Copyright © 2011-2017 John N. Lupia III

Frank M. Pinkerton (1871-1930), was born in November 1871 at Marshalltown, Iowa, the fifth of seven children, son of Asa Pinkerton (1834-1892), a farmer/gardener, and Anna E. Stewart Pinkerton (1840-1891). His family had lived in Illinois and moved to Marshalltown, Iowa soon before Frank M. Pinkerton was born. His family lived on their farm at 803 Jerome Avenue. He lived his whole life in Marshalltown and never married. After graduating the local school he worked in town as a clerk.

From 1890-1900, he worked for the W. S. Loree Hardware Store as a clerk.

Fig. 1. Correspondence of Frank M. Pinkerton to the Chapman Brothers, postmarked May 28, 1902. A very rare piece of circusiana. Ex-Langford $250. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.

There are seven pieces of correspondence from Pinkerton to the Chapman Brothers in the Lupia Numismatic Library.

Fig. 2. Frank M. Pinkerton's advertisement in the December 1904 issue of The Numismatist, page 378.

In the December 1904 issue of The Numismatist, page 378 he ran a six-line ad selling coins.

In the January 1905 issue of The Numismatist, page 32 he ran the same six-line ad selling coins.

Fig. 3. Frank M. Pinkerton's advertisement in the Universal Exchange Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 1, January (1905) : 11

He also advertised as a coin dealer in Philatelic West, Vol. 31, No. 1, September (1905). According to Tom Elder Pinkerton was a winning bidder in his September 1905 auction, received his coins but never paid. He mentioned this in two issue of the Elder Monthly in 1906.

Thomas Lindsay Elder reported in his Elder Monthly, April (1906)

"F. M. Pinkerton, Marshalltown, Iowa. Received $43 in American gold coins which he secured at auction and failed to either pay for or return. The postal officials and collection bureau are after him hot-foot."

Fig. 4. Apparently Frank M. Pinkerton's final or near final correspondence with the Chapman Brothers, postmarked July 26, 1906, Marshalltown, Iowa. The Chapman Brothers dissolved their partnership in August and Pinkerton might have dealt with Henry Chapman, Jr., sometime between 1909 and 1930. When that portion of the archive is completed in the digital catalogue the update shall be given. The last one so far dates to July 26, 1906 and might be the last one in lieu of the toxic press of Thomas Lindsay Elder who attempted to destroy his credibility among the dealers. When there was a problem with the mail not only the buyer but the Post Office was to blame with Tom Elder. Judging from the facts presented by Elder it seems unfair to have condemned Pinkerton based on the evidence. It may have been a genuine case of mail tampering in which both parties, i.e., Elder and Pinkerton, were victimized. But, Tom Elder, hot-tempered and short-fused could only see his point of view, neither that of either Pinkerton nor the Post Office officials. When a deal went wrong "everybody was wrong and at fault" in Elder's mind. Although Elder is pugnacious you still can't help liking him and feeling bad for him about this particular case since he was robbed one way or the other. See the full details below.

Elder Monthly, October (1906)

"F. M. Pinkerton, of Marshalltown, Iowa, in September of last year sent us bids on some American gold coins to be sold at auction, giving the names of S. H. & H. Chapman, of Philadelphia, as his reference.

His bids secured over $43 worth of coins, all gold with two exceptions, and all of these were sent to him by sealed registered mail. Several days after getting his personal receipt for the package he returned to us by registered mail one of the silver coins without a word of explanation and enclosed in an envelope bearing TEN cents in postage, the letter weighing less than one ounce.

Pinkerton's idea was evidently to throw out the impression that he had returned ALL the coins which weighed about three ounces.We never got a remittance for the coins and subsequent investigation proved Pinkerton did not return them.

Investigation by the Post Office Department resulted in affidavit being made by the Postmaster at Marshalltown, Iowa, that the envelope which Pinkerton returned the silver coin contained less than one ounce.

Mr. Elder submitted affidavits of himself and his clerk and conclusive proof to the Post Office Department that the coins had been sent to Pinkerton - in fact Pinkerton admitted to counsel that he had received the coins.

Mr. Elder submitted all papers, including the envelope in which Pinkerton returned the half dollar, to the Post Office DepartmentDepartment. The Post Office Department labeled the case "Alleged rifling of registered letter mailed by K. M. Pinkerton, Marshalltown, Ia."

This would make it appear that Pinkerton was the one making the complaint, which should have been correctly labeled as "Alleged theft of $43.50 of gold and silver coins by F. M. Pinkerton, of Marshalltown, Iowa."

The Post Office Department, after it was proved conclusively that the coins were kept by Pinkerton, dropped the case.

The complainant, Mr. Elder, then asked the Post Office Department for a return of his papers and got part of them after considerable difficulty. The Post Office officials refused to return the envelope bearing ten cents on postage in which Pinkerton returned the half dollar.

Elder, stating, "It is not the practice of the Department to surrender evidence upon which the investigation in cases of this kind was based." This action was taken after an official at the Post Office Department New York had promised Mr. Elder that his papers would be returned if left with the Department. We thought there was a law against defrauding through the United States mails.

In view of the evidence brought out, why was it that the Post Office Department dropped the case and why did it refuse to return the envelope belonging to Mr. Elder? There are the points in the matter of most interest to our readers.

A side light is thrown on the character of this man Pinkerton by the fact that several years ago cataloguers in Philadelphia offered at auction sale a cancelled check of William McKinley. This check was purchased by Pinkerton, but he returned it, declining to pay for it because it has a cross out cancel on it, having been paid. Had the check been uncanceled it would have been recoverable. Pinkerton's letters at the time were indifferent to any sense of honor in the matter, he adding that in making payment he would do his way or the cataloguers "could whistle for it."

In early 1909, he opened his Art & Novelty Store, 508 West Nevada, Marshalltown, Iowa. Minnie Lane worked there as a clerk.

He died of pernicious anemia on March 30, 1930 at the Deaconess Hospital, Marshalltown, Iowa. He is buried in the Riverside Cemetery, Marshalltown, Iowa. His estate sold his real estate on May 31, 1930 for $10,000.

Fig. 5. His obituary was published in Times Republican, March 20, 1930

Fig. 6. Tomb of Frank M. Pinkerton, Riverside Cemetery, Marshalltown, Iowa.

Bibliography :

U. S. Census - 1880

Iowa State Census -1885

Marshalltown Directory, 1900 : 150, listed as clerk in W. S. Loree Hardware Store

The Numismatist, January (1905) : 32

Philatelic West, Vol. 31, No. 1, September (1905)

Elder Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 2, April (1906)

Elder Monthly, Vol. 1, No. 7, October (1906) : 14-15

Boot and Shoe Recorder, Vol. LV, No. 5, Wednesday, April 28 (1909) : 168

Times Republican, December 17, 1910, page 9

Times Republican, December 19, 1914 small ad to sell toys

Iowa State Gazetteer and Business Directory, Volume 19 (1918) : 1236

American Book Trade Manual (New York : R. R. Bowker, 1919) : 70

U. S. Census - 1920

Times Republican, March 20, 1930 Obituary

Records of Bonds for Sale of Real Estate, Marshall County, page 293

Kathryn Rice, "Creativity Abounds At Minnie Lane," Nodaway News Leader, August 26, 2016