Pinkerton Lincoln Top Hat
Early Secret Service
Secret Service
Woodrow Wilson With Secret Service
36 Images Of The Secret Service In Action From Lincoln To Trump
View Gallery

The Secret Service was established in 1865 as an agency dedicated to protecting the validity of the country's currency against counterfeiters. But after President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, the Secret Service assumed its current role of protecting the leaders commonly depicted on that currency.

That's not to say that the president and other top leaders didn't have a dedicated security force prior to 1901. In 1861, Allan Pinkerton's Union Intelligence Service foiled an assassination plot while guarding Abraham Lincoln in Baltimore. In 1865, ironically enough, signed legislation to create the Secret Service was on Lincoln's desk the night he was murdered.

But it was McKinley's assassination — he was shot at close range while shaking hands with the public — that changed everything. Instead of a mixed crew of private guards and local law enforcement, the Secret Service officially took over protecting the president starting in the last few years of McKinley successor Teddy Roosevelt's tenure.

The move was not without debate, however. Some in Congress wanted the United States Army to be charged with the task of protecting the president.

In the decades that followed, the Secret Service thwarted high-profile assassination attempts against the likes of President Taft and President Truman. Then, following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, the Secret Service recruited more agents and sharply increased the gathering of intelligence — a tragic echo of the call-to-action heeded post-McKinley.

After Kennedy, the Secret Service was able to stop assassination attempts on President Ford and President Reagan, while their mere presence has likely deterred many other attempts. Indeed, the Secret Service itself investigates thousands of incidents each year of people threatening the president.

Today, more than 4,000 dedicated Secret Service members protect not only the president, but also the vice president, their families, former presidents, presidential candidates, and many others. The gallery above offers just a snapshot of both dramatic and routine days from this past century of the Secret Service.


Still curious? Learn more about some of the strangest presidential assassination attempts in United States history. Want more? Check out 39 haunting Kennedy assassination photos that most people have never seen.

Kellen Perry
Kellen Perry writes about television, history, music, art, video games, and food for ATI, Grunge, Ranker, Ranker Insights, and anyone else that will have him.
Close Pop-in
Like All That Is Interesting

Get The Most Fascinating Content On The Web In Your Facebook & Twitter Feeds