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U.S. Marshals Service

Historical Timeline 


Isaac Huger, one of the original U.S. MarshalsOldest Federal Law Enforcement Agency  On September 24, President George Washington appointed the first 13 U.S. Marshals following the passage of the first Judiciary Act


The U.S. Marshal has historically conducted death sentences on those condemned by federal courts.


Until the creation of the Secret Service in 1865, Marshals were frequently called upon to pursue counterfeiters.


U.S. Marshals were required by Congress to take the national census every ten years.


Robert ForsythU.S. Marshal Robert Forsyth was murdered while serving civil process on the Allen brothers.

Conclusion: Retired Deputy U.S. Marshal Follows the Trail of Robert Forsyth’s Murderer


August 4 - Supreme Court Justice James Wilson certified that the Whiskey Rebels were "too powerful to be suppressed by the powers vested in the Marshal of that district".  President Washington called out the state militia.

September 7 - The state militia marched against the Whiskey Rebels.  U.S. Marshal David Lenox rode with them and marched under the command of President Washington, the only time in American history a president has taken the field at the head of his army.


July 13 - Congress passed the Sedition Act punishing unlawful combinations against the government or publishing "false, scandalous, and malicious writing" about the government.  U.S. Marshals and Attorneys enforced the infamous law.


Upon passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 by Congress, U.S. Marshals enforced the Act by arresting fugitive slaves and returning them to their southern masters. Marshals were required to enforce the law.  Any negligence in doing so exposed Marshals and deputies to severe financial penalties. 


November 14 - William Walker launched a military expedition against Nicaragua.  Although arrested by U.S. Marshal William Wagner (E/LA), Walker posted bail.  The expedition failed in the face of poor weather, poor organization, and British ships.

1861-1864   U.S. Marshal Lamon

During the Civil War, U.S. Marshals confiscated property used to support the Confederacy and helped root out Confederate spies.  Lincoln and His Deputy   The Undefeated Rebel


U.S. Marshals were instrumental in keeping law and order in the "Old West" era and involved in apprehending desperadoes such as the Dalton Gang, Bill Doolin, and Ned Christie. See also:
Line of duty deaths prevalent in Old West  How much does it cost to find Billy the Kid?

1870   On July 1, 1870, Congress created the Department of Justice and gave it supervision over U.S. Marshals and Attorneys.

U.S. Marshals assisted Internal Revenue agents (who had no arrest powers) in enforcing the whiskey tax laws.


Prisoner Custody in the 1880's


October 26 - Tombstone, Arizona Territory - Marshal Virgil Earp and his deputies, brothers Wyatt and Morgan Earp, and Doctor John H. Holliday, gunned down Frank and Tom McLaury, and Billy Clanton in a vacant lot just down the street from the O.K. Corral.1881:  


Deputy Neagle shooting TerryThe Supreme Court held that the President has power, through the Attorney General, to direct a United States Marshal to accompany and protect federal judges from a threatened assault: Judicial Protection: Cunningham vs Neagle 135 U.S. 1 (1890) ; See also In the matter of David Neagle, Deputy U.S. Marshal


During the Pullman strike, U.S. Marshals were ordered by the federal courts and the Cleveland administration to keep the trains rolling.  


July 1 - The fee system of paying Marshals was abolished.  The Marshals were put on annual salary.


November 20 - Francisco Madero launched a revolution from U.S. soil against Mexican President Porfirio Diaz.  The subsequent turmoil in Mexico compelled the U.S. Marshals  to protect the  Mexican-American border.

1906-1943   U.S. Marshals Badge for China consular courtsU.S. Marshals served the consular courts in China

Marshals and World War I: While American troops fought in the trenches of Europe, United States Marshals protected the home front against enemy aliens, spies, and saboteurs.


October 27 - The Volstead Act activated the 18th Amendment’s prohibition on liquor.  During Prohibition, U.S. Marshals arrested bootleggers and seized all of their equipment - cars, trucks, breweries, and warehouses.


The 18th Amendment was ratified, prohibiting the manufacture, sale, and transportation of intoxicating beverages.  U.S. Marshals were the principal enforcing agents.


The Twentieth Century era of specialization left the U.S. Marshals performing fewer functions related to the courts.


October 13 - U.S. Marshals were requested to run background checks on deputies.


December 17 - The Executive Office of U.S. Marshals was created.


U.S. marshals escorting child to schoolU.S. Marshals provided security to enforce federal laws and orders related to civil rights. After riots erupted over James Meredith's enrollment at Ole Miss in 1962, teams of deputies protected him 24 hours a day for an entire year. In a similar circumstance, Ruby Bridges was also provided U.S. Marshals protection when she was one of the first students to integrate the New Orleans public schools. 

