The Untouchable Eliot Ness

By | April 6, 2019

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Eliot Ness. Source: (

If asked to list the most famous gangsters of all time, most people would unhesitatingly begin with the name “Al Capone.” However, if asked who was responsible for putting Capone behind bars, only some of them would give the credit to Eliot Ness, though most recognize him as the head of the famous task force, nicknamed The Untouchables, which was tasked with bringing the gangster to justice.

Eliot Ness was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 19, 1903, and was the youngest of five children born to Norwegian immigrants, Peter Ness, and Emma King. He attended Christian Fenger High School before moving on to the University of Chicago, where he studied commerce, law, and political science. He graduated in 1925 and was in the top third of his class. His first job after college was as an investigator for the Retail Credit Company of Atlanta, where he was in charge of credit and background checks. He later returned to the University to earn a master’s degree in criminology.

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A view of the campus of the University of Chicago, looking northwest, from the Midway Plaissance. Source: (

In 1927, Ness became an agent with the Chicago branch of the U.S. Treasury Department. The following year, he began working with the Prohibition Bureau of the Justice Department. Bootlegging had become a multi-million dollar business for Chicago’s gangsters and U.S. Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon had been charged with bringing down Al Capone, both for bootlegging and income tax evasion. Ness was brought in to lead the task force assigned to the investigation. That task force would eventually become known as The Untouchables after Capone tried and failed to pay them off.