Home About Us History Brief History of the FBI 1943 Memo to the Director

1943 Memo to the Director

Historical Documents from the Bureau's Founding

Los Angeles, California
November 19, 1943

Memorandum for the Director:
Re: Early History of the Bureau of Investigation, United States Department of Justice

Under instructions from Assistant Director Louis B. Nichols, the following information relative to the necessity for the formation of the Bureau of Investigation, United States Department of Justice, and some items of interest relating to its early history are submitted by Special Agent James G. Findlay.

Inadequate Investigative Personnel

Prior to 1906, the United States Secret Service was the principal, if not the only, agency of the Government which was provided with criminal investigative personnel. Some of the Government Departments and bureaus were equipped in some way to investigate their own internal affairs. If a United States Attorney in any district had a difficult case and desired assistance, he would request the Attorney General to furnish an investigator or investigators, that is, Secret Service men, to aid him in the preparation of such a case for trial and to aid him in the trial of the case. Many of these Secret Service investigators were not regularly appointed and commissioned "detectives", generally known as "Secret Service operatives" or "Secret Service men", but not United States Secret Service men.

The Chief of the United States Secret Service would recommend someone from this prepared list to the Attorney General, and as a rule such a party would then be assigned to conduct the investigation. Usually the investigator would work under the direction and supervision of the United States Attorney. There were also special cases which were handled by special assistants to the Attorney General. Such investigations were supervised and directed by such special assistants to the Attorney General or jointly by the United States Attorney and the special assistant to the Attorney General.

Land Frauds

There had been land frauds and alleged land frauds in the United States since colonial times. In the early part of the present century there was a great campaign of what was called "muckraking" and land frauds, mining frauds, coal land frauds, oil land frauds, and many others were exposed. Millions of acres of land were involved in California, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Kansas, Colorado, and other western states.

In 1907, Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte called the attention of Congress to the fact that the Department of Justice possessed no "detective force" under its immediate control, and that conditions were rapidly growing worse.

During 1906 and 1907, some large land fraud investigations in Oregon, California, Kansas, and perhaps other states were in progress. These investigations were conducted in the beginning under the jurisdiction and supervision of the Department of the Interior. A great amount of criticism was directed at the Interior Department "muckrakers" and by the people generally. It was reported at the time that no successful prosecution could be had.

President Theodore Roosevelt Takes Action

President Theodore Roosevelt, in his characteristic dynamic fashion, asserted that the plunderers of the public domain would be prosecuted and brought to justice.

The story has been related, and it is believed to be in substance true and correct, that President Theodore Roosevelt called Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte to the White House and told him that he desired that the land frauds be prosecuted vigorously, and directed that he obtain the necessary investigative personnel to handle the matter in an expeditious and thorough manner. It was reported that Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte applied to the United States Secret Service for trained personnel to make the proper and necessary investigation, and was assigned quite a force of men, who were sent out to conduct investigations. In due course a lengthy report was submitted, which was presented to Mr. Bonaparte, and by Mr. Bonaparte to President Thedore Roosevelt. The report was examined and certain features were discussed at length. President Roosevelt then told Mr. Bonaparte that this report did not contain the true facts as he knew them, and he directed that the Attorney General send the same men or a new crew of men to reopen the investigation and obtain the real facts.

A new investigation was undertaken. Some of the men who were on the first assignment and some new investigators were added. They went into the field and were gone several months, at which time they returned and submitted a lengthy report to Mr. Bonaparte. This report was taken by Mr. Bonaparte to the White House, where it was discussed with President Theodore Roosevelt. It was reported at the time that after the President had fully considered the report, he told Mr. Bonaparte in most emphatic language characteristic of President Roosevelt that the report was a whitewash, that it was covering up the real facts, and that he wanted the facts, all the facts, and the true facts, and if there was any whitewashing done he would do it himself.

It was further asserted that President Roosevelt directed Bonaparte to create an investigative service within the Department of Justice subject to no other department or bureau, which would report to no one except the Attorney General. It is considered thoroughly reliable that this was the incident which resulted in the formation of the Bureau of Investigation of the United States Department of Justice.

It was reported that Bonaparte began immediately to make plans to create such a force. It is also a well known that at least one United States Senator (Senator Mitchell of Oregon) and possible two, and two or more Congressmen and a number of private citizens were convicted in these land fraud cases. The exact date of the convictions are unknown to Agent.

