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Tattooing Through the Ages

With respect for those that came before us.

Click here for obituaries beginning 2000

Some interesting facts

Terry Wrigley – February 25, 1932 – May 17, 1999.

One of the world’s most renowned Tattooists. Founder of I. T. A. A. (International Tattoo Artists Association also the Secretary for the European Tattoo Artists Association. He won “The Tattoo Artist of The Year, The One Who Did The Most For Tattooing” award which is very coveted, in 1977 in Reno, NV. Terry was from Glasgow, Scotland. To much nice can be said about this man, an entire web site wouldn’t be enough.


Brooklyn Blackie – passed away January 1999.

He died of Emphysema.


Sailor Moses (James Childress) – June 5, 1949 – October 23, 1997.

The world of Tattooing is a bit less colorful with the passing of a true pioneer. Moses was a story teller and left behind many quotes and quips, but one he loved to identify with (and asked us all to remember him by) was … “That if you Tattoo something wrong for long enough, it’s no longer a mistake, but a style!” (Sailor Moses circa 1990-91)


Ester Evans – passed away December 2, 1996.

Ester was Sailor Eddies wife and passed away at the age of 80. She suffered a heart attack and stroke. Ester had been a tattooist for 35 years. (I have tattoos from both Ester and Sailor Eddie)


Asa Lee Crow – passed away November 16, 1996.

He was 55 years and died of a heart attack. There was a memorial service for him on November 24th at Mr. G & Chinchilla’s place.


Michael Wilson – passed away July 26, 1996.

He was known as “The Illustrated Man” at the Coney Island Circus Sideshow since 1986. Michael died at the age of 44 when he had a diabetic seizure while alone in his apartment. He fell and hit his head and never got up. His body was discovered by friends. ”He moved to New York because he couldn’t find anyone on the West Coast who would tattoo his face,” he said.


Tat-2-Lou Sciberras – April 29, 1951 – August 28, 1996.

Michelle says her dad was one of those people you just had to hate and love at the same time. But the thing she hates most about him now is that he’s gone, and she misses him dearly.


Stella Grossman – passed away August 3, 1996.

Stella passed away from cancer and as he put it, the fabulous wife of Coney Island Freddie (Tattoo Art’s friend and mentor).


Col. William Todd – passed away June 12, 1994.

Another Giant in the Tattoo business and a real Gentleman.  He was partners and friends with Bob Shaw for many years.


Elizabeth Weinzirl – June 2, 1902 – September 8, 1993.

“The World’s #1 Tattoo Enthusiast”. National Tattoo Association has an enthusiast of the year award called the Elizabeth Weinzirl Award. It is open to any Enthusiast (male or female).


Bob Shaw – June 22, 1926 – March 17, 1993.

Bob was the President of N. T. A. and truly an American Tattoo Legend.


Charlie Sumner – passed away January 30, 1992.

Charlie worked with Walt Dailey at Tiger Brand Tattoo Spokane, WA .


Horiyoshi II – passed away 1991.

Became a member of the Tattoo Hall of Fame March 13, 1985 – born 1914.


Paul Rogers – September 9, 1905 – passed away 1990.

Became a member of the Tattoo Hall of Fame May 21, 1983.   56 years in the tattoo business.


Danny Danzl – May 17, 1911 – December 24, 1986.

One of N. T. A.’s Golden Age Award winners.


Bert Grimm – February 8, 1900 – June 15, 1985.

Became a member of the Tattoo Hall of Fame November 10, 1981.


Greg Irons – September 29, 1947 – 1984.

Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and expedited an early interest in art no matter how many scoldings he received from his mother. One day his mother moved Greg’s bed to clean under it and found that Greg even drew on the floorboards under it.

Greg moved to San Francisco and was commissioned to design a series of posters for many of the great bands of that era, including Moby Grape, Paul Butterfield, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Albert King and Santana, to name just a few. In 1968 Greg was in London doing animation and working on the Beatle’s classic film “Yellow Submarine”. Greg returned to San Francisco in 1969 where he continued to work on rock posters as well as album covers for Mercury Records. All this before Greg did before becoming a tottooist.


Betty Broadbent – Born November 1, 1909 – passed away 1983.

Was the first person to be entered into the Tattoo Hall of Fame August 5, 1981.


Lenord “Stoney” St. Clair – Died peacefully in his sleep December 3, 1980 at the age of 68.

Stoney was a fantastic story teller and started tattooing in the Cole Circus in his teens even though he was crippled.


Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins – born in Reno, Nevada January 14, 1911 – June 12, 1973.

