Historians and their books

Inventing the Pinkertons - Interview with S. Paul O’Hara

June 28, 2020

An in-depth interview with S.Paul O'Hara - historian and author of: 'Inventing the Pinkertons: or Spies, Sleuths, Mercenaries, and Thugs: Being a story of  America's most famous (and infamous) detective agency' - published in 2016.

This is a very detailed and fascinating look at S.Paul O'Hara's life in history, his historical influences, as well as a detailed discussion of his wonderful book which is a fine example of American cultural history. That starts at 29 minutes into the interview. Any study of the Gilded Age (1870-1900) needs to contend with the role and influence of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency as it chased down bandits in the wild-west such as the Reno brothers, the James Gang, and later Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and it must also contend with the Agency's brutal role in crushing organized labor strikes such as the Molly Maguires, the Haymarket affair, and the Homestead massacre when Andrew Carnegie tried to brutally smash striking workers at his steel plant by using Pinkerton armed guards. During this phase, the Pinkertons were thugs for US monopoly capitalism. The interview extends through to FDR and the New Deal, the rise of the FBI, and all the way up to the use of Blackwater and a host of other private US security firms who were contracted by the US government during the Iraq war to deliver security services despite the Anti-Pinkerton Act of 1894 which had expressly forbidden the US government from hiring private militia. S.Paul O'Hara is an Associate Professor of History at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, and author of this wonderful book. Highly recommended.

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