Burns, William J.

Burns, William J. (John)

(1861–1932) detective; born in Baltimore, Md. As affable as he was determined, he joined the Secret Service (1889–1903) where he gained national attention handling investigations like the Monroehead silver $100 certificate case, which became part of American lore. Working for the Interior Department, he uncovered the Oregon, Washington, and California land fraud cases (1903). After establishing the William J. Burns Detective Agency in New York City (1909), he secured world-wide recognition with the apprehension of the labor union dynamiters (1911).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.