Lincoln’s Guardian Angel: Kate Warne-America’s First Female Private-Eye!


ARTCHIX COVER FEATURE: LINCOLN’S GUARDIAN ANGEL: KATE WARNE FIRST FEMALE PRIVATE-EYE BY BARBARA MAIKELL-THOMAS, JUNE 7, 2010 ISSUE

Kate Warne First Female Private-Eye
By Barbara Maikell-Thomas

In 1856, a female walked into the offices of the Pinkerton Detective Agency and asked to see Allen Pinkerton for a job. Her name was Kate Warne. Mrs. Warne was a widow simply looking for work. She had come to apply for a job as a secretary. However, on the day she walked into Pinkerton’s the secretary job had already been filled. Allen Pinkerton interviewed her and become impressed by her. No one knows for sure if Mrs. Warne had asked for a job as a detective but the following day, Allen Pinkerton appointed her as one over the strong objections of his brother who was his partner. Allen Pinkerton had the idea of making Kate Warne America’s first private detective and that’s exactly what he did. According to documents from the Pinkerton family, Allen Pinkerton was well smitten with the woman. According to Pinkerton family history, Kate Warne became Allen Pinkerton’s mistress and traveled a lot with him during his civil war and Lincoln period. The Kate Warne activity with Allen Pinkerton caused a great deal of problems as his brother Robert questioned a lot of the expenses Kate Warne turned in to the home office.

Kate Warne has the honor of being America’s first female private investigator. She become a very good one and was able to act as an undercover agent infiltrating social gatherings and gathering information no man was able to obtain. She was able to wear disguises, change her accent at will and became a huge asset to the success of Allen Pinkerton and Pinkerton National Detective Agency.

Kate Warne was so undercover for Pinkerton, no one know is sure of what her actual name was. Note that on her tombstone (she is burred next to Allen Pinkerton himself) her name is spelled Warn without the “e”. All known documents from the Pinkerton family history have is spelled Warne. Robert Pinkerton called her Kitty. Our lady of intrigue likely used various spellings of her name such as:

AKA: Kay Warne, Kay Waren, Kay Warren, Kate Warne, Kate Waren, Kate Warren, Kitty Warne, Kitty Waren, Kitty Warren, Kittie Warren, Kittie Warne, Kittie Warren

Kate Warne Tombstone In Chicago
Next To The Grave Of Allen Pinkerton

Kate Warne was part of the Pinkerton team that uncovered a plot to assassinate President elect Abraham Lincoln on his way through Baltimore to Washington DC to take the Presidential oath of office. A tip on the assassination plot was first likely uncovered by Allen Pinkerton in a barbershop. However, details of these events was partly developed by Kate Warne working undercover as a rich southern lady visiting Baltimore with a thick southern accent. Apparently Mrs. Warne infiltrated secessionist social gatherings in the Baltimore area as places such as the classy Barnum Hotel posing as a flirting “southern bell” and was quick to not only verify that there was a plot to assassinate Lincoln, she developed details of how the assassination was going to occur.

Once the details of the plot to assassinate President elect Lincoln was developed by Warne, Allen Pinkerton requested a meeting between himself and Lincoln which was granted in Philadelphia. In the meeting Pinkerton said:

” We have come to know, Mr. Lincoln, and beyond the shadow of a doubt, thatthere exists a plot to assassinate you. The attempt will be made on your waythrough Baltimore, day after tomorrow.” As Pinkerton went on, Lincoln listened and interrupted with many questions.

Lincoln placed himself in the protective custody of Allen Pinkerton to get him safely to Washington DC. Kate Warne was not only responsible for developing a lot of the actual details of the plot to assassinate Lincoln, she was a key player in the covert plans to smuggle Lincoln into Washington DC under secret cover. Mrs. Warner was able to secure four berths on a train leaving Philadelphia under the pretext that these berths were for her sick brother and family members. Lincoln was wrapped in a shawl and quickly placed on the train in secret. It was likely Kate Warne herself who came up with the idea of Lincoln being disguised as her “invalid” brother. The secret party boarded the train bound for Washington and occupied the last three cars.

The rest of the Lincoln family stayed on the regular train and very few people knew that Lincoln was taking a different one. Armed with firearms, Kate Warne was one of the guards on the train that carried Lincoln into Washington DC to take the oath of office. During the secret train ride, it’s been said that Kate never slept a wink. It could be (although no one really knows for sure) this event is where the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency slogan came from “We Never Sleep” .


The person standing behind Pinkerton in this photo of him in front of his tent during his civil war service may be that of Kate Warne. Although no known photos of her are known to exist, we believe that the person in this photo could be her. She was known to have been with Allen Pinkerton at the time this photo was made. Note that this is the only person in the photo that does not have facial hair. Note: the clothing and what appears to be a women when you look close.

Kate Warne, America’s first female private investigator can be given credit for saving the life of a man who was about to become president of the United States. One of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln. One can not help but think about the magnitude of these events and how volumes of history books would be different now if the efforts of Kate Warne had not been successful. Because of her success, a living Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office as the 16th President of the United States.

After the outbreak of the Civil War Lincoln successfully used Allen Pinkerton and Kate Warne as a kind of covert war intelligence gathering bureau. Kate Warne had a talent for working undercover and infiltrating social gatherings in the south. She no doubt was able to bring a huge amount of raw intelligence. Robert Pinkerton, Allen Pinkerton’s brother and partner, continued to voice concern over the “expenses” Kate Warne turned in to the home office. Bitter augments between Allen and Robert Pinkerton over Kate Warne expenses were quite often. Although Robert Pinkerton often made the argument that the expenses were simply for a traveling companion and mistress for Allen Pinkerton and that it was not right for the company to have to finance the expenses of Allen’s “sordid relationship”, it’s quite obvious now, that Robert was at least wrong to the extent that Kate Warne provided vital investigative services to both the agency and the country. Although no one really knows the exact details of the affair between Allen Pinkerton and Kate Warne, it’s quite obvious that there almost certainly was one and that the affair went on for a long time.

Today, Kate is thought of as one of only a couple of top agents in the history of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. She ended up becoming the person in charge of all training of an all-female investigative staff for Pinkerton. Pinkerton himself, one might note, had thinking that was way before his time. You have to remember, when he hired Kate Warne as a private detective, there were no female police, female detectives and females didn’t even have the right to vote. However, Pinkerton instantly saw the value of her service and her ability to obtain information that a male could never obtain.

BARBARA MAIKELL-THOMAS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Barbara Maikell-Thomas is known as the “First Lady” of the National Association of Investigative Specialists and is married to spymaster and NAIS Director Ralph D. Thomas, a highly acclaimed author and historian on private investigation and espionage history. The couple reside in Austin, Texas.

From The Ralph D. Thomas PI Vintage Collection
THOMAS INVESTIGATIE PUBLICATIONS, INC.
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About securityteknews
Ralph Thomas is author of over 32 books on various aspects of conducting investigations, founder and director of The National Association Of Investigative Specialists,CEO of Thomas Investigative Publications, Inc, The Spy Exchange And Security Center and SpyTek Wholesale Imports. Thomas is a member of the Executive Security Council of Griffith Colson Intelligence Service, a private intelligence agency. Thomas's latest project is NAIStv on the Griffith Media TV Network. He has also developed A Native American Store in Georgetown Texas called Tribal Impressions. You can review his person home page off of: http://www.pimall.com/thomas

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