Flash from the Bowery: Classic American Tattoos 1900-1950
I finally got my hands on "Flash from the Bowery: Classic American Tattoos, 1900-1950" by Cliff White, and I can't recommend it enough to anyone who loves tattooing and classic Americana.
Published by Schiffer Books, "Flash from the Bowery" is filled with nine hundred sheets of tattoo art from over the past hundred years that still attract collectors today. Here's more on the collection:
Between these pages are images of the original acetate rubbings from Charlie Wagner's turn of the 20th century tattoo shop, The Black Eye Barbershop, in the Bowery at Chatham Square in New York. This is the only known art that has survived from this shop, where Samuel J. O'Reilley's modern-day electric tattoo machine was born and patented. The imagery of this classic flash preserves the origins of American tattoos, when tattoo art was transferred to the client from these templates via an acetate stencil. Everything was done by hand until O'Reilley's electrified tattoo machine changed history. This rich heritage of folk art has more than 900 individual pieces of flash that provide commentary on the shop's clientele and reveal some of the social, economic, and political ideas of the time.In the Introduction, Cliff offers some history on the sheets. This is to be expected of course. Every time I've had a conversation with Cliff, I've always enjoyed a history lesson. It's one of his missions to inform and carry on the great traditions of the craft.
Read more on Cliff here.
The book is just a small part of the tattoo gems Cliff has collected. His studio in Long Island, NY and his Victorian home (which was passed down from his great great grandfather) house artifacts that include photos and calling cards of the industry's godfathers and godmothers -- like the card of Mildred Hull, one of the few female tattooers on the Bowery in the forties. He also has sideshow memorabilia like a hand-carved wooden mermaid from Coney Island and Victorian spindled arch from Barnum & Bailey. And of course, he has vintage tattoo machines. [Cliff created the Oldtimer tattoo machine in 1989 as a nod to the forerunners of the craft.]
And so it's no surprise that Cliff's book is a rare and wonderful assemblage of old school tattoo. A must have. You can purchase it online at Schiffer Books.