The Book of Williams

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Mar 11, 2013

The title of this post could almost be an alternate title for Brilliant Deduction, I sometimes think. If the stories of Henry Meyer(s) are the strangest coincidence of names out of the many I encountered in my research and writing, the stories of William, William and more Williams ad infinitum deserve some sort of record for sheer volume.

Admitted, William is not a particularly unusual name, at any rate in the Euro-American societies to which my book is largely confined. Nonetheless, the frequency with which it turns up in Brilliant Deduction is almost ludicrous. Just among the individuals associated with William Pinkerton and William Burns, alone, we have:

  • William Hazen, Burns’s chief at the Secret Service before he was replaced
  • William Pinkerton, grandfather of the later National Detective Agency director
  • William Barton and William Taylor, associates of the Farrington gang pursued by Pinkerton
  • William Edson, “inside man” in a major bank robbery investigated by the Pinkertons
  • William McKinley, whose inauguration Pinkerton provided security for and whose Treasury Department employed Burns
  • William R. Hunt, biographer of Burns
  • William Sheridan, Burns’s partner in the short-lived Burns and Sheridan Detective Agency
  • William Randolph Hearst, whose media empire bedeviled both Burns and Isaiah Lees

Plus even more Williams connected one way or another with the stories of their peers

  • William Kent, brother of Constance Kent, of Road child murder case fame
  • William Cullen Bryant, author, cited on the rapid transformation of Chicago in the mid-19th century
  • William Hoerr, cited on the enigma of “Paddington” Pollaky
  • William Reimers, who accused Pollaky (and seemingly half of civilization, eventually) of conspiracy in the Turf Fraud Scandal
  • William B. Secrest, biographer of Isaiah Lees
  • William “Cutface” Donahue, whose description provided Lees the key break in the theft of the Elaine
  • William Sharon, Senator, whose divorce case Lees became involved with in a rare mis-step
  • William Fredericks, wanted criminal discovered by Lees through cryptography
  • William Paul, bank messenger whose unhappy fate was a memorable puzzle for Ellis Parker
  • William Fullerton, Parker grandson whose archives were a great help in my research

This must have been the most popular boy’s name in Anglophone cultures around the middle of the 19th century.

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