Eliot Ness (April 19, 1903 – May 16, 1957) was an American Prohibition agent, famous for his efforts to bring down Al Capone and enforce Prohibition in Chicago, Illinois, and the leader of a famous team of law enforcement agents from Chicago, nicknamed The Untouchables. His co-authorship of a popular autobiography, The Untouchables, which was released shortly after his death, launched several television and motion picture portrayals that established Ness's posthumous fame as an incorruptible crime fighter.
|Born||April 19, 1903|
|Died||May 16, 1957 (aged 54)|
|Department||Bureau of Prohibition|
Cleveland Division of Police
|Rank||Chief Investigator of the Prohibition Bureau for Chicago in 1934|
Director for Public Safety for Cleveland, Ohio
Eliot Ness was born on April 19, 1903, in the Kensington neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. He was the youngest of five children born to Peter Ness (1850–1931) and Emma (King) Ness (1863–1937). His parents, both Norwegian immigrants, operated a bakery. Ness attended Christian Fenger High School in Chicago. He was educated at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1925 with a degree in political science and business administration, and was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He began his career as an investigator for the Retail Credit Company of Atlanta assigned to the Chicago territory, where he conducted background investigations for the purpose of credit information. In 1929, he returned to the university to take a graduate course in criminology taught by August Vollmer, a noted police reformer and chief of the Berkeley Police Department. Vollmer's ideas about professionalizing law enforcement would influence Ness throughout his career.:29-43, 64-67, 202-204 
Ness's brother-in-law, Alexander Jamie, an agent of the Bureau of Investigation (which became the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935), influenced Ness to enter law enforcement. Ness joined the U.S. Treasury Department in 1926, working with the 1,000-strong Bureau of Prohibition in Chicago.:67-71, 96-105
In March 1930, attorney Frank J. Loesch of the Chicago Crime Commission asked President Herbert Hoover to take down Al Capone. Agents of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, working under Elmer Irey and Special Agent Frank J. Wilson of the Intelligence Unit, were already investigating Capone and his associates for income tax evasion. In late 1930, Attorney General William D. Mitchell, seeking a faster end to the case, implemented a plan devised by President Hoover for sending a small team of Prohibition agents, working under a special United States attorney, to target the illegal breweries and supply routes of Capone while gathering evidence of conspiracy to violate the National Prohibition Act (informally known as the Volstead Act). U.S. attorney George E.Q. Johnson, the Chicago prosecutor directly in charge of both the Prohibition and income tax investigations of Capone, chose the twenty-seven-year-old Ness (now assigned to the Justice Department) to lead this small squad.:170-172, 239-241, 247-250, 265-269, 311-314
With corruption of Chicago's law enforcement agents epidemic, Ness went through the records of all Prohibition agents to create a reliable team (initially of six, eventually growing to about ten) later known as "The Untouchables." Raids against illegal stills and breweries began in March 1931. Within six months, Ness's agents had destroyed bootlegging operations worth an estimated $500,000 and representing an additional $2 million in lost income for Capone; their raids would ultimately cost Capone in excess of $9 million in lost revenue. The main source of information for the raids was an extensive wire-tapping operation. Failed attempts by members of the Chicago Outfit to bribe or intimidate Ness and his agents inspired Charles Schwarz of the Chicago Daily News to begin calling them "untouchables," a term Schwarz borrowed from newspaper stories about the untouchables of India. George Johnson adopted the nickname and promoted it to the press, establishing it as the squad's unofficial title.:317-331, 349-365, 419-421, 493
The efforts of Ness and his team inflicted major financial damage on Capone's operations and led to his indictment on five thousand violations of the Volstead Act in June 1931. But federal judge James H. Wilkerson prevented that indictment from coming to trial, instead pursuing the tax evasion case built by George Johnson and Frank Wilson.:385-421, 493-496 On October 17, 1931, Capone was convicted on five of twenty-two tax evasion charges. He was sentenced to eleven years in prison and, following a failed appeal, began his sentence in 1932. On May 3, 1932, Ness was among the federal agents who took Capone from the Cook County Jail to Dearborn Station, where he boarded the Dixie Flyer to the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary – the only time both men are known to have met in person.:423-461, 496-501