Formation of Investigative Force in the Department

It appears that on July 26, 1908, nine Secret Service employees of the Treasury Department were appointed Special Agents of the Department of Justice. These, together, with thirteen investigators who had been employed on peonage and land fraud, and twelve examiners provided for by statute, constituted the organization of the Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Justice. By an order of the Attorney General they were to be under the Chief Examiner in the Department of Justice.

It is believed that no separate or special appropriation had been provided for the Bureau of Investigation as a separate organization, but that the personnel was paid as special examiners and from funds which were appropriated by Congress for the use of the Attorney General in making investigations of frauds against the government and for other purposes.

On March 16, 1909, George W. Wickersham, Attorney General under President William Howard Taft, issued an order establishing the Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Justice. This appears to be the official act which created the Bureau of Investigation. It is believed that Congress made an appropriation for the Bureau of Investigation as such, effective July 1, 1909.

Stanley W. Finch, First Chief of the Bureau of Investigation

Stanley W. Finch was the Chief Examiner in the Department of Justice, 1909, 1910, 1911, and up to April 30, 1912, and as such was designated by the Attorney General to be the Chief of the Bureau of Investigation, Department of Justice. A. Bruce Bielaski, an examiner in the Department, was his assistant.

On April 30, 1912, Mr. Finch was made the Special Commissioner for the suppression of white slave traffic, which office he held until January 1, 1914. He established his office at Baltimore, Maryland, and Alpert H. Pike was his assistant.

The White Slave Traffic Act was passed on June 25, 1910, and the office of Special Commission for the suppression of white slave traffic was created because of the importance that was being placed on that subject matter. The international traffic in alien women for immoral purpose had reached such proportions that a great clamor had gone up for its suppression. The only reason known to Agent for establishing a separate office and title for the white slave traffic assignment was that the woman suffrage movement and other women's organizations had made a great drive to have this law passed, and it had remained rather dormant for about two years and the women's organizations had made demands for its enforcement. It can probably be truthfully stated that this drive really put the white slave law into the mind of nearly everyone, and the results were that hundreds of convictions were had and the house of commercial prostitution no longer flourished as a recognized business.

During the period that Mr. Finch had his office in Baltimore, all field offices and all agents working in the Bureau of Investigation directly out of Washington as their headquarters, furnished two copies of reports in white slave cases to the Bureau at Washington and one copy to Mr. Finch at Baltimore.

During the time of the drive against white slavery in 1912 and 1913, a small number of agents, perhaps ten in all, were assigned to work under the direction of Mr. Finch. These agents worked in pairs, and made what might be called a nationwide survey, which consisted in visiting every town in the United States in which a recognized house of prostitution existed. They appointed a "local white slave officer" in each town where a house was in operation. These local officers were nearly all lawyers and men of good character and reputation in their communities. While the Special Agents were in these towns making surveys, the houses of prostitution were visited and a census of inmates was taken in questionnaire form, giving the complete history of each inmate and especially the length of time she had been in houses of ill fame and the names of the landladies and, as far as possible, the names of the proprietors of each of the houses. The proprietors usually were not the madams, but in many instances were men or women of good reputation in the community and not suspected of being engaged in such business.

The landlady was furnished with printed form cards (arrival and departure cards) on which to report to the local white slave officer the "arrival" and "departure" of all inmates, stating the place from which each inmate came, on arriving, where an inmate was going when she departed. When the local white slave officer received an "arrival card," it was his duty to see her at his office or elsewhere and get her history of a questionnaire which was sent to Mr. Finch's office. When the local officer received a "departure card", it was his duty to ascertain any facts possible about her destination and whether anyone was responsible for her move, in an effort to ascertain the channels of commerce. All changes of address from one town to another were tabulated on one card in the Baltimore office. It was similar to a "criminal record" report; that is, it showed the different places where she had practiced her business and the time spent in each place. A local officer was appointed in some strategic cities where no recognized houses were located. In such places his duties consisted in furnishing information which he could get from the police and other sources. He would interview girls arrested by police where there was an interstate feature and a police violation. He was also available for quick interview in his community in any kind of case where the Agent in Charge requested him to do so. It is very natural that there should be many disappointments in such an organization, but on the other hand it must be said that gratifying results were also obtained.

