel maker, in 1831 at the age of twelve and became active in a workers' protest movement as a young man. The "People's Charter," dubbed the "Chartists," was a revolt by the workingmen of the British Isles against the political power of their wealthy landlords. Most used peaceful methods of protest but there was a faction of the Chartist movement that used physical rebellion and rioting for political reform. After a Chartist physical altercation with the authorities in 1842, Allan Pinkerton's name appeared in the royal warrants for arrest. He fled the country with his new bride, Joan Carfrae.
The couple arrived in the United States and made their home in Dundee, Illinois, a small town settled by Scots just forty miles north of Chicago. Pinkerton advertised himself as the "Only and Original Cooper of Dundee" and soon had a prosperous business. He and Joan started a family in 1846, with three of their children surviving to adulthood.