Raymond C. Schindler
Working as an insurance agent, then a typewriter salesman and eventually a gold miner, Raymond C. Schindler’s life’s purpose was not fully realized until he answered a job advertisement seeking a college educated historical researcher. Little did he know that the historical researcher job would lead him to working alongside the San Francisco Police Department on a case investigating high-ranking political figures.
While in San Francisco, Schindler became the protégé of a well-respected Secret Service agent named William J. Burns, who taught him the skills that followed Schindler throughout his illustrious career. Within a few years of meeting Burns, Schindler founded the New York based Schindler Bureau of Investigation, which led to his role as one of the nation’s leading private detectives for over 50 years.
The success of Schindler was based primarily on his use of modern investigative technologies, including the dictograph – a recording device invented in 1911 of which he had exclusive rights. Although Schindler was unable to solve the very high-profile murder of Sir Harry Oakes, his reputation as a stellar investigator was never tarnished. In fact, a movie was made in 1952 about his life, and it starred the acclaimed actor Rod Steiger.
Colonel Calvin Goddard
Chicago’s infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre began a career trajectory for Colonel Calvin Goddard that led to important developments in American crime investigation techniques.
After Al Capone orchestrated the mass slaying of seven mobsters, Goddard was brought to Chicago from New York due to his expertise in firearms and ballistics. Through his work, the Chicago Police Department was able to determine that Capone and his men carried out the mass murder (which involved the mobsters dressing as police officers while they gunned down the victims).
Goddard’s acclaimed work attracted the attention of many influential and wealthy people, which led to him being appointed as the director of the nation’s first independent forensic science crime laboratory, which opened at Northwestern University in 1931.
William E. Fairbairn
During the period between World Wars I and II, Shanghai was one of the most dangerous cities on the planet. Shanghai had a thriving smuggling trade, as well as criminal enterprises involving the sale of women, drugs and guns.
The city needed order. And that’s when former British Royal Marine William E. Fairbairn stepped in. After enlisting with the Shanghai Municipal Police, and walking the beat, he quickly learned that the streets of Shanghai were akin to a war zone. Eventually taking over the Shanghai police department from 1927-1940, Fairbairn created one of the world’s very first SWAT teams.
Fairbairn also invented a new form of hand-to-hand combat called Defendu – a martial art which taught officers how to defend against knife thrusts and other deadly weapons. Fairbairn taught the entire Shanghai Municipal Police force this highly effective defense method. This new style of fighting led to other hand-to-hand combat techniques which Fairbairn taught to British commandos in World War II. Fairbairn’s hand-to-hand combat technique was also adopted by the American OSS, the predecessor to the CIA.
Fairbairn was dubbed “Dangerous Dan” and it’s rumored that he was the inspiration for the character Q from the James Bond novels.
I’d love to hear from you about any more detectives that deserve to be on this list!
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