When it comes to tattooing’s history, there are a lot of guys who seem to come and go. Not everyone can be as well documented as some of the old greats, but it’s always important to keep looking for information. History is super important- from there, we can see where our most-loved designs, techniques, shops, and tattooers have all come from. If you look backwards, you look forwards with a much clearer mind.
With that in mind, one tattooer that remained a mystery for a long time now has some light shed onto his history. A tattooer by the name of C.H. Fellowes had a sketchbook that seemed to show up from nowhere in the 1960s, and was published as “The Tattoo Book” in 1971. The creator of the artwork inside remained a mystery, until just recently, when a relative of Bert Grimm did some digging up into her family history.
From the Boston Globe:
The sketchbook, now in the collection of the Museum of America and the Sea at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, presented her with some significant clues. Some of the pieces included illustrations of the Spanish American War of 1898, and one was dated 1900, tightening the window on the time frame in question. Then there was the cover embossed with two names: Warner Locks and C.E. Stumcke.
Charles E. Stumcke, Nyssen discovered after a search of genealogy resources and city census data, was a Boston resident and employee of the Bigelow and Dowse Hardware Co., one of the biggest hardware stores in Boston in the late 1800s. Warner Locks was a Chicago-based hardware company of the same era. Finally, things started to click into place.
Nyssen cross-referenced the name C.H. Fellowes with Stumcke. The 1897-1898 Boston City Directory had both men’s addresses listed as 229 Franklin, which happens to have been the address of Bigelow and Dowse. Fellowes, it turns out, also worked in the hardware business under Stumcke (which is interesting also because it tells us just how long employees have been taking stationery home from work).
You can read the full report here, and I would highly recommend it! It’s a great read, and a fantastic look into one of tattooing’s unknown talents. It’s great how the history of tattooing is still being uncovered, and is still very much alive today.