Bob Shaw was a tattooist who, at the age of sixteen, had a full set of sleeves from Bert Grimm. Bob learned the art of tattooing from Bert, after getting out of the US Army. In 1946 he began to work with Jack Tryon, Earl Brown, Col Todd and many others. Bob was born on June 22, 1926 from Bob and Wanda Shaw.

He moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1941 working as a dishwasher, just around the corner from Bert Grimm‘s shop on Broadway. When Bob was fired from this job, Bert gave him a part-time job helping Julia (Bert’s wife) with their photo business. Bob asked Bert to teach him tattooing and by September 1941, Bob had done his first tattoo.

In October 1943 Bob enlisted in the United States Army till 1946. After the IIWW Bert got a job in San Antonio, Texas, working with Jack Tryon who, at this time, was working out of a circus wagon until the city was closed to tattooing in 1955 (and did not open again until 1975).

Bob Shaw, watercolour by Pepe
Bob Shaw, watercolour by Pepe

Bob worked in the following years with Earl Brown in Biloxi, Mississippi, and Col. Todd in Clarksville, Tennessee. In 1964 he moved to Long Beach, California, to work with Bert at the Nu-Pike, 22 Chestnut, Long Beach. He bought the shop in 1969.

In 1973 Col. Todd moved West where he and Bob Shaw took over man- agement of Bert’s Nu-Pike shop. That same year Shaw and Todd opened a shop in Santa Ana, so Bobby and a new guy on the block, Bob Roberts, could learn to tattoo. Shaw and Todd also bought two other shops from Bert Grimm during the late 70’s, one located in San Diego and the other in Portland, Oregon. The Shaw family moved to Aransas Pass, Texas in 1983.

Bob was also the President of the world’s largest tattoo association, the “National Tattoo Association” (NTA) from 1983 to 1993. He was the 3rd inductee into the “Tattoo Hall of Fame” – which was called the “Golden Age Award“, which was later changed to the “Bob Shaw Award“. Bert Grimm, his mentor, was the 1st inductee into the “Hall of Fame”.

Bob Shaw died on March 17, 1993, and the 22 Chestnut Ave, Long Beach tattoo shop was acquired by the artist Kari Barba in 2003. Currently it is the oldest operating tattoo shop in the US and the second in the whole world.