Kate Warne

Twenty-three year old Kate Warne (1833-1868) had to convince Allen Pinkerton to hire her as a private detective. There were no private detective agencies in the country with a female detective in 1856. In fact, no US police force hired women at that time. But Warne made the case that she would be able to gain the confidence of the wives, girlfriends and mothers of suspected criminals. Plus, as a woman, she had an eye for detail and was an excellent observer. Pinkerton was convinced and he hired Warne. She not only took part in many investigations but also trained and supervised female detectives who were hired subsequently. Armed with a supply of wigs and wardrobe items Warne was a master of disguise, assuming the identity of a secretary or a maid or socialite wife. One of Warne’s most notable cases was the 1861 Baltimore Plot to assassinate U.S. President-elect Abraham Lincoln. Warne posed as a train passenger who was accompanying her very tall, "invalid brother" to Washington. She stayed awake all night at Lincoln's side and (spoiler alert), he made it to DC safely.  Her vigilance inspired the Pinkerton Detective Agency slogan "We Never Sleep."

Sadly, Warne died from pneumonia when she was only 35 years old. Impressed to the end with her skills, Allen Pinkerton arranged for Warne to be buried in his family plot at Graceland Cemetery in Chicago. A bit of disguise continues to this day—the name on her gravestone is misspelled as “Warn.”

Why this stop? The Red Line Lake Street stop is down the street and around the corner from where the office of the Pinkerton Detective Agency used to be.

Never heard of the 1861 Baltimore Plot to assassinate Lincoln? Watch this Smithsonian video  For another retelling of the story, check out Drunk History’s version (forwarding to the 2:00 mark).