In 1932, Ness was promoted to Chief Investigator of the Prohibition Bureau for Chicago. Following the end of Prohibition in 1933, he was assigned as an alcohol tax agent in the "Moonshine Mountains" of southern Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and in 1934 he was transferred to Cleveland, Ohio. In December 1935, Cleveland mayor Harold H. Burton hired Ness as the city's Safety Director, which put him in charge of both the police and fire departments. Ness soon began a groundbreaking reform program inspired by the ideas of August Vollmer, which focused on professionalizing and modernizing the police, stopping juvenile delinquency, and improving traffic safety. He declared war on the mob, and his primary targets included "Big" Angelo Lonardo, "Little" Angelo Scirrca, Moe Dalitz, John Angerola, George Angersola, and Charles Pollizi.:493, 529-530
Ness was also Safety Director at the time of several grisly murders that occurred in the Cleveland area from 1935 to 1938; though he had oversight of the police department, he was only peripherally involved in the investigation. Ness was the one who interrogated one of the prime suspects of the murders, Dr. Francis E. Sweeney, using a polygraph test. At one point in time, two victims of the serial killer were in close proximity to city hall, the place where he worked.
In 1938, Ness and his wife Edna divorced. His otherwise remarkably successful career in Cleveland withered gradually. He especially fell out of favor after he had the city’s large shantytowns evacuated and burned during the Cleveland Torso Murders. Cleveland critics targeted his divorce, his high-profile social drinking, and his conduct in a car accident one night where he was driving drunk. Although there were no victims in the accident, Ness, fearful that he might lose his job, tried to get the accident covered up. Later, his involvement in the accident was revealed by a local newspaper and calls for his resignation increased; however, Burton's successor as mayor, Frank Lausche, kept Ness on.
In 1939 Ness married illustrator Evaline Michelow. In 1942 the Nesses moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked for the federal government. He directed the battle against prostitution in communities surrounding military bases, where venereal disease was a serious problem. Later he made a number of forays into the corporate world, all of which failed owing to his lack of business acumen. In 1944, he left to become chairman of the Diebold Corporation, a security safe company based in Ohio.
After his second divorce and third marriage, he ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Cleveland in 1947, after which he was expelled from Diebold in 1951. In the aftermath, Ness began drinking more heavily and spending his free time in bars telling stories of his law enforcement career. He also spent himself into debt. Ness was forced into taking various odd jobs to earn a living, including electronics parts wholesaler, clerk in a bookstore, and salesman of frozen hamburger patties to restaurants. By 1953 he came to work for a startup company called Guaranty Paper Corporation, which specialized in watermarking legal and official documents to prevent counterfeiting. Ness was offered a job because of his expertise in law enforcement. The company soon moved from Cleveland to the quiet rural town of Coudersport, Pennsylvania, where operating costs were lower. He made a decent income from GPC and moved with his wife and adopted son into a modest rental house.
In 1931, a member of Al Capone's gang promised Ness that two $1,000 notes would be on his desk every Monday morning if he turned a blind eye to their bootlegging activities (roughly $33,000 a week in 2018 adjusting for inflation). Ness refused the bribe and in later years struggled with money; he died almost broke at the age of 54. Ness and his role in bringing down Al Capone had been largely forgotten at the time of his death in 1957. His heroic reputation underwent a resurgence with the posthumous publication of the 1957 book he had co-written with Oscar Fraley and the 1959 and 1993 television series, 1987 film, and related media adapted from it.:359-360, 531-532
Ness was married to Edna Stahle from 1929 to 1938, illustrator Evaline Michelow (1911–1986) from 1939 to 1945, and artist Elisabeth Andersen Seaver (1906–1977) from 1946 until his death in 1957. He also had an adopted son, Robert (1946–1976).:124-125, 201
Ness collapsed and died at his home in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, of a massive heart attack on May 16, 1957; he was 54. His ashes were scattered in one of the small ponds on the grounds of Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland. He was survived by his widow, Elisabeth Andersen Seaver, and adopted son, Robert.
