Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: Originally tattooists were required to have enough artistic ability to draw the desired design onto the skin before tattooing. With the advent of wooden, paper and or plastic stencils, the tattoo business opened up to a larger group of craftsmen; who with the aid of the stencil could get the design transfer to the skin and then apply their skills to outlining and shading that design. Even tattooists with drawing skills like the ease of transfer that stencils offered… (more…)
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive:You may have been reading lately about the money problems that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is having. The Post Office has been trying to find ways to cut expenses as well as bring in more money. One of the least popular expense-cutting ideas was to cut Saturday delivery. One idea for raising more money was to allow living people to be honored on U.S. postage stamps. The USPS recently announced that they have ended the long-standing rule that stamps cannot feature people who are living. It is unknown when the dead-only rule was put into effect, but it goes back to at least the 1960s… (more…)
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: It was nice to read recently that Coney Island, USA located at 1208 Surf Avenue has been declared a New York City landmark. It was January of 2011 that the Coney Island’s Landmark Preservation Commission made its decision to protect this early 20th century building, now decorated to look like a sideshow on a circus lot. Built in 1917 as a branch of the Childs Restaurant chain, the building is complete with curved windows, a Spanish tiled roof and mosaics covering the front of the building. The commission described the building as “a stylish building in the Spanish Revival style that was fitting for the area’s beach atmosphere.” This building is one of the few in the area that has been protected in the recent years as the neighborhood undergoes widespread razing and redevelopment to make room for high-rises and hotels… (more…)
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: Percy Waters was one of the great tattooists/suppliers in the history of our business. Over the years he produced machines with many different frame designs and in his catalog he offered a full line of supplies. Waters was an old-school supplier and the machines that he offered were set-up to operate with connector cords. If you look at photographs of tattooists working in the early 1900s, you will notice a mass of wires on their work stands. These wires connected them machines to their power supply. The clip-cord had not been invented yet, so each machine had its own cord… (more…)
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: Gib Thomas, as the story is told, was born in New Orleans around the turn of the 20th century. Early on it was obvious that he had drawing talent, and at the tender age of 14 he left home to make his own way. Somewhere along the path he picked up the art of tattooing which he stayed with it for the next fifty years. It has been said that his needle-name “Tatts” was given to him while on the Ringling Show in 1917… (more…)
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: Thomas Lanier Williams was born March 26 1911 in Columbus Mississippi to the son of a shoe salesman. He studied at the University of Missouri, Washington University in St. Louis and graduated from the University of Iowa in 1938. In 1939 he moved to New Orleans. It was here that he took his college nickname “Tennessee,” which he got on account of his heavy southern drawl and the state where his father was born. Williams had been a prolific writer since the age of five. During his career, he produced 25 full-length plays, short stories, screenplays, novels, poems and an autobiography. Throughout his career he won many literary awards including The Pulitzer and the New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award and was considered a major American playwright… (more…)
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: Sometimes all it takes is just one image to set you off on a historical voyage. A few months ago, Mr. Grez from King Avenue Tattoo e-mailed me looking for help in identifying an old-time tattooist. Mr. Grez had a beautifully painted sheet of flash with a Homeward Bound image signed by Jim Fraser. Mr. Grez wanted to know if this Jim Fraser was the tattooist better known as James Fraser or Prof. J.S. Fraser. They are one and the same person… (more…)
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: I recently came across an ad in The New York Times for prints from Edwards S. Curtis’ Native American photographs. Curtis is well-known for his images of the fading American Indian’s way of life. One of the images offered in this advertisement was for the Oglala Sioux Chief Jack Red Cloud (1862-1928). This got me to thinking about our Jack Redcloud, the tattooist who made his name tattooing in Brooklyn, New York.
