Sunday, June 26, 2016

A Brief History of The United States Secret Service

By: Michele Morris

On the night of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, one of the pieces of legislation laying on his desk was the establishment of the "Secret Service Division" of the Department of the Treasury.

At the end of the American Civil War, an estimated one-third of the U.S. currency in circulation was counterfeit. To combat the growing counterfeit problem, the United States Government formed the Secret Service on July 5th, 1865.
USSS Badge 1890-1971

Soon, tracking down forgers was not the only duty of the new Secret Service. In 1867, the Secret Service’s duties were expanded to include “detecting persons perpetrating fraud against the government”. Their inquiries included the Ku Klux Klan, non-conforming distillers, mail thieves, land scams, smugglers and a number of other criminal activities. In addition, the U.S. Marshals Service did not have the manpower to cover all misconduct under federal jurisdiction, so the Secret Service absorbed some of the U.S. Marshals caseloads, and again evolving to investigate unlawful activities including murder, illegal gambling and racketeering, and bank robbery.

During President Grover Cleveland’s term, in 1894, the Secret Service began to
informally provide part-time protection to the president. They continued this service until 1901 when President William McKinley was assassinated and Congress requested the Secret Service to provide full-time protection to the
President McKinley
Commander and Chief.

It wasn’t until a year later that two men were assigned full-time to the White House detail. In the same year, 1902, William Craig became the first Secret Service agent to die while on duty. He perished in a road accident while riding in the presidential carriage.

For a time, a lack of designated funds kept the Secret Service from allocating more agents to presidential protection. So The Sundry Civil Expense Act for 1907 was passed by Congress to afford money specifically to enable the Secret Service to provide protection to the president. During 1908, the Secret Service duties began to include security for the President-elect.

One of the many heroic stories of bravery committed by the Secret Service took place November 1st, 1950. At this time, the White House underwent lengthy renovations, thus displacing President Harry S. Truman across the street to the
President Harry S. Truman
Blair House. While residing there, two Puerto Rican nationalists, Oscar Collazo, and Griselio Torresola, opened fire on White House Police officers. (White House Police came under the supervision of the Secret Service) Though mortally wounded by multiple gunshots, Private Leslie Coffelt returned fire, killing Torresola with a single shot to his head. Private Coffelt is the only Secret Service Agent to be killed while protecting the president from an assassination attempt. Due to this attack, Congress created legislation that made the Secret Service permanently responsible for the protection of the president, his family, the vice-president, and the president-elect.

1967 and 1968 ushered in more changes to the Secret Service. This expansion was due, in part, to President John F. Kennedy’s assignation in Dallas, Texas, 1963, and his brother, Robert Kennedy’s assignation, June 6th, 1968. Congress authorized protection of major presidential and vice presidential candidates and nominees, and also approved the lifetime protection of the spouses of deceased presidents unless they remarry, and of the children of former presidents until age sixteen.

The Secret Service has shown its self-capable of changing with the times. Today the duties of the Secret Service include everything from physical protection to
snail-mail fraud and cyber threats against our government and its officials. Each agent would give their life to do his or her duty. As an American, I’m proud of the job they and every other service man or woman carries out for us, our country and our continued freedoms.

Thank you for joining me today at Heroes, Heroines, and History!

Award winning author, Michele Morris’s love for historical fiction began when she first read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House book series. She grew up riding horses and spending her free time in the woods of mid-Michigan dreaming of days-gone-by and knights-in-shining-armor. Therefore, it only makes sense that she now writes historical romance with a touch of suspense. Married to her high school sweetheart, they are living happily-ever-after with their six children, three in-loves, and six grandchildren in Florida, the sunshine state. When not spending time with her large brood or writing, Michele enjoys photography, genealogy, and cooking.


  1. This is very interesting....I never knew all of the Secret Service's duties until I read this. Brave souls. God bless them.

  2. I was also surprised with the diversity of the USSS. I guess I assumed they had always protected the president and that was that. I thoroughly enjoyed researching these brave protectors. Thank you for the comment and have a blessed day!

  3. Hi Michele, thanks for a very interesting post. I didn't realize the scope or charge of the USSS either. I think of them as the "men in black" and the mystery around them. My respect level for them certainly went up several notches. Thanks again.

  4. Thank you for the comment, Linda. I like your thought, "Men in Black", that's a great visual! :) Have a wonderful day, and thank you for stopping in.