Origins of the Profession: A Bit of History
|As early as the third century BCE, India claims
to have had the first “PI” named Chanakya, who is more widely known as
a famous and legendary warrior. Chanakya is revered and esteemed as a master
strategist, astute statesman and a shrewd political administrator who overthrew
an evil king and installed a new emperor. It was his work for the
new ruler where he employed some of the first investigative techniques by
spying on the king’s enemies with his accomplices disguised as traders, merchants and students that earned him the added title of investigator.
"Double Double Cross"
The earliest known reference to private investigating in the western world was much later. In 1682 in England, an infamous gangster named Jonathan Wild was put in a debtor's prison where he teamed up with other thieves and opened a business called "Thief Taker General."
He advertised that he could help people recover stolen property for a fee. The thieves would bring him stolen goods and tell him who they were stolen from. He would then pretend to discover them as an "investigator" and return them to their owners and collect money from the owners for their return. Mr. Wild kept a ledger and a list of the thieves names; by each name he would put an "X" (which in those days was also known as a "cross") when he had paid off the thief for his part in this scam. If the thief wanted too much money from Mr. Wild, he would put a second "X" or "cross" by that thief's name. When his cohorts had two "X's" by their name, he would then turn the thieves into the local authorities for stealing and collect a fee from the authorities as well. This is the origin of the term "double cross."
Mr. Wild's misdeeds eventually caught up with him. Most likely one of his partners in crime turned him in. He was eventually prosecuted by the authorities who “double crossed” and condemned him to the gallows.
Getting a Clew
by author and investigator Kitty Hailey
In addition to the term "double cross," the
origin of the concept of a "clue" originated in merry old England.
It seemed that in the twelfth century before the advent of television,
radio and CD players, the English aristocracy needed some "fun and games"
to pass the time. Formal gardens occupied large areas of old manors
with topiary sculpture and intricate mazes made of neatly trimmed bushes.
For fun and excitement (and to act a little naughty), young men would chase
young women through the mazes until all would be lost to the eyes of the
outside world. But some of these lusty young Englishmen were actually
getting lost in the mazes themselves. To keep from getting lost, it
became the practice of the young gamesmen to carry a ball of thread known
at that time as a "clew" with them when they entered the maze. The
end of the twine would be tied to a tree at the entrance of the maze.
As the player got deeper and deeper inside the maze, he would leave a link
of thread, which could be followed, so that he might find his way out before
starving to death in the bushes. Thus, the concept of “having a clue"
eventually evolved from the use of "clews" (or being clueless) to find
one's way out of a maze.
|The First PI Agency
While the aforementioned individuals, Chanakya
and Jonathan Wild, may have used some investigative techniques, they were
not really in the investigative business per se (the one being a statesman
and the other a thief). Thus, it is France that claims to have the
first “real” investigator with the first “real” investigative agency.
Francis Eugene Vidocq opened his business in 1832 in France. He was initially a fugitive running from the French justice system who later became a spy and informer for the police. He became so successful at catching criminals, he was named the first chief of the Surete (French police agency) in 1811. He eventually directed a force of 28 detectives, all of whom were former criminals. He came to be considered the father of modern criminal investigation and reportedly introduced record keeping and the science of ballistics. He was also the first to make plaster to appear as cast shoe impressions and was a master of disguise in surveillance.
After his police work, he founded the first modern private detective agency and credit bureau, called Le Bureau Des Renseignnunents. Vidocq's fame lives on today in the Vidocq Society, a group of 82 investigators (there are 82 because Vidocq lived to be 82 years old) who are also forensic professionals who volunteer and donate their time to work on unsolved cases, particularly homicide cases.
|Eyes Wide Open
The first well-known investigator in the United States was a Scottish immigrant named Allen Pinkerton. He established the National Pinkerton Detective Agency in 1850. Pinkerton is responsible for the name "private eye" becoming associated with the investigative industry. This evolved because of Mr. Pinkerton's logo which featured a wide opened eye claiming that his investigators never slept and thus were always watching. His clients were government and large businesses who mainly hired him and his investigators to chase down train robbers. The Pinkerton Agency was also hired to spy on Confederate soldiers of the war. His agency fell into some disrepute when they were hired by big businesses to fight the newly formed labor unions in the coalmines. The Pinkerton agency is still around today but mainly engage in security services.
Another early PI agency in the United States that is still around
today was started in 1841 by an attorney named Dunn. This agency
specialized in research for businesses and offers a similar service today
now known as “Dunn and Bradstreet”. They provide the well known background
information and reports on existing businesses.
|You've Come a Long Way Baby
While some investigative agencies still engage in a few of the early practices such as tracking down thieves and doing security related services for businesses, the industry has come a long way from the days when investigation was mostly connected with law enforcement and shadowy characters. Today, men and women from all walks of life are choosing professional investigation as a career. Today's industry has investigators with former experience as varied as newspaper reporters, teachers, nurses, public relations officers, construction workers, and attorneys, in addition to many from the law enforcement sector. While the field is still male-dominated, there are an increasing number of women entering the profession and interestingly, the city of Seattle appears to have more successful women-owned investigative agencies than any other city in the world. The Washington Association of Legal Investigators was founded by two women, has had several female presidents and many of its
members are female.
Additionally, investigators are getting together and forming associations
from all over the world. In the Council of International Investigators,
one of three worldwide investigative associations, the five top officers
were from five different countries, Ireland, the U.S., Singapore, India,
and England. Investigator associations that call themselves "international"
truly are international unlike some of the other associations in the U.S.
that claim to be international.
Top | Home | Print
Copyright © [LMI Inc.]. All rights reserved.