because the woman's place is wherever the woman is...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kate Warne

Everyone's heard of the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency that started in the 1850's and still exists today. But few may realize that one of its earliest operatives was a young woman named Kate Warne. She talked her way into a job in 1856 and, within a couple of years, had distinguished herself as one of their most trustworthy and clever detectives.

Warne helped to recover $39,000 embezzled from the Adams Express Company. She became a one-woman spy bureau during the Civil War. And she finagled a bank robber's wife into admitting where he had hidden $130,000 in stolen money. But her most famous case involved being instrumental in foiling a carefully planned assassination attempt on the life of Abraham Lincoln when he was on his way to be inaugurated President of the United States.

Warne's adept investigation while she was pretending to be a rich Southern belle flirting her way through Baltimore uncovered the plot in the first place and once her information was corroborated, Allan Pinkerton himself joined Warne with several others to make sure the President would make it safely to Washington. It has been said that the way Warne stayed up all night while Lincoln slept on the train is what gave Pinkerton the idea for his agency's motto: "We never sleep."

Unfortunately, Kate Warne died of pneumonia at only thirty-five years of age, but not before establishing the fact that women make great detectives. They're smart, courageous, sometimes sneaky and ultimately, very in-your-face.


  1. That photo is not Kate Warne. It's John Babcock (as the original photo is labeled and other photos of Babcock confirm). Unfortunately thanks to the internet the false ID of that person as Warne has taken off.

  2. Thank you SO much for this information, Corey. As you can see, I have now changed out the image. However, if you know of a more "in-your-face" graphic of Warne, I'd love to know about it.

  3. I'm happy to help, Rebecca. I've been researching early Pinkerton operatives for years, and it helps us all to share information.

    There are no known photographs of Warne, but there is a watercolor of her that appears to have been done in her lifetime (I haven't yet researched the history of the painting) that is in the collection of the Chicago History Museum. The only online copy of it that I know if is here: