Private eye is a popular slang term for a professional investigator, popularized in the media for over 150 years. The name implies that investigators see everything, and in that respect, the nomenclature is very accurate. However, learning the history of the name goes deeper into the past of the colorful detective profession.
This resource section is devoted to detailing the history of professional investigators. We will explain the origin of the various terminologies used to describe the detective professions and how these interesting terms evolved throughout time.
Private Eye Background
The eye reference found its source from the original logo of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, founded by Allan Pinkerton in the mid 1800s. The logo featured a central eye and the words “We never sleep”. This logo gained recognition as an icon of the time and the work of the early Pinkerton investigators became legendary and even notorious. People began calling Pinkertons by the name Eye or Private Eye, being that the logo was prominently featured on badges, uniforms and advertising media.
Even though the profession has advanced far beyond the Pinkertons agency, the name stuck and continues to be an regularly used term for investigators to this very day. There are other names for private investigators, as well. Sleuth, private dick and gumshoe are all colorful terms used to describe the detective profession. If you are interested in detective history, then you will really enjoy our coverage of professional investigator myths and reality.
Professional detectives can handle an assortment of nontraditional cases that can make this career incredibly interesting. Paranormal investigation is a truly alternative specialty for detectives, but can be a very lucrative career path for a select few private eyes. UFO investigation focuses on identifying objects that might have originated elsewhere in the universe. Meanwhile, alien abduction investigations delve into interactions between extraterrestrial life and humankind. Most private investigators never consider becoming a paranormal detective unless they have a personal interest or experience in their unusual area of focus.
Private Detective Details
The symbol of the eye is very fitting for an investigator, who must use their senses to gather intelligence for their client. Investigators must train themselves to pick up every detail, since evidence may be difficult for an untrained person to recognize.
A thorough private investigator will always be alert on the job and attentive to every small nuance of their work. This pays homage to the original Pinkertons legend, stating that investigators indeed never sleep; at least not on the job.
Many modern investigation firms still use eyes on their respective logos. The eye is a symbol of knowing and seeing, the very aspects that are so crucial to a successful resolution of any case assignment. Surveillance is based on the concept of seeing without being seen; which is one of the inherent concepts of the investigator profession. Luckily for the general public, strict privacy laws in most communities have limited what investigators can observe using covert tactics.
Private investigators have come a long way since the early Pinkerton days. However, the original concept of an all-knowing, all-seeing professional has endured and guides the operations of many successful investigation agencies today.