Eliot Ness and the Untouchables

Herbert Hoover

Summary of Eliot Ness
Summary: Eliot Ness (1903 – 1957) was an American Prohibition government agent (G-Man) based in Chicago who was made responsible for the enforcement of the 18th Amendment Prohibition law, enacted by the Volsted Act, that prohibited the illegal manufacturing and consumption of alcohol. To counter police corruption in Chicago he selected a squad of eleven special Prohibition enforcement agents in 1930 known as "The Untouchables". Their mission was to combat the activities of gangster Al Capone and his crime syndicate, the Chicago Mafia (aka the Outfit or the Chicago Mob). The investigations of Eliot Ness and "The Untouchables" ultimately led to the conviction of Al "Scarface" Capone and other Chicago gangsters involved in organized crime.

Eliot Ness
Herbert Hoover was the 31st American President who served in office from March 4, 1929 to March 4, 1933. One of the important events during his presidency was the emerging role of the FBI and the role of Eliot Ness and "The Untouchables" in the downfall of Al Capone.


Eliot Ness Credentials

Eliot Ness Credentials

Eliot Ness Facts: Fast Fact Sheet
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the Eliot Ness.

Who was the Eliot Ness? Eliot Ness was the famous Government Agent (G-Man) who led a group of 11 law enforcement agents, called the "Untouchables" in 1930-1931, during the Prohibition Era. Eliot Ness was famous as a champion of law and order who did not tolerate corruption or lawlessness.

What did Eliot Ness die from? Eliot Ness died from a heart attack on May 16, 1957 shortly before his autobiography, co-written with Oscar Fraley, was published

Where was Eliot Ness buried? Eliot Ness was buried in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio

What was Eliot Ness famous for? Eliot Ness was famous for bringing down Al "Scarface" Capone and other gangsters in the Chicago Mafia.

Who played Eliot Ness?
The role of Eliot Ness was famously played by Robert Stack in the TV series (1959-1963) called 'The Untouchables', Kevin Costner in the 1987 movie also called 'The Untouchables'. In the TV crime drama 'Boardwalk Empire' the character of Eliot Ness was played by Jim True-Frost.

Eliot Ness Facts for kids
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Eliot Ness

Facts about the Eliot Ness for kids

Eliot Ness Fact 1: Eliot Ness was born in Chicago, Illinois on April 19, 1903. His parents were Norwegian immigrants Peter Ness and Emma King Ness. Eliot was the youngest of five children, Clara, Effie, Nina, Charles and Eliot. He was married three times, divorced twice, and had only one child called Robert by adoption. Ness was married in 1929 to Edna Staley of Chicago. In October 1939 he married Evaline McAndrews. On January 31, 1946, Ness married his third wife Elisabeth Anderson Seaver and they adopted Robert.

Eliot Ness Fact 2: He graduated from Fenger High School and then attended the University of Chicago and received a Bachelor's degree in political science and business in 1925.

Eliot Ness Fact 3: His family expected him to pursue a career or enter business. From the years 1925 to 1927 he worked as an investigator for the Retail Credit Company in Chicago. However, his brother-in-law, Alexander Jamie, who worked as an agent for the Justice Department sparked his interest in law enforcement.

Eliot Ness Fact 4: He studied criminology for 2 years and was accepted as an agent of the Treasury Department’s Chicago branch in 1927.

Eliot Ness Fact 5: On the recommendation of his brother-in-law, Alexander Jamie, he was transferred to the Chicago Prohibition Bureau in 1928.

Eliot Ness Fact 6: By the end of 1928, Al "Scarface" Capone was one of the most notorious gangsters in American history. Al Capone was the massively wealthy crime boss of the Chicago Mafia, aka the Outfit or the Chicago Mob who were pulling in approximately $60 million per year by bootlegging, operating 20 illegal breweries and controlling the sale of liquor to over 10,000 speakeasies.

Eliot Ness Fact 7: Al Capone enjoyed being a celebrity and created a flamboyant public image. The bribery and corruption of the police, politicians and Chicago city officials enabled Al Capone to operate his crime empire with relative impunity.

