Log in

Log in

History of PPIAC

You, the members of PPIAC, are continuing a tradition of “making” real P.I. history. PPIAC members have brought back Private Investigator Licensing Law for themselves and for their clients. Colorado citizens can hire a licensed P.I. if they should prefer to.

It was over one hundred years ago that a booklet was published that described Colorado’s Private Investigator Licensing Law as it existed back in 1899. “Know the Law” The Detective Law Book and Practical Advisor (Review Publishing Company, Indianapolis, IN – Market & Delaware St’s.) A reliable Cyclopedia of General & State Laws as They Apply to Detectives, Constables and Police. Included – Practical Advice for Detectives, with Reference to the Best Methods of Increasing Their Patronage and Profits.

1899 Detective License Laws – Colorado (law as it appears on page 9)

This State has a license law, requiring the applicant to file his petition with the Governor of the State; that the Governor shall determine the extent of the bond to be given, which shall not be less than $3,000 nor more than $20,000; that upon approval of the petition and acceptance of the bond the license shall be issued on the payment of $100, extending for a period of two years, but subject to a revocation by the Governor for cause. Acting without the statutory license is made a misdemeanor, and punishable by a fine of not less than $300 nor more than $1,000, or imprisonment for a period of not less than three months nor more than one year in the county jail, or both by fine and imprisonment. This statute, however, provides that the licensed detective, or detective agency, may employ agents, servants, employees and assistants, who shall not be required to take out a license for themselves, bur for the acts of such agents the principal is responsible under his bond.

1899 Detective License Laws – California (law as it appears on page 9)

The laws of California do not require a detective to take out a license. One may advertise for business or solicit work by any means without conflict with any statute of the State.

1899 Detective License Laws – New York (law as it appears on page 18)

Until April, 1898, New York was a no-license State, but at that time a new law very similar to that of Colorado went into effect. It requires a license fee of $100 and the filing of a $3,000 bond before one may establish himself in the business of a detective. This license is good for five years. The law does not apply, however, to those in the employ of a licensed detective, and for this reason the majority of New York detectives associate themselves with some fellow operative who is regularly licensed.

Legendary Pinkerton Detective lames McParland, famous for his undercover work in the Mollie Maguire case, became Pinkerton’s Denver Office Assistant Superintendent in the summer of 1887. He was then appointed the Western Division Manager in 1903. You can drive by today and see the home that he lived in with his second wife Mary. The address is 1256 Columbine Street Denver, CO 80206 and it continues to provide warmth and shelter to those who are living there today. James McParland didn’t have to travel far to his offices because “Pinkerton” was then located in the Opera House Block at Sixteenth & Arapahoe Streets. Back then you could reach him at Main 534. James and Mary appear to have enjoyed a comfortable life at their Denver residence. The 20 years they lived there (1899 ’til he died in 1919) brought both joy and sadness. McParland’s daughter Katie (from his first marriage) died of diphtheria at 8 years old. His favorite nephew died in a horrific collision of two speeding trains in March 1906.

20th Century’s 1st decade saw important American History being made in Denver, CO. The full story is to be found in a book called BIG TROUBLE (A Murder In A Small Western Town Sets Off A Struggle For The Soul Of America) J. Anthony Lukas was also the author of an acclaimed book titled COMMON GROUND (won a Pulitzer Prize). The book begins with the assassination of an ex-Idaho Governor (1896 to 1899) when he returned to his Caldwell, Idaho residence, opened his front gate, and was blown up! The cold blooded killing of Frank Steunenberg was to be avenged by James McParland.

As P.I. Museum’s Founder and Curator you can easily imagine how often people ask me questions that often put me on the spot. True, I’ve obsessively lived and breathed P.I. History from the start (1978) of my professional life as a CA Licensed Private Eye. I’ve never professed to know everything about our profession only wanting to know it all. Finally, with BIG TROUBLE, I have a book that I can recommend that answers the most often asked question of all. When did the American Private Detective really first emerge?

Do yourself a favor, go on eBay and buy a copy of BIG TROUBLE and enjoy reading it. The answer as to -when” the American Private Detective come onto center stage in our own national history is presented in a clear and entertaining fashion in this amazing – book. Professional private investigators should know when. where and how it all really started.