The Western Reserve Historical Society houses additional Ness papers, including a scrapbook (1928–1936), copies of newspaper clippings (1935–1950), a typewritten manuscript detailing Ness's career in Chicago, and miscellaneous papers, including a report on the Fidelity Check Corporation and Guaranty Paper, of which Ness was president.
Numerous media works have been developed based on Eliot Ness's life and the legend surrounding his work in Chicago. The first of these resulted in Ness's last years from his collaboration with Oscar Fraley in writing the book The Untouchables (1957), which was published a month after Ness's death and went on to sell 1.5 million copies. This book, among Fraley's other books about the Untouchables, was heavily spiced with fiction, including fictional characters and events, to make the books more appealing to a general audience. The 21-page manuscript that Ness wrote for the book was a more trustworthy source and only included the real events that Ness experienced during his career. His manuscript is housed in the archives of the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio.
The book was adapted in multiple media and inspired many additional works. The best-known eponymous adaptations include the 1959 TV series The Untouchables starring Robert Stack as Ness and narrated by Walter Winchell and the 1987 film The Untouchables by Brian De Palma starring Kevin Costner as Ness and featuring Sean Connery and Robert De Niro. These two fictionalized portrayals, more than actual history, have inspired numerous novels, a second, short-lived 1993 TV series titled The Untouchables and comic books such as Torso.
Max Allan Collins used Ness as the "police contact/best friend" character in his series of historical private eye novels featuring Chicago detective Nate Heller. Later he spun Ness off into his own series, set during his tenure as Cleveland's Public Safety Director. The first book, The Dark City (1987), depicted Ness's getting hired and undertaking a cleanup of the graft-ridden police force; the second, Butcher's Dozen (1988), his pursuit of the serial killer known as the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run. Bullet Proof (1989) pitted Ness against labor racketeers intent on taking over Cleveland's food service industry. Murder by the Numbers (1993) depicted Ness's investigation of the numbers racket in Cleveland. All of these novels, while fictionalized, were closely based on actual cases investigated by Ness and the Cleveland Police. In 2018, Collins collaborated with historian A. Brad Schwartz on a nonfiction dual biography of Ness and Capone, entitled Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago.
Cleveland-based Great Lakes Brewing Company, which claims several connections to Ness (including the brewery owners' mother having worked as his stenographer), named an amber lager "Eliot Ness" and included several subtle nods to his career in the beer description and label art.
On January 10, 2014, Illinois' U.S. Senators proposed naming the headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Washington, D.C. after Ness. If approved, it would have been called the Eliot Ness ATF Building. However, Chicago Aldermen Ed Burke (14th Ward) and James Balcer (11th Ward) opposed the resolution in an article in the Chicago Tribune. In a news release, Burke said: "Eliot Ness had a checkered career after leaving the federal government. I simply do not think his image matches the actual reality of his legacy."
Alexander Jamie was an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and eventually became the head of the Chicago department. He was later transferred to the Justice Department taking on the role of Chief Investigator with the Bureau of Prohibition in 1928. Alexander was the brother-in-law to Eliot Ness who was part of a famous team of law enforcement agents known for their efforts in bringing down Al Capone.Blues and Bullets
Blues and Bullets is an episodic alt-history noir video game developed and published by A Crowd of Monsters on Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. The first two episodes of the five-episode game were released in July 2015 and March 2016, and the remaining three episodes will be released at unknown dates.Cleveland Torso Murderer
The Tattooed Man redirects here. For the DC Comics character, see List of minor DC Comics characters.