In 1913, a change in national administration took place, and James C. McReynolds became Attorney General. Mr. McReynolds had been an Assistant Attorney General during the President Taft administration and had prosecuted a number of the outstanding antitrust cases, such as the Beef Trust and the Lumber Trust Cases in Chicago.

Apparently Mr. McReynolds did not see the necessity of having a separate bureau for the suppression of white slave traffic. As a matter of fact, the prosecutions which had resulted during the two years of its existence and the approaching war conditions in Europe and the exhibition of a little energy on the part of the Immigration Service in suppressing the international features of the white slave traffic, had really changed conditions to such an extent that it was not necessary to continue it as a separate bureau of commission. It also appears that it was not really necessary in the beginning, as the Bureau of Investigation had grown very materially in personnel. Agent does not have any figures, but the number of Special Agents and accountants and examiners in 1914 had probably reached approximately 250 to 300.

On January 1, 1914, the office of the Special Commissioner for the suppression of the white slave traffic at Baltimore was closed and the office was merged with the office of the Bureau of Investigation at Washington. Sometime after that, Mr. Finch became a Special Assistant to the Attorney General and was in the Department for many years. He was endorsed for these various positions by Sereno Payne, a very powerful member of Congress from New York State. It is evident that the war in Europe was fast approaching, and it is believed that on this account some action was taken by the Attorney General and the Chief of the Bureau of Investigation, who at that time was A. Bruce Bielaski, to retain many of the local white slave officers in the Bureau. Many of their were given the title of Special Employee and remained in their home communities and performed limited services of a general nature under the direction and supervision of the Special Agents in Charge in the several field offices, and were paid on a part time or fee basis, depending upon the number of investigations conducted and the amount of time devoted to the Government work. Quite a large number of these local officers were appointed as fulltime Special Agents and served as such throughout the World War period. Some remained in the service for a number of years after the war was over and served as such throughout the World War period. Some remained in the service for a number of years after the war was over.

System of Reporting, 1911 to 1915

In 1911 and up until about the time of the beginning of World War I in Europe, Agents made daily reports covering the work done on each day. If an Agent worked on more than one case in one day, he made a separate investigative report in each case. A front page, or index page, was then prepared, listing the title of the case or cases and the approximate time devoted to each case. An Agent's compensation and expenses for each day were likewise proportioned and charged accordingly to each case on the index page. This was done for the purpose of determining the approximate cost of each investigation. This front page or index page was made for everyday in the year. The investigative portion of the report was made only for the days on which the investigative work was done.

Two copies of all investigative reports and two copies of the index pages were sent to the Bureau for each day. One copy of the investigative report was retained in the field office file for the use of the field office. One extra copy was made and kept in the field office until the investigation was presented to the United States Attorney of to the Special Assistant Attorney General, as in antitrust cases, at which time this copy was given to the attorney. If an Agent was working on antitrust cases with headquarters in Washington, he kept one copy in his personal possession for his use in conducting further investigations, and one copy which was to be given to the Special Assistant Attorney General or the United States Attorney was sent to the Bureau for that purpose. In such cases the field office did not have a copy, but the copy which the Agent had in his personal possession during the investigation would be turned over to the field office covering the jurisdiction in which possible prosecutive action would take place. If no prosecutive action appeared probable, the extra copies were forwarded to the Bureau when the investigation was concluded.

Division of Investigation Division Superintendents

The title of "Division Superintendent" has been utilized on two separate and distinct occasions by the Bureau. The first occasion was during the winter of 1911 and was brought about in the following manner, to Agent's personal knowledge:

Charles F. De Woody was Special Agent in Charge in Chicago at that time. Nearly all of the Bureau offices except Chicago and New York had a Special Agent in Charge, and a few of them had one field agent. The New York Office had a Special Agent in Charge and about six to eight field agents. Also a number of special examiners, accountants, and antitrust agents made New York City their operating base.

The Chicago Office had a Special Agent in Charge, two stenographers, and an average of about six regular field agents on general investigative work. There were also one or two special examiners and two or three accountants who made their working base at Chicago. There were also an average of about five antitrust agents working out of Chicago, but their headquarters were in Washington.

Mr. De Woody conceived the idea that there should be a distinction made between a "large office" like Chicago and a "small office" such as Kansas City, for example, which had a Special Agent in Charge and no other employee, not even a stenographer.

