Myths surround ‘Untouchable’ lawman Eliot Ness. What’s the truth? Washington Post June 1, 2022

Washington Post June 1, 2022

Myths surround ‘Untouchable’ lawman Eliot Ness. What’s the truth?

A poster from legendary lawman Eliot Ness’s unsuccessful run for mayor of Cleveland in 1947 hangs in the Cleveland Police Historical Society. (Piet van Lier/AP)

Eliot Ness is a 20th-century law enforcement legend. Most people know him as the incorruptible crime fighter who brought down Chicago gangster Al “Scarface” Capone during Prohibition in the early 1930s. Ness was immortalized in a book, television series and movie — all titled “The Untouchables.”

His name graces the atrium of the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) headquarters in Washington, D.C. Ness is so ingrained in American culture that, curiously, there’s even a craft beer named after him: Eliot Ness Amber Lager out of Cleveland. The Ness legend is largely fiction, however. He was never an FBI agent, as many people believed; he worked for the Bureau of Prohibition, the forerunner of the ATF tasked with stopping the sale and consumption of alcohol between 1920 and 1933. Ness also rarely carried a gun.

“Eliot Ness was involved in trying to disrupt the flow of beer and look for evidence of bootlegging but never found enough evidence to build a strong case against Capone on those charges,” Jonathan Eig, the author of “Get Capone: The Secret Plot That Captured America’s Most Wanted Gangster,” told me. Instead, Capone was sent to prison for tax evasion. “Ness was one of the smaller players, to be honest, in building the case against Capone.” But a story about the Internal Revenue Service accountants who gathered evidence against Capone would be pretty boring, he notes.

An upcoming festival in Coudersport, Pa., is doing its part to reconcile Ness the larger-than-life lawman and the real-life federal agent with integrity who still serves as a role model. One part of his legend is true: Ness and his team did earn the nickname “The Untouchables” because they couldn’t be bribed, unlike many other contemporaries.

The Eliot Ness Fest, scheduled for July 15-17, acknowledges the entertaining Hollywood fiction while putting Ness’s achievements in historical context. Thousands are expected to converge on the small Pennsylvania town this summer for a three-day event celebrating Ness’s career. The Eliot Ness Fest is also a family-friendly tribute to law enforcement, wrapped up in Roaring Twenties cosplay.

Stephen A. Green, an organizer of the event who’s the president and CEO of the Eliot Ness Museum, calls it “an opportunity to relive one of the most glamorous and violent periods of the country’s past.” It includes films, a parade and historical enactments. The festival this year coincides with the 50th anniversary of ATF; Associate Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer Thomas Chittum will deliver the keynote address.

In addition to Chicago, Ness is associated with Cleveland, where he served as the city’s public safety director in the 1930s and ’40s. Ness lived in Coudersport only for about the last year of his life. But Coudersport is the birthplace of Ness’s “Untouchable” legend.

Ness moved to the scenic town in north-central Pennsylvania with his third wife and their 10-year-old son to pursue a business opportunity. Before he died of a heart attack in 1957 at age 54, Ness met with writer Oscar Fraley multiple times at the Hotel Crittenden, located in the center of town just across the street from where the Eliot Ness Museum now stands. They talked about Ness’s crime-fighting days and made plans to write a book about his experiences.

An undated photo of actor Robert Stack, who portrayed Ness in the TV series “The Untouchables.” The real Ness rarely carried a gun. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

The lawman had resisted sharing his story, but he was deeply in debt and needed the money the book would bring in, says A. Brad Schwartz, the co-author with Max Allan Collins of “Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago” and “Eliot Ness and the Mad Butcher: Hunting America’s Deadliest Unidentified Serial Killer at the Dawn of Modern Criminology.”

Ness didn’t approve of the exaggerations in Fraley’s draft, but he’s nevertheless credited as a co-author of the resulting book when it was published shortly after his death. These days, many people who know his backstory agree that “The Untouchables” is a highly embellished tale of Ness’s part in bringing Capone to justice.

The book spawned a television series starring Robert Stack that ran from 1959 to 1963 and the 1987 movie starring Kevin Costner. The book, series and movie cemented Ness’s image as a tough-talking, gun-toting federal agent, much to the annoyance of some who knew the true story of Capone’s downfall.

“There were plenty of people who were still alive who remembered the real history and knew Eliot Ness had nothing to do with it,” Schwartz told me. Getting Capone was a team effort by the Prohibition Bureau, the Treasury Department and the Bureau of Investigation, the agency that became the FBI, he explains.

