Under the Influence

How a detective used a disguise to save the life of a president

A fateful train ride and a floppy hat changed the course of history in more ways than one.
Detective Warne, 1850s. (Pinkerton)

One day back in 1861, the Pinkerton Detective Agency was alerted of a plot to kill a certain congressman.

The Republican politician was about to embark on an important train trip. He was to leave Illinois, then give whistlestop speeches in Columbus, Pittsburgh, New York, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. From there he was to switch trains in Baltimore then continue on to Washington, DC.

Pinkerton discovered a group of men planned to gun the congressman down when he arrived at the Baltimore rail station. So Pinkerton put its top detective on the case.

Detective Warne was different than the other detectives - clever, patient and a master of disguise. Warne devised a plan and purchased a big floppy hat and a shabby overcoat for the congressman. Then coached him on how to walk like he was crippled. Then they boarded the train together for the fateful trip to Baltimore.

When the train pulled into Baltimore, the congressman, in disguise, limped his way through the train station and none of the assassins took notice of him. They were looking for a tall, confident politician, not a dishevelled, disabled man accompanied by a caregiver. The politician boarded the train to Washington, guarded by Detective Warne, who was also in disguise as that caregiver.

As the train made its way to Washington, the congressman slept, but Detective Warne stayed awake all night, keeping a watchful eye over the politician, making sure he was safe. When the train arrived in Washington, the congressman stepped off, thanked Warne and proceeded to his inauguration ceremony.

His name was Abraham Lincoln.

Foiling that assassination plot made the Pinkerton Detective agency famous. Founder Allan Pinkerton then created a logo for his agency. It was a big wide-open eye. The slogan: "We never sleep."

The logo caught the imagination of the public and became the origin of the phrase "Private eye." Both Pinkerton's logo and slogan were a tribute to Detective Warne, who had outwitted the killers and had stayed awake all night protecting Lincoln.

Detective Warne's first name was Kate. She was the first female detective ever hired by the agency. In a business full of men, she became one of the agency's top detectives. What she lacked in brawn she made up for in cleverness and an incredible eye for detail. Kate Warne became iconic in the history of the Pinkerton Detective Agency.


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Under the Influence is recorded in the Terstream Mobile Recording studio, a 1969 Airstream trailer that's been restored and transformed into a studio on wheels. So host Terry O'Reilly can record the show wherever he goes.

Follow the journey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and search the hashtag: #Terstream.

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