National Law Enforcement Museum Wins Rare Eliot Ness Items in Auction


Eliot Ness "Untouchables" Memorabilia

October 1, 2012

Collection comprises memorabilia related to the prohibition-era federal agent and his team of “Untouchables”

Eliot Ness credentials: issued by the United States Treasury and Justice Departments' Bureau of Prohibition, on May 20, 1927, and on May 14, 1932, respectively. 2012.39.2; 2012.39.3

Washington, DC —During an auction in Worcester, MA on Thursday September 27, the National Law Enforcement Museum won a rare and sought-after collection of photos, notes, telegrams, and other documents related to prohibition-era government agent Eliot Ness, from the estate of Winifred (Winnie) Higgins, Ness’s secretary.

The auction lot includes the only two federal law enforcement credentials issued to Ness during his time as an agent for the Department of the Treasury’s and the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prohibition. The collection will be on exhibit in the National Law Enforcement Museum when it opens in fall 2018.

During Special Agent Eliot Ness’s ten years of federal law enforcement service with the legacy agencies of the contemporary Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), he is most remembered for his role in the government’s efforts to bring down Al Capone, one of the most powerful and violent bootleggers of the gangster era in Chicago. Special Agent Ness, who faced violent organized criminal elements flush with huge sums of cash, successfully enforced prohibition laws, leading a small but effective team of federal agents. Because of their reputation for incorruptibility, integrity, and fearlessness, Ness’s team earned the nickname “The Untouchables.”

To date, the National Law Enforcement Museum has acquired more than 16,000 historical and contemporary artifacts, dating back to the 18th century. The Eliot Ness items, now part of the most comprehensive collection of law enforcement artifacts in the United States, will help the Museum tell the story of law enforcement in America—particularly how law officers dealt with violent crime during the alcohol ban of the 1920s and early-30s.

“Eliot Ness and The Untouchables are key characters in the story of American law enforcement,” said National Law Enforcement Museum Executive Director Joe Urschel. “We are thrilled to share this prized collection with visitors when the Museum opens,” he said.

The National Law Enforcement Museum will be a hands-on, interactive institution where visitors will have an opportunity to walk in an officer's shoes and experience firsthand what it’s like to make life-or-death decisions, investigate and solve crimes, protect our communities, and safeguard our freedoms.

It will also offer a range of educational programs for visitors of all ages, and serve as a research center for scholars, students, and others interested in the history of policing in America.

While the doors won't open until fall 2018, visit what will certainly become a not-to-be-missed Museum destination online at