“What’s been lost in the fight is all of the work he did to modernize, to professionalize and to reform law enforcement,” Schwartz says. Ness’s work on the Capone case was ahead of its time in trying to make law enforcement less brutal and corrupt. It also laid the foundation for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act to prosecute organized-crime figures.

Ness didn’t resurface in the media again until 2014, when three U.S. senators proposed naming the ATF headquarters in D.C. after Ness. But the Chicago City Council passed a resolution introduced by city Alderman Edward M. Burke protesting the move, which revived the debate over what Ness did and didn’t do in the Capone case. Ultimately, ATF named its headquarters after Ariel Rios, the first ATF agent killed in the line of duty after the ATF became an independent bureau. (Burke was indicted on federal racketeering and bribery charges in 2019 and is awaiting trial.)

In recent years, ATF has been instrumental in setting the record straight on its most famous agent and celebrating his achievements. The bureau named the atrium after Ness when the building opened in 2008. A portrait of Ness created from a collage of ATF agents’ photos is on display. “Clearly, there’s a mythology that’s built around Eliot Ness,” acknowledges ATF’s Chittum. “That’s not lost on any of us.”

Chittum told me he jumped at the chance to speak at this year’s Eliot Ness Fest. The man and the myth serve an important storytelling function that allows the bureau to highlight bigger issues, he says. “Ness is also a symbol of ethical law enforcement. In an era where there are a lot of questions about the legitimacy and credibility of law enforcement, I think it’s worth celebrating the honest cop.”

Samantha Drake is a freelance writer in Doylestown, Pa.

In a State of Access: Ohio Higher Education, 1945 – 1990 by Jonathan Tyler Baker

In a State of Access: Ohio Higher Education, 1945 – 1990
by Jonathan Tyler Baker, 2020, Doctor of Education, Miami University, Educational Leadership.
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In a State of Access is a historical study about the way public higher education in Ohio became both generally accessible to nearly every citizen while also offering elite undergraduate and graduate programs. This project grapples with the question of how national, state and regional factors – from the mid-1940s through the end of the 20th century – influenced the way Ohio’s leaders viewed the purpose of public higher education and influenced whether Ohio’s leaders chose to focus on making public higher education more selective or accessible. State leaders initially balked at the idea of funding public higher education. When they did decide to make the investment, ideological battles, economic stagnation and the state’s budget deficit continually influenced how state leaders viewed the purpose of public higher education. As a result, state leaders never succeeded in building a system of public higher education that reflected a clearly defined, well-organized purpose. This dissertation is the first full-length study about contemporary public higher education in Ohio and one of the few case studies of any state’s system of higher education. As the public and politicians at the state and national level pay more attention to the accessibility of higher education, and the role of a college degree in a globalized, service economy, a case study of Ohio helps us to better understand why public higher education is still struggling with problems over access.

Classmates – Posted on May 28, 2021 by John Grabowski – WRHS


Leonard Hanna Jr.
 Cole Porter
Classmates
by John Grabowski – 

by John Grabowski, PhD | WRHS Krieger Mueller Historian
from Cleveland History Center
In March 1924, a group of Yale alumni arrived in Cleveland to put on a musical show at the University Club.  They had been invited by two local alums, Elton Hoyt and Leonard Hanna, Jr. who had attended their performance in New York City and convinced the ensemble to reprise it in Cleveland.
The composer of the music was Cole Porter, a member of the Yale Class of 1913 and a close friend of Leonard Hanna, Jr. also a member of that class.

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How NASA Glenn Landed in Cleveland


How NASA Glenn Landed in Cleveland
On Monday November 25, 1940 Vannevar Bush, chairman of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) announced that the NACA’s new laboratory would be located in Cleveland, Ohio. That evening, Cleveland City Council passed an ordinance to transfer 200 acres of land adjacent to the Municipal Airport to the federal government for $1 per acre.
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World War 2 in Cleveland from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland

Written by John Vacha

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WORLD WAR II. When Japan attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbor on the morning of 7 Dec. 1941, the ranking American victim was a native Clevelander, Rear Adm. ISSAC C. KIDD, aboard the Arizona. Before V-J Day, his death would be followed by those of nearly 4,000 more Clevelanders out of a total of 160,000 called to service. At home, the face of Cleveland would be greatly transformed by the demands of the war effort, while more fundamental changes set in motion by the war would contribute to the city’s postwar decline. It did not take Clevelanders long to discover there was a war on. Under Civilian Defense Director WM. A. STINCHCOMB, lighting “blackouts” were being rehearsed by the summer of 1942. A special emphasis on Victory Gardens was incorporated into that year’s Home & Flower Show. Rationing was implemented on the local level by 29 War Price & Rationing Boards, which were empowered to issue permits to civilians for such potentially scarce commodities as sugar, meat, and gasoline. Charged with administering the Selective Service Act in Cuyahoga County were 51 local draft boards composed of over 400 volunteers. Meeting several nights a week, board members considered classification appeals and supervised the machinery that called 3,000-4,000 Greater Clevelanders monthly to the armed services.