“American Tattoo Master”

Additionally a master of elaborate practice jokes, both real and sometimes considerably embellished in the retelling, were an integral part of Jerry’s personality. He expanded the array of colors available by developing his own safe pigments. He created needle formations that embedded pigment with much less trauma to the skin, and he was one of the first to utilize single-use needles and hospital-quality sterilization.


Christian Warlich – Passed away 1965.

Became a member of the Tattoo Hall of Fame on July 8, 1984.  He was the sixth person to be so honored for his many years of service to his profession.

NOTE: On February 9, 2008 I received an email from a “tattoo history buff” concerning some of the above information needed corrections. They said that “… he was born January 5th 1890 and he died February 27th 1964 … he worked in Hamburg Germany in his cafe/tattooshop in what is today the Clemens Schulzstrasse on no.44. He even managed to tattoo during the W.W.II when tattooing was prohibited by the nazi regime. During 44 years of tattooing he had about 50,000 clients. Warlich is buried at the Ohlsdorfer Friedhof in Hamburg.


George L. ‘Doc’ Webb – was entered into the Tattoo Art Museum’s Hall of Fame on September 15, 1984.


Percy Waters – December 9, 1888 – November 25, 1952

Became a member of the Tattoo Hall of Fame January 15, 1987.  


The first Tattoo Artist to appear on TV was George Burchett in 1938 in the UK.


June 4, 1934 George Burchett begins tattooing Omi.


June 6, 1939 Omi arrives in the US.


Omi – became a member of the Tattoo Hall of Fame November 5, 1986.


Samuel F. O’Reilly

New York tattoo artist Samuel F. O’Reilly invented the electric tattoo machine in 1891. He had been using the hand method of tattooing before, but it was tediously slow. The demand for more elaborate tattoos led O’Reilly to seek a faster method.


O’Reilly found a device called the “Electric Pen”. This device, invented by Thomas A. Edison in 1876, mentioned above, was part of a document duplication system used by businesses. The handheld Electric Pen used a high-speed reciprocating motor to drive a single needle. It did not use any ink, but merely perforated holes in a master form. The master form then became a stencil, and ink rolled onto its surface passed through the holes to make copies onto blank sheets placed underneath the stencil.


O’Reilly took this invention, added multiple needles and an ink reservoir, and earned a U.S. patent in 1891.


Charlie Wagner – Tattoo Machine patented  August 23, 1904.


Charlie Wagner

O’Reilly’s invention was soon replaced with another of Edison’s improvements on the 1876 patent drawing. The dual coil reciprocating engraver, a prototype of today’s machine, was patented for tattooing by Charlie Wagner. Several tattooists helped develop the electric tattoo machine in to its present form. Percy Waters, Bill Jones, George Burchett, Cap Coleman, Paul Rogers….the list is endless and everyone had their own way or preference.


Charles Wagner – became a member of the Tattoo Art Museum’s Hall of Fame on October 1, 1985.  He worked in the same location for more than 60 years at #II Chatham Square; at the foot of the Bowery, the hub of New York City.


Philadelphia Eddie’s – National Tattoo Museum opened April 26, 1987.


Tattoo Stiggy (World Record Most Tattoos) October 16, 1980.


Percy Waters

Born and raised in Anniston, Alabama, Percy Waters began his career as a foundry man eventually moving to New York City in 1917 to learn the Tattoo trade from Charles Wagner of the Bowery. When Wagner hinted the Big Apple wasn’t big enough for the both of them, Waters set up shop in Detroit in 1918 where he worked and prospered until 1938.



Carol (Smokey) Nightingale, a Canadian, tattooed in Alliston, Ontario and in Vancouver at #418 Hastings Street East.  He relocated to the states in 1965 and set up shop in the Nation’s Capital, Washington, DC at #900 Twelfth Street NW. There he built a very unique shop. To enter you would push the buzzer, he would come to the door and ask you what you wanted. If the answer was not correct he would then ask for an admission fee.  With these formalities over and once inside, you saw that Nightingale worked in a metal cage often with a dog in there with him. His shop was in a rough section of DC, just across the street from the bus station, so his security was above normal.


It has been said that he learned tattooing from his mother in the circus and acquired his first tattoo from her at the age of eleven. Nightingale spent twelve years in the Merchant Service, and started tattooing in 1957 (he called tattooing dermographology). It is said that he specialized in designs related to the female form and used an ultrasonic method of cleaning his equipment. Known as “The Man with the Golden Needle,” Nightingale was a chain pipe smoker, hence the nickname Smokey.


Tom Leppard

Retired British soldier Lieutenant Tom Leppard has had 99.9 percent of his body tattooed with a leopard-skin design. The insides of his ears and the skin between his toes are tattoo-free.


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