February 23 was an important day in the history of detectives, and in the life of our 16th president.
On this day in 1861, Abraham Lincoln arrived in Washington DC ahead of his swearing in (back then, inauguration day was in March).
But the trip had been dangerous.
Getting there required that he travel through areas where anti-government, secessionist forces were growing in number.
Some of them had vowed that the new president wouldn’t live to take the oath of office.
Allan Pinkerton, founder of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, had been working on a way to sneak the president-elect into DC.
And to do so, he turned to one of his best detectives: Kate Warne.
She had walked into his office one day years earlier and said she was a widow and needed a job.
When Pinkerton replied that men typically worked as detectives, Warne told him she could gather information men couldn’t obtain.
And after Pinkerton hired her, she proved it: she nabbed a perp and the $50,000 in cash he’d stolen in a crime that had made national headlines.
So protect Lincoln, Warne went undercover to Baltimore, a hotbed of anti-Lincolnism, as a pro-Confederate widow.
She got people there to tell her the details of a plot to ambush Lincoln as he changed trains in Baltimore.
Then, Warne and Pinkerton made their own plans: they changed which train Lincoln would ride, and disguised him with an overcoat, big hat and possibly a shawl.
Warne went along as his “sister” and caretaker.
She stayed up all night to make sure Lincoln lived to see Washington.
Lincoln (whose code name in this caper, by the way, was “Nuts!”) did live through the assassination plot, and Kate Warne, the first woman detective in America, gave Pinkerton’s agency a new slogan: “We Never Sleep.”
The late, great Alex Trebek was back in the news earlier this month.
His family has donated some of the many suits he wore on Jeopardy! to an organization that helps people who have been dealing with addiction, homelessness or incarceration and are looking to rejoin the workforce and need professional wear.
Once again, the day is yours, Trebek.
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Image: Thomas Nast cartoon of a crowd waiting for Abraham Lincoln in Baltimore, via Wikicommons