Mr. De Woody was a close friend of the Attorney General, George W. Wickersham, and at one time, Agent believes, was his secretary, The Beef Trust Case was on trial in Chicago for a period of about three months during the winter of 1911-1912, and during the trial Attorney General Wickersham made several trips to Chicago to confer with United States Attorney James K. Wilkerson and Assistant Attorney General James C. McReynolds, who were the Government counsels in the case.

It was at this time that Mr. De Woody assumed the title "Division Superintendent". It is believed that the Attorney General sanctioned this title to the Chicago and New York Offices. It is Agent's recollection that these two offices continued to use this title until about August 20, 1920.

Office of Division of Superintendents Created August 20, 1920

Prior to August 20, 1920, the Agent in Charge was the executive officer of the field office where he was located, and it was incumbent on him to keep the Bureau at Washington fully advised of all matters transpiring in his territory.

A change in this procedure was made in August 1920, and nine divisions were created in the field, each under the supervision of a Division Superintendent who was to represent the Chief of the Bureau and supervise investigations and arrange personnel in each division and exercise general supervision of all matters in his division and report to the Chief of the Bureau. He was the personal representative of the Chief of the Bureau in the field.

The nine offices were established in the cities listed below, and the names of the Division Superintendents are shown where remembered:

New York City
Baltimore
Atlanta Lewis J. Baley
Cincinnati Hinton G. Clabaugh
Chicago Edward J. Brennan
Kansas City Arthur T. Bagley
San Antonio Charles E. Brenniman
Portland

This gesture did not seem to work as had been planned, and it was discontinued during the summer of 1921, probably July 1. No explanation for its discontinuance, to the writer's knowledge, and Agent never learned the reason.

When this arrangement was discontinued and the position of Division Superintendent was automatically eliminated, the title of Special Agent in Charge was the title given to that position in all field offices in the Bureau and has so remained since 1921.

Special Agents in Charge in 1911

When Agent entered the service in August 1911, the following offices of the Bureau of Investigation had been created and an Agent in Charge had been designated. In at least half of the offices, the Special Agent in Charge was the only agent assigned to the office, as other agents were working on antitrust cases and special assignments with headquarters in Washington. To the best of Agent's recollection, the following offices had been created and the following Special Agents in Charge had been designated:

Boston
New York - William Offley
Philadelphia - Frank L. Garbarino
Buffalo - Marshall Eberstein
Detroit - J. Herbert Cole
Atlanta - Lewis J. Baley
New Orleans - Billups Harris
St. Louis - Edward J. Brennan
Chicago - Charles F. De Woody
Kansas City - Arthur T. Bagley
San Antonio - Robert E. L. Barnes
Denver - Roy O. Samson
St. Paul - John M. Bowen
Butte - Charles Pray
Portland - William Bryan
San Francisco - E. N. Blanford

By the first of the year 1914, several new offices had been created and some changes had been made in the Special Agents in Charge. Agent's recollection is as follows:

Boston
New York - William Offley
Philadelphia - Frank L. Garbarino
Baltimore - John J. Grgurevich
Buffalo - Charles F. De Woody
Detroit - J. Herbert Cole
Cleveland
Pittsburgh - Hugh Garber
Chicago - Hinton G. Clabaugh
St. Louis - Edward J. Brennan
Cincinnati
Atlanta - Lewis J. Baley
Jacksonville
New Orleans - F. C. Pendleton
San Antonio - Robert E. L. Barnes
El Paso - C. E. Brenniman
Dallas - Will C. Austin
Oklahoma City - James G. Findlay
Kansas City - Arthur T. Bagley
Denver - Roy O. Samson
Salt Lake City - Leon Bone
Omaha - Marshall Eberstein
St. Paul
Butte - Charles Pray
Seattle - Fred Watt
Portland - William Bryan
San Francisco - E. M. Blanford
Los Angeles - John M. Bowen

From 1914 through the World War I period there were so many changes in the Special Agents in Charge and the service grew so rapidly that it would be impossible to give the names of the Special Agents in Charge with any degree of accuracy, although Agent could give the names of a large number.