Eliot Ness Fact 8: Eliot Ness was earning a reputation in the Bureau as a firm defender of law and order, reliable and honest, who did not tolerate corruption or lawlessness.

Eliot Ness Fact 9: The violence of the St Valentine’s Day Massacre on 14 February 1929, with the alleged involvement of Al Capone, attracted unprecedented publicity.

Eliot Ness Fact 10: J. Edgar Hoover (1835 – 1972), director of the Bureau, understood the public relations value in taking out Al "Scarface" Capone. J. Edgar Hoover  had the support of the newly-elected President Herbert Hoover who was determined to end the career of Al Capone.

Eliot Ness Fact 11: At the end of 1930 J. Edgar Hoover tasked Eliot Ness with the job of setting up a special, incorruptible squad to take out the gangster and his Chicago crime syndicate.

Eliot Ness Fact 12: Eliot Ness searched the personnel files of potential squad members and asked for recommendation from his brother-in-law. He eventually initially selected nine men for the incorruptible team of agents who would become known as "The Untouchables". Two more men subsequently joined the squad - see the names and descriptions of the real Untouchables at the end of the page.


Facts about the Eliot Ness for kids

Facts about the Eliot Ness for kids
The following fact sheet continues with facts about Eliot Ness

Facts about Eliot Ness for kids

Eliot Ness Fact 13: Eliot Ness and the Untouchables began their mission in December 1930.

Eliot Ness Fact 14: Why were they called the Untouchables?  The agents were paid a small salary of less than $3000 per year. Al Capone believed that every man had his price. Eliot Ness was offered a weekly payoff and bribe of $2000 by the Capone outfit, as were agents Lahart and Seager. To refuse such massive bribes showed the honesty and determination of the squad.

Eliot Ness Fact 15: Why were they called the Untouchables? The failed attempt by Al Capone to bribe the special agents was seized on by Eliot Ness for publicity purposes and led to the press nickname of "The Untouchables".

Eliot Ness Fact 16: The strategy adopted by the squad was two-fold. Criminal investigators of the Treasury's Bureau of Internal Revenue, would investigate matters relating to tax avoidance. Agents from the Bureau of Prohibition would attack Capone's illegal liquor empire by raiding speakeasies, clubs, stills and breweries and his transportation network for alcohol.

Eliot Ness Fact 17: Al "Scarface" Capone had not filed an income tax return for several years which provided the IRS Untouchables to investigate his extravagant lifestyle with no visible means of legal support.

Eliot Ness Fact 18: The Prohibition agents in the squad tailed the lorries which collected empty beer barrels from speakeasies and returned them to Capone’s breweries.

Eliot Ness Fact 19: Once they had identified the warehouses and breweries, armed with sawed-off shotguns, axes and crowbars, they busted one after another with their steel enforced lorry they used as a battering-ram.

Eliot Ness Fact 20: During its first 6 months of operation, Eliot Ness and his team of Untouchables had closed down 19 distilleries and key breweries, worth an estimated $1,000,000 and siezed 20 stills. Thousands of gallons of beer and alcohol were dumped.

Eliot Ness Fact 21: Eliot Ness was seriously impacting Capone's operation. The crime boss was furious and several attempts were made to murder Ness including bomb attempts. The lives of the whole squad were in serious jeopardy and they had to move quickly to get Capone out of the way.

Eliot Ness Fact 22: In June 1931, just 6 months after the elite squad was formed, Al Capone and his gangster associates were indicted on more than 5,000 Prohibition-related offences.

Eliot Ness Fact 23: There was substantial legal wrangling and it was decided that it would be difficult to get a jury to go against someone with the celebrity status of Al Capone who had provided alcohol to willing customers. The decision was made that it would be easier to have Capone found guilty for tax evasion.

Eliot Ness Fact 24: On November 24, 1931 Al Capone was sentenced to eleven years in jail, fined $50,000 and charged  $215,000 (plus interest) due on back taxes.

Eliot Ness Fact 25: Following Al Capone's incarceration and the end of Prohibition in 1933, the Untouchables were disbanded.