War Services Center on Public Square, ca. 1943. CPL.

As young men began departing for military training centers from CLEVELAND UNION TERMINAL, an influx of wartime government agencies helped fill the vacuum created by their absence. Contracts with 800 northern Ohio defense plants were placed by the Cleveland Ordnance District Office in the Terminal Tower. Operating from the Union Commerce Bldg., the regional office of the War Labor Board became the third-busiest in the country, handling 400 cases a week from a 4-state area. In an outdoor exhibit at Euclid and E. 9th St., the War Production Board kept Clevelanders informed of the goals and quotas of the war effort. A focus for the area’s wartime activities was provided with the dedication of the War Service Ctr. onPUBLIC SQUARE. Constructed with donated materials and labor, the temporary structure on the northwest quadrant of the Square sheltered recruiting offices, war bond and stamp sellers, and such agencies as the USO, Red Cross, and War Housing Service. PLAYHOUSE SQUARE was the address of the local branch of the Stage Door Canteen, where servicemen might find hospitality and entertainment. Clevelanders could keep abreast of the war’s progress by dropping in at the Telenews Theater, which specialized in continuous showings of newsreels on its Lower Euclid screen. On the home front, the area’s biggest news story was theEAST OHIO GAS CO. EXPLOSION AND FIRE of 1944, which claimed 130 lives and taxed the city’s Civilian Defense preparations to capacity.


Cleveland area veterans commemorate the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt with a memorial service on Public Square, 14 Apr. 1945. WRHS.

Cleveland was credited with originating the Block Plan to promote and organize various bond, blood, and scrap drives on the neighborhood level. By the 8th and final war loan drive, county residents had accounted for a total of $2.5 billion worth of bonds. There were also innumerable rallies, exemplified by the one sponsored in PUBLIC AUDITORIUM on 3 June 1942 to collect money for medical aid to Russia. Even more than bond drives and relief rallies, what Uncle Sam wanted from Cleveland was output of its industrial establishment, ranked 5th in the nation. Steps were taken to expand that industrial base by the construction of such facilities as the Thompson Aircraft (Tapco) plant in EUCLID, which had been started even before the war in 1941. By the war’s end, Thompson was Cleveland’s largest employer, with a workforce of 21,000 (see TRW, INC.). Two large facilities arose in 1942 on the perimeters of Cleveland Municipal Airport (seeCLEVELAND-HOPKINS INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT). Originally planned for the production of B-29 (“Superfortress”) parts, the Fisher Cleveland Aircraft plant underwent successive postwar metamorphoses as the Cleveland Tank Plant and finally the Intl. Exposition & Trade Ctr. (see I-X CENTER). On the other side of the airport, the Natl. Advisory Committee for Aeronautics constructed the world’s largest wind tunnel as part of its Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory, which survives as the Natl. Aeronautics & Space Admin. Lewis Research Ctr. (see NASA JOHN H. GLENN RESEARCH CENTER AT LEWIS FIELD).

Many local plants recorded distinguished achievements in the war effort. Natl. Acme and Cleveland Twist Drill, later combined as theACME-CLEVELAND CORP. Corp., won 2 of the war’s first Army-Navy “Star” awards for production excellence. A double Army-Navy “E” Award went to Cleveland’s H. K. Ferguson Co. for erecting Tennessee’s Oak Ridge thermal diffusion plant in just 66 days. Perhaps Cleveland’s greatest wartime success story was written by Jack & Heinz, an aircraft-parts manufacturer in MAPLE HEIGHTS (see LEAR SIEGLER, INC., POWER EQUIPMENT DIVISION) that was singled out after the war by Donald M. Nelson, chairman of the War Production Board, for the following accolade: “By paying exceptionally attractive wages, making sure that working conditions were congenial, developing a strong sense of team play, giving workers full credit for individual and group achievements, stressing the importance of the workers’ jobs to the war effort, and appealing to patriotism by explaining the needs of the armed services, this company drove production and earnings to new heights.”

