Graff Writing In Philly: A Brief Look



We historians deem the pioneering of Writing to an elder named CORNBREAD from Philadelphia. He is considered to be the first Writer of the culture. He wrote his first tag at a juvenile institution youth development center in 1965. The instructors thought he had a mental deficit because of his “need” to write all over everything he could.

He and another Writer named Tity were members of The North Philly Writers. CORNBREAD’s most famed tag was his name on an elephant in red paint. He is also the first “King” of the element because he got up all over Philly. It has been said that the concept of kingship in Writing started in Philly as well.

Over in West Philly around ’67-’68 or so were a group of cats getting up and going hard. Cool Earl, Kool Klepto Kidd, CHEWY, Bobby Cool and Joe Cool wrote as a crew. For the sake of the story we’ll call them The West Philly Writers.

They would often cross paths with the name CORNBREAD in the halls and on the walls - but never in person. They eventually met and compared techniques over time. These elders are the seeds of the element. They are the reason we have what you call graffiti today.

In 1971, a journalist for the Philly Inquirer named Sandy Padwe wrote an article entitled “The Aerosol Autographers- Why They Do It”. Needless to say, after this Graffiti Writers began populating the streets of Philly like ants. Padwe’s fascination with the art got him criticized for giving the Writers attention and recognition. He was accused of encouraging them. However, he saw their tags all over Philadelphia and could not help but find out what was influencing them to “bomb the city”.

The overall reason for the Philly Writer Movement was to avoid gang life. Some Writers have said that Writing was therapeutic. It was a stress relief. Philly street life was the same as it was pretty much in every city slum: treacherous. Philly Writers are those who chose to escape the madness with the shake of a spray can.


Philly Writers are the kings of tagging. A tag is like the handwriting of Graffiti, also known as a writer’s “hand style”. It is also the Writer’s personalized signature. Hand styles are the most important to master if you want respect in Philly. They took tagging to another level. They’ve created a world of infinite hand styles expanding the possibilities of the tag to realms unknown.

A Writer’s skill is shown in his or her wrist work. Oh no- they aren’t just spray painting or marking on a wall. There’s fades, clutches, and whipping the can, among other techniques one utilizes when he/she takes the craft seriously.

In Philly, Writers usually start with what are called stiff hand tags. Then they move on to tall hands, then wickeds, then throw ups, then straight letters, then pieces. (See Illustration)

A Philly Writing crew called The Klub City Decorators (KCD) took a field trip to New York in 1975. They discovered whole train car murals with huge block and bubble letters, characters and wildstyles. The KCD were very impressed. These cats bought that “ New York style” back to Philly and changed the whole game.

From 1965-1975 Philly’s bread and butter craft was handstyles. Wickeds are a Philly Writer favorite. They are world re-known for the art. Word has it that New York was no match for Philly with the handstyles if you were to compare. So from now on- always recognize Philadelphia as the seed city of the element of Writing and crown capital of furious handstyles.

78 views0 comments
  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Instagram Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • YouTube Social  Icon