The Origins of Kate Carver
While looking through the stories of the men and women who worked for the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, I didn’t find any stories that matched up with Kate Carver’s story 1-to-1. Going just with what we know (which isn’t much), the closest might be Kate Warne or Mary Elizabeth Walker; headstrong women who fought for a chance to show the world what they were made of despite all the doors that were slammed in their faces. While she is a bit young to fit either of these women’s stories, I wouldn’t be surprised if the writers were messing with the timeline a bit to make their story fit. That said, I think we need to learn a bit more about Kate Carver before we can make any real judgments in this regard, and I do plan to revisit this topic later.
[Promotional image of Kate Carver, courtesy of the CW]
But even without knowing specifics, I think I can safely say that there’s some loose inspiration from all the brave women who decided to put themselves in danger for the sake of what they believed in, whether that be patriotism or the fact that they could do something just as well as their male coworkers. Kate has that strong fire and confidence and that desire to do work that’s a little more intellectually stimulating than most positions that would be available to her.
Walker: Independence is a work of historical fiction. While the latter part of that genre title gives it some leeway in terms of the “historical” part, researching this topic highlighted some glaring inaccuracies that I can’t unsee. That being said, the writers did get a few things right. Let’s talk about that.
What they got right:
- Pinkerton’s personality: After Kate quit the agency, Ethan warned her that “the old man” wouldn’t let this go easily. This statement lines up with what we know of Pinkerton’s personality. He was headstrong and stubborn and would take great offense to Kate suggesting that he was acting in a corrupt manner. He probably wouldn’t fight to keep her employed but he would give her a piece of his mind for that.
- Independent in Independence: Kate working on her own in Independence wouldn’t be uncommon. She’s there to observe, not to investigate a specific case, so she wouldn’t necessarily need a partner.
- Working on the railroad: The 1870s did bring some financial strife for Pinkerton during the depression but it was also a time when they had contracts working for many different railroad lines (until they stopped in 1872). Pinkerton operatives were sent out to observe potentially dishonest railroad workers and to protect the railroad lines from bandits. It wouldn’t surprise me if they took a contract to ensure that railroads were properly established since not everyone would welcome a new railroad stop in their town.
- Ethan checking up on her: While they may not be official partners, Ethan makes it a habit to keep up with Kate's activities and question her methods. It’s likely that he’s spying on her to see if she’s doing her job as required. It’s not as if Allen Pinkerton or Mrs. Stanton (the head of the female division at the time) could observe her directly from Chicago. While internal spying didn’t really start until 1874, it’s likely that some unofficial form of it went on earlier for operatives that were sent further away.
[Promotional photo of Pinkerton Operative known as “Ethan”, courtesy of the CW]
What they got wrong:
- Kate’s reports back to HQ: While Kate would’ve been expected to send regular, if not daily, reports of her observations and investigations back home, the one we did see her send doesn’t exactly match Pinkerton standards. It’s not nearly detailed enough, it’s written in plain English rather than code, and she’s sending it using Pinkerton’s real name rather than initials or fake names as would be proper practice. Pinkerton believed that secrecy was the key to being an undercover agent; sending a conspicuous, non-anonymous telegram clearly stating her observations is the exact opposite of that. (Note: I understand that was done for the purposes of TV but it’s still bad form)
[Edited photo of a screenshot of Walker: Independence 1x01 “Pilot”, courtesy of the CW, edits made by Esther]
- Kate’s spending: Not only would Kate be expected to report her observations, but she would also be required to submit a personal budget report detailing what she did with her money. Pinkerton would not accept a vague verbal comment about bribes and costumes and other necessities; she would need to specify how much money went to what. Lying about her spending would be a fireable offense.
- Secrets: Both Kate and Ethan have broken the sacred Secrecy rule of Pinkerton. While Kate was technically found out by Abby, bringing Calian and Hoyt into the fray was a big no-no. Ethan also revealed himself to Tom, which was prohibited by Pinkerton policy (unless he was specifically instructed to do so). Both Kate and Ethan would be in danger of termination if this was found out.
So What Does It All Mean?
The Pinkerton National Detective Agency was ahead of its time in law enforcement and policing and resembled modern police far more than the public police did at the time. Even though the company has faded out of the public eye and works on a much larger, private scale than it used to, it’s important that we learn about and remember the impact that the men and women employed here had on our country’s history and society at large.
But we’re not just here to talk about the real-world story behind “The Eye That Never Sleeps”, though it is incredibly fascinating. We’re also here to discuss how Pinkerton fits into the world of Walker: Independence and how they could impact the story going forward.
Kate Carver may have quit the agency but that doesn’t mean Pinkerton is gone forever. We know there are plans in the works to get a railroad stop in Independence and now Pinkerton is a part of the effort. I have no doubt we’ll see Ethan again or possibly even some new agents (perhaps that’s the mystery sister we saw in the trailer has come to town?). It’s possible our band of merry heroes may have to go against one of the most powerful and successful detective agencies in the country to bring the Davidsons to justice. I also think it’s possible that we’ll see Allan Pinkerton himself, or at least hear direct words from him. Beyond that, it’s highly possible that Tom, Augustus, or even Liam could’ve had some kind of history with the agency given their backgrounds in law enforcement. Even if they weren’t employed with Pinkerton, they could’ve had run-ins with operatives, both good and bad.
I’m not sure what the chances are of this happening, but I think it would be very cool if the writers were able to include a storyline based on a real Pinkerton case. Perhaps something in relation to Kate’s backstory and how she met all her contacts? At the very least, I would like to see a mention of them in the papers. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Pinkerton’s national detective agency and the Information work of the 19th century surveillance state- Alan Bilansky, 2018
Inventing the Pinkertons- SP Ohara, 2016
The Pinks: The First Women Detectives, Operatives, and Spies with the Pinkerton National Detective Agency – 2017, Chris Enss
The Eye That Never Sleeps- 1982 Frank Morn
Learn more about the historical period surrounding Walker: Independence! Dig into Dating in the 19th Century, Diversity during the Reconstruction Era, the US Civil War and Reconstruction Era, and the Evolution of Independence and Austin, Texas! Find them all in WFB's History Tag!
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