Eliot Knows Archives

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Prohibition Agent Eliot Ness knows all there is to know about TTB and the regulated industries. Take a look below to see his answers to popular questions.


“Why is this section called 'Eliot Knows'? Who in the world is Eliot Ness?”

Photo of Eliot Ness's credentials.

Photo of Eliot Ness's credentials.

When people hear the name "Eliot Ness," it may conjure up images of Al Capone, Thompson "Tommy gun" submachine guns, and the crime fighting “G-man” portrayed by Kevin Costner in Brian De Palma’s 1987 movie “The Untouchables.” 

That character is largely a myth. Nevertheless, the real Eliot Ness’ life was intriguing in its own right, and his tenure as a Prohibition Agent represents a colorful time in our nation’s history.

Eliot Ness broke onto the 1920's Chicago scene to put Al Capone, the most famous of the crime bosses of his time, out of business.  Although many assume Eliot Ness worked with the FBI, he was actually an agent with the Prohibition Bureau of the Treasury Department during a time when violent struggles between bootlegging gangs and hijackings of booze-laden trucks and ships were frequent occurrences.  In 1929 Ness was chosen to head a special investigative unit charged with destroying Capone's breweries and gathering evidence of Prohibition violations.

Eliot Ness and his agents proceeded to dismantle Capone's businesses one brewery at a time.  When news hit the streets that Ness and his agents refused to accept bribes and turn a blind eye on Capone’s illicit activities, a newspaper columnist called them "Untouchable." Thus the "Eliot Ness and the Untouchables" myth was born.  The rest— as the saying goes— is history.

While Ness's crusade against Capone's bootlegging operations did not directly lead to his conviction and imprisonment, Ness and his team did greatly hamper Capone's financial resources by raiding the mobster's breweries and speakeasies and helping collect the evidence that put Capone away on tax evasion charges in 1931.

Learn more about this infamous historical figure at our Eliot Ness biography page.

Also, you may want to take a guided tour of TTB.gov with Prohibition Agent Eliot Ness!

Visit the Eliot Knows Archives to see other popular questions and answers.

Page last reviewed/updated: 10/20/2011