A School for Training Bureau Personnel Was Begun in 1921

William J. Burns became the Chief of the Bureau of Investigation on August 22, 1921. It is Agent's recollection that Mr. Burns was the first head of the Bureau to use the title "Director", Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Director Burns and Special Agent in Charge Edward J. Brennan had worked together as agents in the United States Secret Service prior to 1908 and were personal friends. Soon after Mr. Burns became Director of the Bureau, a system of training was devised for prospective Special Agents. Prior to that time no special training of any sort had been provided. All new appointees were required to report to Chicago to attend a course of lectures given by Special Agent in Charge Brennan covering a period of thirty days before beginning work on their own resources. Agent never attended this school, but it was reported that it dealt principally with criminal law and evidence and personal lectures on how to know evidence and how to obtain and preserve it. A short time after this course of training was begun, Special Agent in Charge Brennan was made Special Agent in Charge in the New York Bureau Office. The place of training was likewise shifted to New York City, as Mr. Brennan was the chief lecturer, if not the only lecturer in the school. This training was carried on in a more or less haphazard manner for a period of perhaps two years.

From the formation of the Bureau of Investigation until the appointment of Mr. Burns as Director on August 22, 1921, it was rather definitely understood and very generally adhered to that Special Agents of the Bureau would be attorneys and accountants. However, during the World War many were appointed who did not possess such qualifications. As a matter of fact, some had no qualifications for the position. During the regime of Director Burns, it reached the extreme in the opposite direction and almost no agents were appointed who had legal training. The principal qualification of an applicant was that he had been previously employed as a private detective or by detective agencies. In many instances the prior employment and experience had been with the William J. Burns International Detective Agency. Many were appointed for political reasons only. Age limits and educational achievements had no place in the roster of requirements for appointment. Many did not have a high school education and some were more than 60 years of age when they entered the service.

Immediately after the present Director. Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, was appointed on May 20, 1924, he established a school for new agents with a well planned curriculum of training. The entrance age was fixed at 25 to 35, and everyone was required to take this course before entering upon the duties of Special Agent or Special Accountant.

Following this, a retraining school was established by Mr. Hoover for the training of old agents and the retraining of the agents who had received training before entering the service. The results of this training and the training provided by the FBI National Police Academy have become so well established and so well known and recognized that they will not be related here.

About the Author

Special Agent James G. Findlay entered on duty as a Special Agent on August 29, 1911. Findlay was a native of Eldon, Missouri, born to Scottish immigrants on 5/20/1882.

Prior to joining the Bureau, Findlay clerked in the U.S. Senate. After practicing law in the District of Columbia for two years he joined the Bureau, which had been created three years earlier in July of 1908. In 1912, Agent Findlay was admitted to the Bar of the United States Supreme Court. Although it is not known if Findlay ever argued a case before the Court; he was awarded a Juris Doctor by Lincoln University, San Francisco in 1931.

Upon entering in 1911, Findlay was assigned to Oklahoma City. By 1914 he was designated Special Agent in Charge. He served as SAC until 1924, when he was demoted to Special Agent and assigned to Kansas City. Subsequently, Findlay served as Agent in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Birmingham. In 1933 he returned to Los. Findlay served on the Communist Squad at Los Angeles from its creation in 1940 and was considered particularly knowledgeable about Communist matters in Hollywood. At some point in the 1940's, he was placed on limited duty due to his age and a heart condition.
Findlay retired on 5/31/1952 as he had reached mandatory retirement. He was reappointed the next day, though, because he desired to remain in the Bureau. Agent Findlay died on 5/5/1960, having served as an Agent in the Bureau for 49 years.

About the Memorandum

In 1943 [the 35th anniversary of the Bureau], Assistant Director Louis B. Nichols asked Special Agent Findlay, the Bureau's oldest agent at that time, to prepare a memorandum on his experiences in the Bureau of Investigation in its early years. In his memo, Findlay provided a brief history of the Bureau of Investigation's origins and then described aspects of the Bureau of Investigation from 1908 through 1924.

The document that follows is a typed copy of Findlay's 1943 memorandum. An old photo reproduction of the memo in OPCA files was used to make this document as the location of the original memo is currently unknown.

The pagination of Findlay's memo was maintained as were the spelling, punctuation, and grammar. "Sic" has not been added in order to preserve the near appearance and feel of Findlay's report. Bold and italics in the title were added to mimic typographic effects in Findlay's memo.