Unlike the Indian chief, Jack Redcloud the tattooist always spelled his last name as one word. Maybe this was out of respect for the famous chief. At one time his shop was known as Redcloud Jack’s, but in the later years he was referred to as Jack Redcloud…
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: The Zeis Studio, Milton Zeis’ supply business was set up to provide a full line of supplies for the tattooist. Many of Zeis’ ideas were taken from suppliers that preceded him in the business, especially Percy Waters. In addition, the Zeis Studio offered a home study course on tattooing which was just an expanded version of what Waters had offered decades earlier. However, to Zeis’ credit, he also offered many items that broke new ground in the tattoo supply business. The Zeis Studio was one of the first major supplier to offer machines that were set up for clip cords; the first to offer color production flash, blue line flash and a shading guide for the beginner tattooists…
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: I recently got a tip about the movie Raggedy Man from Texas tattoo history buff Matt Collins. Raggedy Man, which was released in 1981, stars Sissy Spacek as a divorced mother set in a small Texas town in 1942. Eric Roberts co-stars as a sailor who visits North Beach in Corpus Christi, Texas. During one scene in North Beach, “Bill the Beachcomber” is seen tattooing in the front of his shop at 2810 Surfside.
It must have been in the 1950s that Bill and his wife settled into the North Beach area of Corpus Christi. Located on the Gulf of Mexico, Corpus Christi was a popular stopover for tourists. The beach area where Bill was located remained a popular destination until the Harbor Bridge was built-in the late 1950s and traffic was detoured away. By the time I got to North Beach in the mid-1960s North Beach had been battered by hurricanes for decades, including Hurricane Carla in 1961. The one-time popular tourist hotel like “The Breakers” was run-down and on the brink of closing and only a few curio shops, restaurants and bars were still in operation. Two tattoo shops, one owned by Bill Matthews and the other by L.R. Dean, and both located on Surfside Blvd. were still holding on…
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: Sailor Jack Cripe was born in 1918 but very little of his early history is known. Once in show business he worked as a tattooist, tattoo attraction and banner painter and dabbled with sword swallowing and knife throwing.
Cripe left the show business world for 13 years and sailed as a merchant seaman but those dates are also unknown to us. Jack Cripe had a bodysuit of tattoos, some done by Sailor Katzy and Sailor Barney. He said that he did most of his own tattoos himself because he could not afford work by someone else.
In the beginning, all tattoos were done in black. Once the caveman had fire, they had soot, that when mixed with water turned into a pigment that could be pushed into the skin. Henry Ford’s comment about his Model-T comes to mind, “You could get it in any color you wanted as long as it was black.” Black was the only pigment in tattooing for centuries…
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: The Pike, often known as the “Coney Island of the West”, was a large amusement park located on the waterfront in Long Beach, California. It all started with a pier that was built in 1893 that grew into a major amusement area. It is unknown when or where the first tattooist set-up shop at the Pike, but it was probably in the corner of one of those small arcades that lined the, “Walk of a Thousand Lights…”
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: Before Doc Webb came into the tattoo world he worked as a commercial artist for the Fox West Coast Theaters. He also worked in Seattle, Washington at local arcades making signs. While working at these arcades Doc Webb met tattooist Bob Kelton. As fate would have it before too long Doc Webb had a tattoo machine in his hands and he spent the next 40 plus years working as a tattooist. Doc Webb operated shops in Vallejo, California and in San Diego, California. In fact, he spent his entire tattoo career around the military and the Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) flash sheet seen here is a classic example of Doc Webb’s tattooing style.
Courtesy of Tattoo Archive: Today, we can say that Chicago is one of the great cities of the world, but Chicago was a late bloomer. It was still a wilderness roamed by Indians at a time when many other large cities were great centers of trade and industry. Less than one hundred years after it was founded Chicago joined these cities as one of the largest in the world. Chicago gets its name from the Miami-Illinois Indian word shikaakwa, which means “stinky onion.” This meaning came about because of the onions that grew along its river. The 1990 World Almanac lists Chicago as the third largest city in the United States, after New York City and Los Angeles, and the twenty-second largest in the world — all of this for a city that was not incorporated until 1832! In 1840 the population was 4,417, and by 1850 it had grown to 29,936! From there the city never looked back…