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

aka-jessica-jones-bowery
Marvel’s ‘AKA Jessica Jones’ Netflix Series Returns to the Bowery Today

For the second time within a month, that new Netflix-funded Marvel Comics series will be filming on the Bowery. (They will also be in Alphabet City today) It’s called AKA Jessica Jones, but operating under the guise of a production entitled “Violet.” That’s the name listed on the “no parking” signs that arrived before the holiday weekend. […]

Chad Marlow vs. Gigi Li, June 2014
5 Questions with Chad Marlow on the Innerworkings and Alleged Corruption of CB3 [INTERVIEW]

After publishing the second installment of Erin Harvey’s op-ed examining the relationship between Sheldon Silver and Community Board 3, we thought it prudent to field a response from Gigi Li’s opponent in the 2014 chairperson election, board member Chad Marlow. Below are some choice excerpts from our interview. Bowery Boogie: Harvey’s piece opines that former […]

bwood-orchard-street
Brian Wood Skate Style Boutique Opens on Orchard Street

“We are devious,” a sign in the window of 147 Orchard Street proclaimed for the last couple weeks. The reason – a new “rebellious alternative” boutique has arrived. Fashion Designer Brian Wood opened a boutique just before the holiday. The so-called Woodshop now is in session. Here you can purchase BWOOD-brand skate styles. And its […]

53hester-reveal-1
Glassy Gertel’s Killing Condo Has Risen from the Dead on Hester Street

Once dubbed a “historic hole,” the former home of Gertel’s Bakery at 53 Hester Street is now filled with an eleven-story tumor. Sitting unpretty. Unencumbered, even. The finger building disrobed a couple weeks ago after many months of construction work. In fact, the project site was fallow until late last year. It’s been a long […]

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot rehearsal, July 2015
‘Shakespeare in the Parking Lot’ Debuts Thursday with New Venue at the CSV Center

If Essex Crossing is the greedy landlord, then “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot” could be considered the harassed rent regulated tenant. The long-running troupe – the Drilling Company – spent twenty seasons entertaining locals in the former municipal car park at Ludlow and Broome Streets. That run ended with a performance of Othello last August, […]

  • 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…