Eliot Ness Fact 26: Eliot Ness moved to Cleveland to become chief investigator for the Alcohol Tax Unit and then became the city's Public Safety Inspector.

Eliot Ness Fact 27: As Cleveland's Public Safety Inspector Eliot Ness undertook the enormous task of purging the Cleveland police department of corrupt officers and bringing more gangsters to trial.

Eliot Ness Fact 28: Eliot Ness resigned from his post in Cleveland on April 30, 1942 after being involved in a hit-and-run accident and gave up his career in law enforcement. He took the job as the National Director for the Federal Social Protection Program.

Eliot Ness Fact 29: In 1945, he became chairman of the Board for the Diebold Safe and Lock Company in Canton

Eliot Ness Fact 30: Always happy to court publicity, Eliot Ness ran for the position of Mayor. He was unsuccessful and lost all of his savings on the campaign.

Eliot Ness Fact 31: In 1955 Eliot Ness joined the Cleveland-based North Ridge Industrial Corporation, but the company failed.

Eliot Ness Fact 32: In 1956 the family moved to Coudersport, Pennsylvania, where he ran two small businesses and began to work on his memoirs with sportswriter Oscar Fraley.

Eliot Ness Fact 33: This collaboration with Oscar Fraley produced a book called 'The Untouchables' but Eliot died of a heart attack before his co-written autobiography was published.

Eliot Ness Fact 34: He died from a heart attack on May 16, 1957 and was buried in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio

Eliot Ness Fact 35: The legacy of Eliot Ness lives on due to the movies and TV series that depict his life. He will always be most famously remembered as the man who got Al Capone.

Facts about Eliot Ness for kids

Facts about Eliot Ness: Who were the real "Untouchables"?
The real "Untouchables were the elite squad of eleven agents selected by Eliot Ness to help him take out Al Capone. The names of the squad were Joseph "Joe" Leeson, Martin "Marty" Lahart, Samuel "Sam" Seager, Barney Cloonan, Lyle Chapman, Tom Friel, Paul Robsky, Michael King, William "Bill" Gardner, Al Wolff and Jim Seeley. A brief description of the real Untouchables IS as follows:

Names of the Real Untouchables

Real Untouchables: Tom Friel, a former state trooper from Pennsylvania.

Real Untouchables: Martin 'Marty' Lahart, chief deputy, an Irish sports enthusiast.

Real Untouchables: William 'Bill' Gardner, an enormous former ex-professional Pennsylvania football player of Native American Chippewa descent. He was the eldest man in the squad.

Real Untouchables: Paul Robsky, a telephone expert and wiretap specialist.

Real Untouchables: Joseph 'Joe' Leeson, a legendary genius when it came to tailing someone in an automobile.

Real Untouchables: Lyle Chapman, a strong ex-Colgate University football player and veteran of WW1. An expert in criminology and forensics.

Real Untouchables: Mike King, a disguise specialist especially helpful skills when trailing mobsters.

Real Untouchables: Barney Cloonan, a strong ex-Marine.

Real Untouchables: Sam Seager, a tough ex-Sing Sing death row guard.

Real Untouchables: Jim Seeley, a former private investigator became a later squad member.

Real Untouchables: Al 'Wallpaper' Wolff, was secretly transferred to Chicago from investigating bootlegging in Kentucky, became a later squad member.

Names of the Real Untouchables

Facts about Eliot Ness: Prohibition
For visitors interested in the history of Prohibition and American gangsters of the period refer to the following articles:

Eliot Ness - President Hoover Video
The article on the Eliot Ness provides detailed facts and a summary of one of the important people during his presidential term in office. The following Herbert Hoover video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 31st American President whose presidency spanned from March 4, 1929 to March 4, 1933.

Eliot Ness and the Untouchables

● Interesting Facts about Eliot Ness for kids and schools
Facts on Eliot Ness and the Untouchables for kids
● The Eliot Ness, a major event in US history
● Herbert Hoover Presidency
and Eliot Ness
● Fast, fun facts about the Eliot Ness and the Untouchables
● Foreign & Domestic policies of President
Herbert Hoover
● Herbert Hoover Presidency and Eliot Ness for schools, homework, kids and children

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