During the 1 Decade of the 20th Century (specifically 1899 to 1907) Denver Colorado was at the epicenter of a deadly dangerous battle between American Labor and Capital. The times brought forth from every segment of our society the potential for a class war. BIG TROUBLE is about the roots and consequences of that murder in Caldwell, Idaho. It’s both a murder case and a social tapestry that took place in a region then dominated and controlled (in every important way) by two groups of mine owners. In Idaho they were represented by the mine owners in the Couer d’ Alenes region and, in Colorado. it was the mine owners active in the areas of Cripple Creek and Telluride that held focus.

Through the intellectual prowess of Pinkerton’s James McParland in Denver. Colorado history now shows us that it was Colorado’s more powerful factions masterfully directed by McParland that came to prevail. McParland steadfastly saw to it that Idaho would pay for the prosecution of those put forth as the three main Western Federation of Miners officials who’d acted through the admitted murderer Harry Orchard on Dec. 30, 1905. The actual guilt or innocence of the three WFM officials, Charles H. Moyer, William D. Haywood, George A. Pettibone and of Thomas Hogan aka Harry Orchard is really moot. More importantly, the full story details the path of the emergence of Private Detectives. It was, clearly, James NIcParland that won control of the case and “took” control of it’s prosecution. Based on McParland’s reputation (Mollie Maguires, etc.), the power of the Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, and (most importantly) McParland’s own ability to manipulate everyone else involved (businessmen, politicians, law enforcement, etc.) he gained control of this historic case from nemesis Wilson S. Swain who was N/W Mgr. of Thiel Detective Service (Spokane, WA): he’d wanted America’s 15′ big sensational case!

The murder case of ex-Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg and these two leading figures in the world of “American Private Detectives- along with their legions of fellow agents and informants would never comprehend that it would be this case and their efforts that would bring an occupation called “Private Detective” to our big American Center Stage. Now to be ‘seen’ in a way resulting in an explosive growth of men and women who were to follow in their colorful footsteps. Fame and fortune could certainly be theirs as well. Many came to believe that the could become like McParland, Swain and many others who they were now being introduced to for the first time. Men like Charlie Siring. S. Chris Thiele (not related to Thiel Detective Service’s George H. Thiel). Thomas Furlong and so many others that would be worthwhile and entertaining for today’s P.I. ‘s to know.

Those of you familiar with downtown Denver may not yet fully realize that there were literally hundreds of Private Detectives shadowing and watching the activities of WFM (Western Federation of Miners) officials, friends and visitors at these Denver locations: George Pettibone’s household appliance store – 1613 Court Place Denver. Colorado. Mining Stock Exchange Building – Fifteenth & Arapahoe Streets, Suite 625 circa 1904. Pioneer Building – Fifteenth & Larimer. Once had it’s Golden Years in the (1880’s) but then had been described as a place of stumbling virtue, wrecked hopes, miserably grey dawn of shame and (finally) the sunset of dissipation. P.I.’s may have liked it back then.

Writers of the period described Private Detectives using revealing language back when New York City boasted seventy-five agencies, and Chicago/Philadelphia had thirty each: Arthur Train -“There are a very large number of persons who go into the detective business for the same reason others enter the ministry – they can’t make a living at anything else.”

George S. McWaters — He was a Detective himself and he struggled to reconcile the detective’s dubious techniques with his noble ends. Thus he wrote knowingly that the American Detective was. “The outgrowth of a diseased and corrupted state of things, and is consequently morally diseased himself. The detective system is the one redeeming feature of a corrupt society. It is. at least, the silent. secret and effective avenger of the outraged majesty of the law when everything else fails.”

Thomas Beet – This prominent British Detective visited the United States in 1906. He said, that 90% of American Detective Agencies were, -rotten to the core, and simply exist and thrive upon a foundation of dishonesty, deceit, conspiracy and treachery.”

Allan Pinkerton – Once said, “There are but few detectives that are honest and reliable.”

