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

stanton-smoke-shop
From Cheese to Cheeba: Former Little Muenster on Stanton Street Becomes a Head Shop

One Stanton Street storefront is making the leap from cheese to cheeba. You’ll recall that local startup Little Muenster melted, having disappeared from the Lower East Side landscape last summer. The cubbyhole space at 100 Stanton Street sat behind a curtain of butcher paper for the intervening months. Until last week. Its replacement isn’t too […]

grey-lady-aspen-2
Grey Lady Has Taken a Piece of the Lower East Side to New Aspen Location

A popular Lower East Side raw bar is expanding to Aspen. Ryan Chadwick is not new to the Aspen scene. A veteran, some might say. The Maine native lived there at one point for seven years, and created a nightclub called Escobar four years ago. We now learn that a Grey Lady spinoff is underway, […]

bowery-rivington-night
24-Year-Old Driver in Fatal Hit-and-Run on the Bowery Faces Serious Charges

Justice is being served. The motorist involved in that fatal hit-and-run on the Bowery Monday night is facing the music. As previously reported, Danny Lin was driving northbound in his 2001 BMW sedan when he struck Robert Perry just north of Rivington. Cops said he was going double the recently-imposed speed limit of 25 mph. […]

LOC
When Thanksgiving Tradition Included Halloween-Like Masquerading

There was once a time when Thanksgiving custom more resembled Halloween masquerading than turkey and history lessons. That’s right. So get out your masks, people! Thanksgivoween is upon is. Check the history. Two key words: masking and mumming. To surmise thousands of years of he said/he said, most agree the word masking encompasses all forms […]

hanksy-thanksgiving-2014
And Here’s Another ‘T. Hanksgiving Day’ Greeting from Street Artist Hanksy

Prolific downtown street artist Hanksy pasted a holiday greeting at his preferred spot on Orchard Street just north of Division. It’s another T. Hanksgiving Day message for the Lower East Side. Gobble gobble.

  • 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…