Bowery Tattooing & “Last of the Bowery Scab Merchants”

Posted on: May 9th, 2011 at 6:18 am by

The tattoo community affectionately refers to the legendary Moskowitz brothers as the “Bowery Boys.”  No doubt a different type of B’hoy for the mid-twentieth century.  These guys were game changers, operating an ink shop on the Bowery for many years.

Patriarch Willie Moskowitz arrived on the Lower East Side in 1918.  Fresh off the boat from Russia, the Yiddish-speaking immigrant quickly opened a barbershop at 4 Bowery, just north of Doyers Street.  His friend Charlie Wagner (pioneer of the electric tattoo machine still in use) later schooled him of the art, and Moskowitz quickly learned there was more money to be made in tattooing.  Soon thereafter, a tattoo parlor was born in the basement.  Their clientele was rough-and-tumble, and is now the stuff of legend.  Drunken brawls, rowdy clients, police harassment, and the overall hustle to get by.

Willie taught his two sons – Stanley and Walter –  the archaic trade, and the family business continued.  Except Walter had a rather unorthodox upbringing.  Studying Torah and Talmud in a Brooklyn Yeshiva by day, and learning tattooing by night.  The brothers (nay, Bowery Boys) became successful in their own right, but were sidelined during the Health Department crackdown in the 1960s when a Hepatitis outbreak led to closure of all city tattoo parlors.  Rather than sit idle, the Moskowitz brand relocated to Amityville, and opened one of Long Island’s first ink spots – S & W Tattooing.  Walter passed away in 2007, but brother Stanley is still kicking.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dI0KzVM-EoQ

This survey of the Moskowitz dynasty barely reveals the tip of the iceberg.  Lucky for us all, Last of the Bowery Scab Merchants will be released tomorrow.  It’s an audio-only book recounting the family history on the Bowery, as recorded by Walter’s son, Doug, in the last year of his father’s life.  The neighborhood is obviously a much different place now, but trace elements of that past are beginning to make a comeback.  Thanks to the arrival of Kings Road Tattoo last month, body art has again returned to the Bowery.

Today, 4 Bowery is home to the Lin Sister Herb Shop.

[via Needles and Sins, Jewish Forward]

Recent Stories

Entrance to the Lowline on Delancey St.
11 Things You Need to Know about the Lowline’s $83M Underground Park

City officials announced their full support of the $83 million Lowline project back in July, some five years after its conception. The backing came as the bureacracy created a dog-and-pony show to try and elicit proposals for the 60,000 square-foot vacant trolley terminal beneath Delancey Street. The Lowline was the only proposal (naturally), and now […]

bruce-springsteen-born-to-run-book-2016-billboard-1240
Bruce Springsteen will be at the Union Square Barnes & Noble Next Week for ‘Born to Run’ Book Signing

Bruce Springsteen last week announced a fall book tour to promote his forthcoming memoir, Born to Run. The nine-date outing commences – not surprisingly – at a Barnes & Noble in his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey on September 27. The day of release. The Boss then heads to Union Square the next day, and […]

pietro-nolita
After 14 Years of Cafe El Portal, Pink ‘Pietro Nolita’ Takes Over at 174 Elizabeth Street

With one longtime restaurant gone, another takes its place at 174 Elizabeth Street. The much-loved Cafe El Portal on Elizabeth Street quietly closed its doors back in May. Chef-owner Gloria Arteaga decided to end operations after fourteen years on the block. (It opened shortly after 9/11.) Unlike the gas issues that forced closure in 2015, […]

Grandmaster Flash by Janette Beckman
Revisiting the ‘Rebel Cultures’ Photographed by Janette Beckman [RECAP]

Our regular readers know that we love to cover the early punk, new wave and hip hop music scenes in New York City. Most people who were around during the early days, were also obsessed with the bands coming out of the UK. This reporter remembers going to East Village record stores (remember when there […]

125rivington-sale
Slumlord Castellan Snatches 125 Rivington Street for $9.8M

Why is it that, in the year 2016, the Lower East Side continues to attract real estate speculators with terrible track records? The latest to jump in on the fun is Castellan Real Estate Partners, a hedge-fund-backed investment group that just purchased 125 Rivington Street. According to public records, the five-story walkup (east of Essex) traded […]

  • Bowery Boy

    Yet another commercial field… art movement… business district… whatever… pioneered on the Bowery. Has any street in the world started of more new industries than Bowery? What a terrific post, and it couldn’t come at a better time…