We can still gain greater insight into a complex web of situations and circumstances that once served to provide (finally) a clear need for an occupation calling itself “Detective”. Early residents of mostly’ rural America banded together to deal with the problems they faced. Constabulary powers were often vested in “anti-horse thief associations”, while otherwise respectable citizens came together as what they then would call themselves by. “slickers”, “stranglers”, or “vigilance committees” to restore -civilized values” to roiled communities who had simply had enough from hooligans, thieves, cons or much worse.

What was going on in early 1900’s America clearly served to create what amounts to a “Cult of the American Private Detective” and with others such as the American reporter, theatrical road company, development of modern psychology, growth of a conservation movement, allure of new hotels and Pullman cars, competitive sports like “town ball- to help small towns to pow (Mark Twain said of this town ball, “a wide-awake, hustling place and a visible expression of the drive and push and rush and struggle of the raging, tearing booming nineteenth century.”). and the vogue of fraternal societies like the Odd fellows and the Elks. I might ask this question. “Were those the best days for P.I.’s?”.

When considering the role of the “Detective” it is necessary to always remember that. “We cannot expect to profit by his merits without ever having to wince at his defects.”. We can’t say that we have reached our highest value to clients or gotten proper respect. So for all those who might question or otherwise demean what we Private Detectives do in our communities each and every day I say, “It’s what you don’t know that you don’t know that has prevented you from seeing the true value of Private Detectives in society.”

P.I. Museum is something that I had the good fortune to be a part of envisioning back in the late1970’s. it is you and your generation that is building the needed foundation for it that will allow future generations to “learn more about what they don’t know they don’t know” so they can ‘see’ us the way we ‘see’ ourselves, “Champions of Facts & Justice”.

The private investigation and security profession will have a much more secure present, once a solid majority begins to fully appreciate and embrace its rich past. With a solid awareness of our historical guideposts, and a perspective of ownership, we will be better prepared for our well deserved future destiny of more publicly’ recognized professional service to our clients. The present is in our hands to fashion into reality today. waiting to be molded with our past and future visions of the kind of profession that we all want and truly feel we have earned the privilege of enjoying the fruits/rewards thereof.

Legions of past and present PPIAC members have spent many years working countless numbers of seemingly thankless volunteer hours towards a common PPIAC vision of our profession. Few have thought of this kind of devotion and focus as being for them alone. Most knew all along that they were working for something bigger and better that would hopefully be around when they themselves might be gone. A profession that was better because they themselves were better men and women. Some of them are no longer with us and some may not be with us much longer. Therefore, it’s time now for all PPIAC members and their many friends and supporters to embrace many successes, put away any complaints and to honor those who have stood out during battle as being worthy.

Invest in your profession’s past and invest in your future today, in the present and, now!

Join and support P.I. Museum ‘ P.I. Museum On Wheels and PPIAC by filling out the special 50 /50 Deal application created to commemorate and honor all PPIAC members. P.I. Museum shares 50% of Charter Founder’s Circle Lifetime Individual Memberships with PP1AC. This is P.1. Museum’s way of thanking you for all PPIAC has done so far.

For those who may want to know, P.I. Museum memberships are for your own lifetime. That simply means that you won’t be asked to send in your membership fee every year. That is because you are a part of this generation that is building P.I. Museum’s future. Therefore, you are special to me. I want to demonstrate just how special you really are. Some have asked, “If! join as a Charter Founder’s Circle Individual Member today, can 1 move up later on when my business is doing better?”. Yes, of course, you alone decide when you are ready & able to become: Pinkerton, Duffy or even a Vidocq CPC Member.

Finally. I’m honored to have been invited to be part of PPIAC 2011 Annual Conference. Gloria Poore joins me in saying thank you for welcoming us and being wonderful hosts.

Fraternally, Ben Harroll & Gloria Poore “P.I. Museum’s Pop & Mom”

P.I. Museum

923 Island Avenue

San Diego, CA 92101

Telephone: 619.239.6991



P.I. Museum, Inc. is a CA (not for profit public benefit) Corporation & IRS 501(c)(3)

Donate Today To PPIAC's Legislative Fund

Your support is greatly appreciated.  Please click below if you would like to donate to help further the mission


Need to Hire a PI?

Search our Directory

Click Here to Find a Member

Contact Us

1411 Cortez St. #21433

Denver, CO 80221

Click Here to Contact Us

PPIAC Copyright 2020 ©

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software