Skip to Content

U.S. Marshals Service

U.S. Marshals Service for Students


Historical Timeline

The U.S. Marshals Service is the nation’s oldest and most versatile federal law enforcement agency. Since its inception, the U.S. Marshals have served the country through a variety of vital law enforcement activities.

1789 Congress passed the Judiciary Act, providing U.S. Marshals to support the federal courts and to carry out all lawful orders by judges, Congress, or the President.

1789-1865   Until the creation of the Secret Service in 1865, Marshals were frequently called upon to pursue counterfeiters.   Pursuing Counterfeiters

1790-1870   U.S. Marshals were required by Congress to take the national census every ten years.

1801  President Jefferson designated U.S. Marshals as the collection and disbursal agents of the Federal court system.  By this time U.S. Marshals were also involved in hiring and supervising jails for Federal prisoners and executing court martials.

1815  U.S. Marshals work as police against pirates and the territory gained through the Louisiana Purchase that later became a state.  Louisiana Purchase

1865-1900 The various labor disputes of the late 1800's caused civil disturbances where U.S. Marshals were called upon to maintain law and order as an alternative to military intervention.

1882  U.S. Marshals tried to keep law and order in the old west. Four Deputy U.S. Marshals Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday participated in a gunfight at the OK Corral.

1888  Animosities between Republicans and Democrats peaked in violent outbreaks at the polls and tampering with ballots. U.S. Marshals upheld the Constitution by controlling disturbances at voting sites and preserving the citizen's right to vote.

1889   U.S. Marshals helped maintain law and order in the Oklahoma Territory.

1894 During the Pullman strike, U.S. Marshals were ordered by the federal courts and the Cleveland administration to keep the trains rolling.

1896  The Justice Department created salaries for Marshals. Before that, a Marshal received $2.00 for any outlaw he brought in alive. However, if an outlaw were killed during his capture, the Marshal received no compensation and was responsible for the burial fee for the dead prisoner.

1920  Until the Treasury Department created the Bureau of Prohibitions in 1927, the U.S. Marshals were the enforcing agents of the Prohibition laws that forbid liquor.  Prohibition

1957  Marshals help protect African American people trying obtaining equal treatment.

1960  Marshals provide security to James Meredith and Ruby Bridges when they become integrated in public education facilities.  Segregation

1967  Marshals help protect the rights to lawfully protest as well as stop violence during public protest.

1971   The Witness Security Program was established as a division within the USMS. Also, the Special Operations Group (SOG) was established to provide a well trained, self-sufficient, mobile group of deputies capable of responding anywhere within a few hours.

1973  Marshals and FBI agents contained the uprising at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.  Wounded Knee

1979  The USMS assumed the responsibility for the apprehension of federal fugitives.

1981  The first of the Fugitive Investigation Strike Team (FIST) operations was established to operate as a multi-agency taskforce to apprehend federal, state, and local fugitives.  FIST Information

1985  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.

1996 U.S. Marshals assumed the responsibility for the Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System (JPATS), which merged the air fleets of the Marshals Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). In addition, as a result of the bombings and threats against abortion clinic, U.S. Marshals were responsible for protecting the clinics and doctors.

1997 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.

1998  U.S. Marshals established a foreign investigative presence in the U.S. Embassy, Mexico City, Mexico, with the assignment of two criminal investigators.

1999  U.S. Marshals signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Customs giving the USMS responsibility to investigate the majority of their fugitive warrants. is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justice