1967   October 21 - Deputy U.S. Marshals protect the Pentagon against possible damage.  See: U.S. Marshals and the Pentagon Riot

The U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) was established as a headquarters organization, overseeing the district U.S. Marshals.  Former agency leaders


The Witness Security Program was established as a division within the USMS after the passage of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970.   The Special Operations Group (SOG) was established to provide a well trained, self-sufficient, mobile group of deputies capable of responding anywhere within the United States and its territories within a few hours of receiving an activation order.


Marshals and FBI agents contained the unrest at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.


The USMS assumed the responsibility for the apprehension of federal fugitives. The capture of Christopher Boyce was the first high profile fugitive arrested by the Marshals after their fugitive responsibilities were expanded to include escapees from federal prison facilities.


The first of the Fugitive Investigation Strike Team (FIST operations) was established to operate as a multi-agency task force to apprehend federal, state, and local fugitives.


The closing of the Panama Canal Zone Marshals Service Office.  In cooperation with the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, established the Court Security Officer Program.


Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984


Forfeited Mercedes U.S. Marshals assumed the responsibility for managing and disposing of properties seized and forfeited by federal law enforcement agencies and U.S. Attorneys nationwide.

Marshals Service acquired its first Boeing 727 used for prisoner transportation


Commerative Seal for 200th AnniversaryU.S. Marshals celebrated 200 years of service to the United States Official U.S. Law Enforcement entity in Antarctica


U.S. Marshals assumed the responsibility for the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS), which merged the air fleets of the USMS and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

Marshals Protect Clinics and Doctors - As a result of the bombings and threats against abortion clinics, U.S. Marshals were responsible for protecting the clinics and doctors.


U.S. Marshals provided security for the Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols trials, convicted of bombing the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.


Investigative Presence in Mexico - U.S. Marshals established a foreign investigative presence in the U.S. Embassy, Mexico City, Mexico.

1999   USMS signed a Memorandum of Understanding with U.S. Customs, giving the USMS responsibility to investigate the majority of their fugitive warrants.


Photo of Operation Falcon ArrestU.S. Marshals completed the largest fugitive apprehension operation in American history. Through Operation FALCON (“Federal And Local Cops Organized Nationally”), which was conducted April 4–10, 2005, Deputy U.S. Marshals and their law enforcement partners arrested a total of 10,340 fugitives and cleared more than 13,800 felony warrants.




Operation FALCON II April 17- 23, 2006 - U.S. Marshals coordinated with federal, state, city and county law enforcement agencies in a massive fugitive dragnet.  Read More

Operation FALCON III - Federal and Local Cops Organized Nationally - A massive fugitive operation took place the week of October 22- 28, 2006 and covered the eastern half of the United States.  As a cooperative effort, Operation FALCON III removed some of the country’s most dangerous sex offenders and gang members from the streets.


fugitive safe surrenderFugitive Safe Surrender was authorized by Congress in July 2006.  The program is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.  A unique, creative, and highly successful initiative that encourages persons wanted for non-violent felony or misdemeanor crimes to voluntarily surrender to the law in a faith-based or other neutral setting. 

2007   Astronaut Jim Reilly with America's StarAmerica's Star in Space Again! 


 FALCON 2007 focused on gang members and gang activity in targeted urban areas.


FALCON 2008 - In June 2008, the U.S. Marshals teamed with its partners from federal, state, and local law enforcement to engage in the record-breaking Operation FALCON 2008.  This represented the fifth effort in a continuing series of historically successful national fugitive apprehension missions, and resulted in the collective capture of more than 55,800 dangerous fugitive felons. 

A Visit to Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Helen Crawford, Retired - At age 100, Helen Crawford still prides her long career with the U.S. Marshals. On July 14, 2008, from the sitting room at an assisted living facility, Bonner Place in Jacksonville, Texas, she related the most exciting of times.  ** Ms. Helen V. Crawford passed on June 29, 2010, just two weeks shy of her 102nd birthday.  Representing the Eastern District of Texas at the service was former U.S. Marshal John Moore and former Chief Deputy David Sligh.  She was interred at Cathedral in the Pines, Beaumont, Texas.  She was an original and will be greatly missed. 

2011   May 18 - June 2 - Manifesto and other belongings of "The Unibomber" auctioned online.

June 22 - Former mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger, 81, and longtime girlfriend Catherine Greig, 60, were arrested in Santa Monica, California by a team that included both U.S. Marshals and the FBI. Bulger disappeared when about to be indicted in 1995. He was extradited by U.S. Marshals to the Boston’s John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse to face 19 murder charges related to his long criminal career.


September 24 - The 225th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals and the Federal Courts. Celebrations are simultaneously held in Fort Smith, where the forthcoming U.S. Marshals Museum will be, in the 94 districts, and at our Headquarters in Washington, D.C. is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justice