The Cleveland Torso Murderer (also known as the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run) was an unidentified serial killer who was active in Cleveland, Ohio, United States in the 1930s. The killings were defined by the dismemberment of twelve known victims and the disposal of their remains in the impoverished neighborhood of Kingsbury Run. Despite an investigation of the murders, which at one time was led by famed lawman and Cleveland's then-Public Safety Director Eliot Ness, the murderer was never apprehended.List of The Untouchables (1959 TV series) episodes
This is a list of episodes for the 1959–63 television series The Untouchables, starring Robert Stack as Eliot Ness.List of The Untouchables (1993 TV series) episodes
This is a list of episodes for the 1993–94 television series The Untouchables, starring Tom Amandes as Eliot Ness.Max Allan Collins
Max Allan Collins (born March 3, 1948) is an American mystery writer. His work has been published in several formats and his Road to Perdition series was the basis for a film of the same name. He wrote the Dick Tracy newspaper strip for many years and has produced numerous novels featuring the character as well.Oscar Fraley
Oscar Fraley (August 2, 1914 – January 6, 1994) was the co-author, with Eliot Ness, of the famous American memoir The Untouchables.Paul Picerni
Horacio Paul Picerni (December 1, 1922 – January 12, 2011) was an American actor in film and television, perhaps best known today in the role of Federal Agent Lee Hobson, second-in-command to Robert Stack's Eliot Ness, in the ABC hit television series, The Untouchables.Roswell, Texas
Roswell, Texas is a serialized, online graphic novel which started in 2006 and was completed early in 2008. It appeared in installments on the web site of Big Head Press.
Written by science fiction novelist L. Neil Smith with Rex F. May (better known as the cartoonist Baloo) and illustrated by artist Scott Bieser, with coloring by Jen Zach and lettering by Zeke Bieser, Roswell, Texas is an alternate history set in a universe in which Davy Crockett survived the Alamo and Santa Anna didn't, and in which an expanded Texas eventually became the "Federated States of Texas" rather than one of the United States.
The novel's plot centers around the 1947 crash of an unidentified flying object (analogous to the "real-world" Roswell UFO incident) near Roswell, the westernmost city of the Federated States of Texas (analogous to the real-world town of Roswell, New Mexico). Its theme incorporates Smith's well-known libertarian philosophy and sensibilities.
Outside of North America, other differences between our timeline and this one exist. World War II (known as the "European War" in this universe) is still being fought into the late 1940s, without Japanese or American involvement. The United Kingdom has allied with Nazi Germany, with King Edward VIII becoming a puppet ruler. Many European people have emigrated to Texas. The United States have suspended the Bill of Rights. California never joined the Union, becoming an independent state like Texas in the novel.
Roswell, Texas makes extensive use of anachronism and anatopism in its story line. Historical personalities including Charles Lindbergh (and his son, Charles Lindbergh III, who in real life was abducted and murdered as an infant), Audie Murphy, Malcolm X, Pope John Paul II, Gene Roddenberry, Eliot Ness, Lawrence of Arabia, Charles de Gaulle, Walt Disney and others appear in roles often tangentially related to, but always significantly different from, their "real-world" biographies. Additionally, characters from Smith's other works (notably William "Win" Bear, protagonist of The Probability Broach and other novels in Smith's "North American Confederacy" series) appear in key or supporting roles as "alternate history" versions of their own fictional selves.
As of March 18, 2008, Roswell, Texas was complete at 640 pages—some consisting of a single illustration, others of multiple panels.
In June 2008, a gray-scale paperback reprint of Roswell, Texas was published by Big Head Press. ISBN 0-9743814-5-4Secret Six (Chicago)
The Secret Six was a name given (by James Doherty of The Chicago Tribune) to six influential businessmen in Chicago who organized the business community against Al Capone.Steve London
Steve London (March 9, 1929 – June 14, 2014) was an American television and film actor and attorney, best known for his role as Federal Agent Jack Rossman on the ABC/Desilu Television series, The Untouchables from 1959–1963, which starred Robert Stack as Eliot Ness.The Revenge of Al Capone
The Revenge of Al Capone (also known as Capone) is a 1989 American television film about Al Capone starring Keith Carradine as Michael Rourke. The plot is not based on fact but rather is based on a revisionist interpretation of the 1933 attempted murder of President-elect Roosevelt by delusional anarchist Giuseppe Zangara.The Untouchables (1959 TV series)
The Untouchables is an American crime drama that ran from 1959 to 1963 on the ABC Television Network, produced by Desilu Productions. Based on the memoir of the same name by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley, it fictionalized Ness's experiences as a Prohibition agent, fighting crime in Chicago in the 1930s with the help of a special team of agents handpicked for their courage, moral character, and incorruptibility, nicknamed the Untouchables. The book was later made into a film in 1987 (also called The Untouchables) by Brian De Palma, with a script by David Mamet, and a second, less-successful TV series in 1993.
