England's tattoo history is rich with many famed artists, many of whom carry on the tradition to this day. It's a tradition that is ever-expanding and growing in glorious and fascinating ways.
One of those famed artists is Charlie "Cash" Cooper. Cooper was instrumental in bringing tattooing into accepted Western society.
You see, Cooper began his tattooing career in the 1960's, when tattoos were seen in a less than positive light. It was taboo to don body art for the commoner. With England's stereotypically uptight society that was and is still to this day ruled by (mostly symbolic) monarchs, shunning anyone with tattoos was rudimentary.
Cooper broke that mold with a pulp magazine piece that investigated the "Adventures as a Skin Artist."
Cash broke down how he got into the business, showcasing his heavily tattooed body with nearly 450 small tattoos. Cooper wasn't shy about his love for the industry, art in general, and his less-than-palatable views on women who want to get tattoos... ::pulls collar::
While in the Royal Navy during WWII, Cooper got his first tattoo, and from then on he was hooked. He described the experience:
"In the Navy, they don’t have electric needles. An ordinary needle, with a beer-cork handle, is used to stab out the designs."
Cooper and his friend Jack Zeek became so transfixed on tattoos that they decided to open up their own shop. They purchased a tiny piece of land with no running water or toilets, and began their tattooing dream.
Unlike the custom work and detailed realism that is common today, tattoos were generally smaller and simpler. Tattoo artists usually focused on getting each tattoo done as fast as possible and shops operated almost like a production line. It is estimated that Cooper and Zeek tattooed thousands of people, churning out about 25 pieces a day.
After gaining some underground fame in London, Cooper moved to Salford, outside of Manchester, to establish himself as a titan of the industry. He opened up a shop on Trafford Road and decorated the walls with completely original designs that would take most artists years to accumulate.
Unfortunately, Cooper's shop was demolished in the 1970's, and with it a glut of tattoo history was erased. While many of his designs and physical records may have been eradicated, those lucky enough to have been tattooed by Cooper have their memories to hold on to, and he will forever live on in the pantheon of tattoo art history.