Eliot Ness

Events

18th Amendment Ratified

January 16, 1919

"Ratified on January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the making, transporting, and selling of alcoholic beverages" and would go into effect on January 17, 1920. (Annenberg Classroom, Constitution Center).

Ness Graduates

May 1925

"Ness graduate[s] from the University of Chicago with a Ph.B. in economics at a time when law enforcement officers had little use for college. He took a graduate level police administration course taught by August Vollmer" (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, September 22, 2016)

Ness's First Job

Approx. June 1925

"From the years 1925 to 1927 Ness served as an investigator for the Retail Credit Company in Chicago. He longed for a job that was a bit more exciting and returned to the university for postgraduate course work" (Cleveland Police Museum, January 2012)

Temporary Prohibition Agent

August 26, 1926

"On August 26, 1926, Ness swore in as a Temporary Prohibition Agent with the Prohibition Unit in Chicago. From the enactment of the Volstead Act, Prohibition agents hunted down bootleggers who were growing enormously powerful and rich by smuggling liquor" (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, September 22, 2016)

Transfer to Department of Justice

1930

"With the Bureau’s focus zeroing in on fighting violent crime, the Department of Treasury found it increasingly ill-equipped to carry out a mission so outside their original mission of tax compliance. For that reason the Bureau was transferred from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to the U.S. Department of Justice." (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, September 22, 2016).

"Get Capone!" (President Herbert Hoover)

May 27, 1930

"Fed up with Al Capone's brazen and far reaching arm of power and corruption, Hoover declares war on Capone and his 'Outfit.' (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, General Timeline, September 22, 2016). "Special Agent in Charge Alexander G. Jaime, Chief Investigator of the office’s Investigative Division in Chicago was recruited by the 'Secret Six' to work the Capone investigation for the Chicago Crime Commission. Before he left the job, he recommended Ness as his replacement because 'not only was Ness the most senior agent in the unit, but because of his honesty and ability'." (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Eliot Ness Timeline, September 22, 2016).

Promoted to Special Agent in Charge, The Untouchables are Formed

November 1930

"Promoted to Special Agent in Charge, Ness handpicked 11 agents that he felt displayed the skills, knowledge and experience he needed in his squad to investigate Capone: S. Maurice Seager, Joseph Leeson, William Gardner, Lyle Chapman, Paul Robsky, Bernard Cloonan, Thomas Friel, Michael King, Martin Lahart, Warren E. Stutzman, and Robert D. Sterling. Ness and his squad were attached to the U.S. Attorney Office under the direction of U.S. Attorney George E. Q. Johnson to investigate the Capone gang." (Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives, September 22, 2016)

First Success

March 26, 1931

The Untouchables raid a brewery, capturing equipment that included "nineteen vats, each capable of holding about fifteen hundred gallons" of beer. Wiretaps would follow, "leading the squad to more breweries" and providing a list of liquor customers to target. (Douglas Perry, The Rise and Fall of an American Hero, 2014).

Brewery Takedown #2

April 11, 1931

"On Saturday, April 11, the squad took down a second large brewery, this one at 3136 South Wabash Avenue in Chicago. The seizure...would cost the Capone syndicate about $10,000 a day in revenue." (Douglas Perry, The Rise and Fall of an American Hero, 2014)

Capone is Jailed

October 17, 1931

"On October 5, 1931, Al Capone went on trial for tax evasion" ((Douglas Perry, The Rise and Fall of an American Hero, 2014) His men had tried to bribe the jurors, but were unsuccessful as on "October 17, after eight hours and ten minutes of deliberation, the jury reached a verdict. Al Capone was guilty" and sentenced​ to "eleven years in the clink, plus $50,000 in fines" for tax evasion. On August 22nd, 1934 he would be sent to Alcatraz. (Douglas Perry, The Rise and Fall of an American Hero, 2014)

Chicago to Cincinnati

September 1933

"Ness transferred from his beloved Chicago to Cincinnati, Ohio as a Senior Investigator and soon after was promoted to Assistant Investigator in Charge of the Alcohol Beverage Unit, Cincinnati Office." (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, September 22, 2016).

21st Amendment Ratified

December 5, 1933

"The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed." (Annenberg Classroom, Constitution Center)

Special Agent in Charge, Ohio

December 1934

"Ness was just 31 years old when he arrived at his new post as the Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Alcohol Tax Unit, Northern District of Ohio...earning a reputation for 'taking down a still a day'." (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, September 22, 2016).

Safety Director

January 1, 1936

"Ness resigned from his position to become Cleveland's Public Safety Director, putting him in charge of the police and fire departments where he successfully headed a campaign to clean up corruption and modernize both public service institutions" (Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives, September 22, 2016). As a director, Ness wanted a working role, not just giving speeches causing a sergeant to remark "I've served under five safety directors and this is the first time I ever saw face on one of them." (Douglas Perry, The Rise and Fall of an American Hero, 2014). Ness himself said ""I have a keen sense of feeling of the responsibility that the office entails. I will bend every effort to fill the duties of the office creditably." (Douglas Perry, The Rise and Fall of an American Hero, 2014).

National Director

April 20, 1942

"Ness stepped down as Safety Director to become the National Director for the Federal Social Protection Program" (Cleveland Police Museum, January 2012).