A dynamic, hard-hitting action drama, and a landmark television crime series, The Untouchables won series star Robert Stack an Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Dramatic Series in 1960.The Untouchables (1993 TV series)
The Untouchables is an American crime drama series that aired for two seasons in syndication, from January 1993 to May 1994. The series portrayed work of the real life Untouchables federal investigative squad in Prohibition-era Chicago and its efforts against Al Capone's attempts to profit from the market in bootleg liquor.
The series features Tom Amandes as Eliot Ness and William Forsythe as Al Capone, and was based on the 1959 series and 1987 film of the same name.The Untouchables (film)
The Untouchables is a 1987 American gangster film directed by Brian De Palma, produced by Art Linson, written by David Mamet, and based on the book of the same name (1957). The film stars Kevin Costner, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, Robert De Niro, and Sean Connery, and follows Eliot Ness (Costner) as he forms the Untouchables team to bring Al Capone (De Niro) to justice during Prohibition. The Grammy Award-winning score was composed by Ennio Morricone and features period music by Duke Ellington.The Untouchables premiered on June 2, 1987 in New York City, and went into general release on June 3, 1987 in the United States. The film grossed $106.2 million worldwide and received generally positive reviews from critics. It was nominated for four Academy Awards; Connery won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.The Untouchables of Elliot Mouse
The Untouchables of Elliot Mouse is a 26 half-hour television animated series loosely inspired by the real life Eliot Ness, and his group of agents colloquially known as the Untouchables, and their investigation into the real life gangster Al Capone, although (as with past adaptations) it does take some liberties with history. The series also parodies the violent atmosphere of Chicago during the Dry Law, as well as the old American films, their heroes and villains. The main characters in this series are four friendly mice: Elliot "Mouse", Gordon, Mr. Wilson, and Jack the Irishman, although there are also some cats and dogs.Tom Amandes
Tom Amandes (born March 9, 1959) is an American actor. His best-known role to date is that of the role of Dr. Harold "Hal" Abbott on The WB Drama series Everwood, and as Eliot Ness in the 1990s version of The Untouchables TV series. He also played Geena Davis' boyfriend in The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Abraham Lincoln in the 2012 film Saving Lincoln.Torso (Image Comics)
Torso is a true crime limited series graphic novel written by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko, with art and lettering by Brian Michael Bendis. It is based on the true story of the Cleveland Torso Murderer, and the efforts of the famous lawman Eliot Ness and his band of the "Unknowns” to capture him.
Bendis was initially inspired to write the novel after reading the files about the murders. As a Cleveland native, Bendis wrote the novel to pay homage to his hometown. Together with co-writer Andreyko, they crafted the comic with various historical photographs and clippings from the era. After its release, the graphic novel was critically well-received by the comic book community and elevated Bendis' career in the industry. The graphic novel was originally published by Image Comics and later reprinted under Marvel's Icon imprint. Since then, various attempts to adapt the novel into film have been proposed.Untouchables (law enforcement)
The Untouchables were special agents of the U.S. Bureau of Prohibition led by Eliot Ness, who, from 1930 to 1932, worked to end Al Capone's illegal activities by aggressively enforcing Prohibition laws against his organization. Legendary for being fearless and incorruptible, they earned the nickname "The Untouchables" after several agents refused large bribes from members of the Chicago Outfit.Due to its significant success and enduring legacy, the unit has subsequently had a lasting impact on the techniques and methods of modern organized crime law enforcement units.