Some ranting and a reading on Bert Grimm

Below is a reading compliments of C.W Eldridge at the Tattoo Archive…Last week was Owen Jensen but Grimm is the man Jensen worked for before opening his own shop.  One of the 20th centuries most well know and influential tattooists.  I recently purchased some Owen Jensen flash from Lee Roy Minaugh’s son. Lee Roy was Jensen’s apprentice and co worker until Jensen was murdered.  Lee Roy’s son now sells his fathers flash as well as Jensen and Bert Grimm flash.  Before Jensen left Grimm’s shop he grabbed a bunch of Grimms designs out of the trash.  This is one of the most interesting parts of tattoo history for me…finding out who worked with who and the artists who made their mark on the community and furthered the industry.  It really is a rich history full of tall tales, rivalries, friendships and odd characters.  There are alot of artists out here now that know nothing about the history of their trade…nor care…to me it’s one of the best parts about my career. I get to explore and learn everyday…something new whether it be an old tattoo artists on the archive, or how to draw a certain animal, doing a really cool old flash piece, or going to the antique shop and making a custom foot switch out of a telegraph key… it all ties back into what I do. I get to draw everyday…I can’t believe I get to do this for a living.  When I spoke to my mentor Nik the other week on the phone…we were talking about my apprenticeship days and how I had no idea of what he was talking about sometimes. I remember him saying…I didn’t expect you too…tattooing is a journey…you never stop learning, but I knew one day that you would understand what I had meant. Even when I was an apprentice I was always buying books on tattoo history. Now I meet “tattoo artists” and talk shop with em and say Bert Grimm, Lyle Tuttle…or even Owen Jensen…guys who made our industry what it is and gave their lives for it and I get the deer in the headlights. Dude pick up a fuckin book! Read about your industries history…your never gonna get anywhere if you don’t respect the guys before you.  Sometimes I feel like I’m slamming my head into the wall. Either way I’m addicted and everytime I learn one thing about one artist or one piece it leads me to another one…it never stops. I’m running out of hours in the day.  I may have to clone myself…

Bert Grimm ( 1900-1985)

Bert Grimm started hanging around tattoo shops in Portland Oregon when he was about 11 or 12 years old, and the shops of Sailor Gus, Sailor George and Charlie Western became his home away from home. Bert was given his first tattooing outfit in 1912 and for the next 70 plus years Bert Grimm was a fixture in the tattoo world. Early in his career, Grimm spent a season with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. Throughout the years he operated shops in Chicago, Honolulu, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Seattle, Los Angeles, Long Beach, St Louis, Portland and Seaside Oregon, and China. The photograph below shows Bert in St. Louis.
Bert Grimm at work
Bert worked with some of the greats in the business, including, Domingo Gulang, Charlie Barr, Tatts Thomas, Red Gibbons, Walter Torun, Bob Shaw, and Col Todd, to name a few. Bert is probably best remembered today for the shop that he operated at the Nu Pike in Long Beach, CA from the 1950s to the late 60s. The Nu Pike was a large amusement park that goes back to 1897 and was home for dozens of tattooists. Bert Grimm’s World Famous Tattoo was historic. It was the oldest continuously operated tattoo parlor in the continental United States where generations of sailors got inked up before shipping out.

Today the Pike is only a memory but I am glad to say the Bert Grimm tattoo shop located at #22 Chestnut Place, which was in jeopardy of becoming part of a Long Beach condominium development, was purchased in March of 2004 by Kari Barba and two silent partners. Barba plans to turn part of it into a museum about the shop and continue operating it as a tattoo shop.
Lyle Tuttle's backpiece by Bert Grimm
Bert was inducted into the Tattoo Hall of Fame, then located at the Lyle Tuttle’s Tattoo Art Museum at #30 Seventh Street in San Francisco. The photograph to the right shows one of Bert’s masterpieces as worn by Lyle Tuttle.

In the later years of his life Bert retired in the small Oregon town of Seaside. He was not able to stay away from the tattoo business so he set up a small tattoo shop in his home. In a letter written to Paul Rogers during this time Bert stated that he did about 10 tattoos a week out of his house.

Tattoo Archive © 2001

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2 Responses to “Some ranting and a reading on Bert Grimm”

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