New York City was deprived of the concept of legal tattoo shops from 1961 up until 1997 owing to purported series of blood borne Hepatitis-B cases. The Health Department officially prohibited tattooing by virtue of alleged virus spreading instances associated with Cony Island tattoo parlors in 1950s.
Tattooing in New York began to action while catering to seafarers at first who picked up a haircut and some permanent ink which is Financial District now. Late 19 century pushed the tattoo kiosks to Bowery serving to all kinds but Bowery was essentially a depraved nirvana for soldiers and sailors.
The age depicted a picture where barbers and tattoo artists shared a shop front that led the appearance of barber poles. The shop front embellishment mirrored the common idea that barbers were doctors of that time. The colors blue, red and white in the barber pole tied relevance to veins, arteries and bandages, respectively.
Back in medieval times, “barbers were more akin to surgeons than hairdressers, and provided much more than a simple shave and a haircut… they lanced abscesses, set bone fractures, picked lice from hair and even pulled rotten teeth.” As the 19th century followed, tattoo makers actively fixed your black eyes while hairdressers were yet to transform from surgeons in foreseeable time (Not too far).This necessitated the placement of warm towel to overcome swellings than putting on leeches.
The concept of painting black eyes was massively advocated to save simple-men losing their chance while looking for a day work jobs. Although tattooists have dismissed the practice, permanent makeup like eye liners can still be the last resort.
Let us look at some background of tattoo craft. The founding father and mothers incorporates Samuel O’Reilly who patented the first electric tattoo machine in 1891 (Patent#464,801). He modernized Thomas Edison’s invention of electric pen to develop a device that changed tattooing forever.
Born in 1897, known and remembered as “tattooed lady”, Mille Hull kicked off her career as an exotic dancer in circus. She was tattooed by Charles Wagner quite frequently which accounts for the popularity of her title. She later owned her own tattooing shop by 1939 called Tattoo Emporium which she shared with an associate tattoo artist and a barber.
Charlie Wagner was New York’s most competent and ingenuous tattoo artist of his time gone all-out to handle his ink trade on the Bowery, behind the division of a “five-chair barber shop” in words of New York Times article published in 1943. All gender eagerly sought his creative hand from 1890s until his demise in 1953. His six decade career also encompasses reconditioning of O’Reilly’s brilliant tattoo machine which gained him his own patent in 1904 (Patent#768,413)
Another Russian immigrant tattooist rose named William Moskowitz who opened a barber shop on the Bowery in 1920s. He learned and honed his tattooing skills with his friend’s Charlie Wagner help by late 30s. Having pursued both trades he sooner realized the booming nature of tattooing as compared to hair-cutting. He continued to deliver his talent of tattoo craft to his son-in-law and his sons, Walter and Stanley. A line of ink was carried on by the brothers called Bowery Ink.