By Liz Stern
Meet Kate Warne in The Pinkertonian Mystery, an interactive theater experience produced at the New-York Historical Society in conjunction with Live In Theater for families with kids ages eight and older. After receiving rave reviews, our first four shows have sold out. To keep up with demand we’ve added four new dates. Don’t miss out— buy your tickets here!
On April 14, 1865, 150 years ago this month, John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Lincoln died the following morning. He was the first American president ever assassinated, launching the nation into shock and mourning. However, this was not the first attempt on his life.
Four years earlier, a plot to assassinate President-elect Lincoln was thwarted, in part by the detective skills of Allan Pinkerton and his loyal agents. It’s called the Baltimore Plot, and it’s a great story! Let’s first learn about one of the detectives involved.
In my last blog post about the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, I introduced you to Mr. Pinkerton and the fortuitous establishment of his business in 1850. During the first decade of the agency, Pinkerton built his business by solving counterfeiting crimes, as well as providing security for trains and other businesses. He also hired some really great detectives.
One of those detectives was Kate Warne. Today, Kate is recognized as being one of the most important detectives in the agency, training and managing an all-female investigative staff.
But when Kate walked into the Chicago offices of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1856, female detectives were unheard of. In fact, Pinkerton may have believed she was applying for the job of secretary. Kate, instead, had seen the job listing for detective and was there to apply for that position.
Although we do not have any images of Kate Warne, Pinkerton described her as a “slender, brown-haired woman, graceful in her movements and self-possessed. Her features…were decidedly of an intellectual cast…her face was honest, which would cause one in distress instinctively to select her as a confidante.”
According to Pinkerton, this was one of the most important qualities for a good detective. He wrote that detectives must “know the criminal in his weakest moment and force from him, through sympathy and confidence, the secret which devours him.”
When Kate told him that she would be able to “worm out secrets in many places to which it was impossible for male detectives to gain access,” Pinkerton hired her.
Kate served a long illustrious career with her mentor Allan Pinkerton. Stay tuned later this week when we continue to discuss her role in the Baltimore Plot, which changed the course of history.