Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Legendary Trendsetter Elizabeth "Baby Doe" Tabor

Baby Doe Tabor was not always a Tabor. She was born and baptized Elizabeth Bonduel McCourt to Irish Catholic parents in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1854. Her years in the frontier boomtown of Oshkosh gave her the beginnings of a dream she would live to see come true.

Colorado socialite Elizabeth Tabor had golden hair, blue eyes, porcelain skin, and a sense of style that rivaled that of any woman in Leadville. She arrived married to a struggling miner but dressed like she was the belle of the ball. She paraded down the main street of town wearing a sapphire-blue costume with dyed-to-match shoes. Her stunning style caught the attention not only of neighbors and storekeepers, but also millionaire Horace Tabor.

Horace and Elizabeth scandalized the community by falling in love, divorcing their spouses, and marrying one another. Horace showered his new bride with jewels and the finest outfits from Boston and Paris. She wore one-of-a-kind outfits to opening nights at the opera house he had built for her.

All eyes were on the young Mrs. Tabor as Horace escorted his young bridge into the theatre. Her dresses were made of Damasse silk, complete with a flowing train made of brocaded satin. The material around the arms was fringed with amber beads. The look was topped off with an ermine opera cloak and muff. Pictures of the Tabors appeared in the most-red newspapers, and soon women from San Francisco to New York copied the outfit. The only part of the costume admirers were unable to reproduce to their satisfaction was Mrs. Tabor’s $90,000 diamond necklace.

Despite wealth that allowed her to live a lifestyle that was beyond lavish, Elizabeth died penniless and alone in Leadville, Colorado. She froze to death while living in a mine shack of the famous Matchless Mine, which in its heyday produced $10,000 worth of silver ore per day.

Elizabeth and Horace Tabor are the subject of an American opera titled, "The Ballad of Baby Doe".

How the West Was Worn, by Chris Enss

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Allan Pinkerton

Allan Pinkerton (1819-1884) was the father of many American police detection techniques and founder of America's most famous detective agency.

Allan Pinkerton was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on August 25, 1819, the son of a police sergeant who was later wounded during the Chartist riots. Pinkerton himself became a Chartist and, fearing for his safety after participating in the turmoil, emigrated to the United States in 1842. He settled in a Scottish community at Dundee, III. He became an outspoken abolitionist, serving as the local conductor on the Underground Railroad.

While working as a cooper in Dundee, Pinkerton was instrumental in capturing a group of counterfeiters. After several private commissions in detective work, he was named deputy sheriff of Kane County in 1846. In 1850 he became the first detective on the reorganized police department of Chicago. He simultaneously organized a private agency and left public service not long after.

Pinkerton's agency, unlike the typical agency of the day, was run with strict propriety. He would not, for example, undertake investigations of the morals of a woman, the stock-in-trade of most private detectives, except in connection with some other crime. Nor did he set his fees according to how much money he regained in a theft case, a practice which frequently tied detectives to the underworld. Pinkerton's operatives received uniform fees, set in advance, plus expenses. Pinkerton quickly developed a national reputation as a result of work for the U.S. Post Office, the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, and the Illinois Central Railroad (through which he developed a valuable friendship with its president, George McClellan).

In 1861 Pinkerton was investigating alleged Confederate sabotage of a railroad in Maryland when he claimed to have unearthed a scheme to assassinate the president-elect, Abraham Lincoln, then on his way to his inauguration. Pinkerton convinced Lincoln to revise his plans for entering Washington, D.C., and he supervised Lincoln's secret journey. Pinkerton later discussed the organization of a national secret service with the President but, when nothing developed, joined his old client, now Gen. McClellan, as head of intelligence in the Army's Ohio Department. When McClellan left the Army in 1862, Pinkerton resigned his post and spent the rest of the war investigating cotton speculation frauds in the Mississippi Valley.
Following the war, Pinkerton turned active direction of his flourishing agency over to his two sons, although he continued to take an interest in agency affairs and kept control of central policy. He supervised the agency's growth in its chief fields of endeavor, the pursuit and capture of train robbers like the James gang; the supplying of a private corps of armed guards to industries and special events such as county fairs; and the breaking of labor unions. He became a vociferous enemy of labor unions.

Pinkerton had a penchant for self-celebration, writing some 20 books about his and his detectives' exploits. He died on July 1, 1884.