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

Bowery Cyclist Hit by Cab in Critical Condition

Earlier this morning, at roughly 6:45am, a cyclist heading east on Canal Street collided with a northbound taxi at the Bowery. Tons of cops are on the scene now, snarling traffic by the Manhattan Bridge. The mangled bike remains on its side in the intersection alongside splotches of blood. The unnamed cyclist remains in Critical […]

Denied by Community, ‘Mini Rex’ Karaoke Bar Heads to SLA for Ludlow Street Liquor License

Leftfield on Ludlow Street remains committed to its own sale, while the leading contender for takeover is the convoluted “dry karaoke” establishment we’ve been telling you about called Mini Rex. The proposed bar is taking its application all the way to the top, despite its negative reception from the community at large. (Co-founded by Edouard […]

As Promised, City Stations 2 Traffic Agents at Problematic Grand Street Intersection

Here’s some election year politics at its best. Host a mayoral town hall (for District 1), then satisfy a few voters in the immediate aftermath. One Grand Street resident, frustrated with the lack of attention to the traffic bottlenecks on Grand Street, demanded that the administration act to change the status quo. He asked Mayor […]

‘Minnie’s on Clinton’ Opens Tomorrow at the Old Tapeo29 Space

The restaurant row of Clinton Street welcomes another entrant to the fold. Minnie’s on Clinton bows tomorrow at 29 Clinton Street, serving up a menu consisting of that nebulous offering, “American comfort food.” Initial debut had been slated for late last week. In the ensuing days, however, exterior ornamentation arrived at the corner restaurant, just as […]

Spring Street Developer Withdraws Application for Controversial Special Little Italy District Zoning Change

The years-running saga of rear yard development at 53-55 Spring Street concluded two weeks ago when the landlord withdrew the proposal under community pressure. Developer Joseph Brunner (aka JBAM), who acquired the property two years ago for $15.5 million, sought to construct a one-story addition that would encompass the rear courtyard, thereby enlarging the overall […]

  • 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…