Thanks to the impetus of war production, employment in Cleveland by Sept. 1944 had climbed to 34% above its 1940 level. Practically the entire increase had taken place in the manufacturing, sector, where employment had risen from 191,000 to 340,000 during the period cited. “Cleveland is one of the Nation’s industrial centers which has expanded most since the beginning of the war,” concluded the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the national index of factory employment in 1944 as compared with 1939 was 156.3, Cleveland’s index had leaped to an even more imposing 179.7 (1939=100). Such single-minded application to production was bound to produce strains in other sectors of the community’s social fabric. Mayor Frank J. Lausche’s War Production Committee was credited with the relative absence of strikes and other labor problems in the city. Cleveland also escaped any major wartime racial outbreaks, though labor demands would contribute to a 75% increase in its African American population during the decade (see AFRICAN AMERICANS). Careful monitoring of interracial relations was one of the weightiest recommendations of the Post-War Planning Council of Greater Cleveland, an idea that came to fruition in the creation of the CLEVELAND COMMUNITY RELATIONS BOARD.

Commuting and gas rationing combined to tax the city’s public transportation facilities. From a Depression low of under 200 million, revenue rides on the newly municipalized Cleveland Transit System peaked at nearly 450 million in 1946, followed by a precipitous postwar decline. Near the end of the war, area engineers revealed a 50-year express highway plan, which envisioned a Cleveland serviced by innerbelt, outerbelt, and crosstown freeways. Other experts turned their attention to the demands that increased postwar air travel would make on Cleveland’s airport. Without doubt, Cleveland’s most vexing homefront problem was housing. Even in 1940, failure to replace aged housing stock during the Depression had resulted in a vacancy rate of only 3%. Wartime building restrictions and in-migrating defense workers drove that down to an infinitesimal 0.5% by Mar. 1943. “Temporary” war housing projects put up in critical areas such as BEREA and Seville could not meet the demand, as the War Housing Service satisfied fewer than half of its 35,000 applicants during its first 2 years. It did not take much studying for the Post-War Planning Council to predict “a splurge of house-building in the suburbs, following the relaxation of artificial war-time restraints upon residential construction.” Unless immediate measures were begun to rehabilitate the central city’s deteriorating areas and prevent further blight, the council foresaw “wholesale abandonment of older areas and catastrophic losses in investments and tax values.” With admirable accuracy, the council concluded that “this boom will set the pattern of Greater Cleveland for the next generation.”

The promised and prayed for victory came on 15 Aug. 1945. Within a month, a victory parade lasting more than 3 hours marched down Superior Ave., where it was viewed by 300,000 Greater Clevelanders. For those, incapable of marching, a 1,750-bed veterans’ hospital inPARMA had been dedicated as Crile General Hospital in 1944. A WAR MEMORIAL FOUNTAIN was promoted by the CLEVELAND PRESS and dedicated on the Mall in 1964. Perhaps an even more evocative monument was later provided by the lakefront relocation of the U.S.S. Cod, a vintage World War II submarine, with its locally built diesel engines. Postwar Cleveland followed the pattern predicted by the Post-War Planning Council, as the exodus began. Space requirements had already dictated suburban locales for the larger plants constructed during the war.

Spearheaded by returning veterans taking advantage of government-guaranteed mortgages provided by the GI Bill, the labor force joined the migration to the SUBURBS. Cleveland’s neighborhoods, deserted by a generation that might have rebuilt them, and decimated by implementation of the long-awaited freeway system, were inherited by the elderly and the newer minorities that had arrived to fill wartime labor needs. Largely developed to capacity before the war, the central city and its remaining citizens were relegated to the backwash of the postwar rush to the suburban frontier.

J. E. Vacha

Last Modified: 27 Mar 1998 11:14:30 AM

Bill Veeck and the 1948 Cleveland Indians aggregation

1 Bill Veeck. The Man Who Conquered Cleveland and Changed Baseball Forever
2 Bill Veeck from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
3 1948 Cleveland Indians Season from Wikipedia
4 Alone in the Shadows: The Triumph of Larry Doby
5 1948 Cleveland Indians Photo Gallery
6 Veeck as in Wreck – Chapters 7 and 8 (1948 Cleveland Indians)
7 Bill Veeck Documentary
8 Satchel Paige makes debut with Cleveland Indians
9 Satchel Paige – a Short Video