“Tattooing Now A Fad”

…according to the Davenport Tribune, December 15, 1893 that is!

It sure is a long lasting fad!

With the big number of railroad accidents which have marked the Columbian year there has been a widespread boom given to the art of the tattooer. There has been such a large percentage of unidentified dead among those killed in the smash-ups on the railroads of the country during the past few months that it has a remarkable effect on the travelling public. Men and women who a year ago would have shuddered at the mere suggestion of having the point of a tattooing needle touch their skin are having their names, monograms and even crests tattooed upon their bodies. And they all say that they have been tattooed in the belief that the marks made by the needle will be the best means for the identification of their bodies should they meet death away from their home and friends, says the Philadelphia Record.

But there is another class of people who, caught by the popular fad, are having emblems of secret societies and fraternities to which they belong, marked upon their skin. Many of the best known college men of the country carry the insignia of their fraternity worked upon their arms. It is among the drummers and members of the theatrical profession, however, that the tattoo man finds his greatest number of patrons. They spend a large portion of their lives in railroad cars; their danger from death in wrecks is greater than any other class of people, excepting railroad men, postal clerks and express messengers, and the tattooer is reaping a rich reward of coin from them.

With the spread of the tattooing fad in all parts of the United States the work with the ink and needle has been made well-nigh painless. The tattooing art has kept step with the march of progress in other directions and a brand-new method of puncturing the skin has taken place of the old. Instead of the laborious work of early days an electric tattoo machine has been invented. Where it required an hour in the old-fashion way to tattoo a name or a figure, the electric machine does it in a few minutes. The inventor of the machine is in the city, and lately he chatted interestingly of tattooing in general and the prevalent craze in particular. He is Professor O’Riley, probably the best known tattooer in either the United States or Great Britain. Many of the most noted tattooed men and women who have been on exhibition on both sides of the Atlantic are examples of his skill.

“I have tattooed thousands of persons, both in this country and England,” he said, “but at present the craze exceeds anything I have ever experienced during the last twenty years. Most people believe that only sailors and a vulgar class in general have tattoo marks put upon them. That is true in many instances, but by far the largest number of those that I am tattooing now are men and women of intelligence and refinement. The only explanation that I can make for this is that the danger of being buried among the unknown dead in case of a railroad, steamboat or other accident has been so strangely emphasized during the past year that men and women who travel much very wisely have the needles and ink place sure identification marks upon their bodies.

“Many of those tattooed, the ladies especially, have the work done with artistic surroundings. Men, generally want to be tattooed on the arms, while the women almost invariable have the decoration placed on the lower limb. I recently tattooed a serpent in brilliant colors around the leg of one of the best known comic opera prima donnas of the country. It bears her name in delicate letters. Another popular actress had me place a garter in vivid hues below the knee of her left leg and tattoo upon it ‘Tom,’ the name of her sweetheart, and one of the most prominent juvenile men in the profession.

“I tattooed the insignia of Delta Kappa Epsilon, one of the strongest of college fraternities, upon the arm of almost every member of the society. George Gould is one of the young men upon whose arm I place the symbol of the fraternity.

“Almost every day I put secret society marks on the arms of patrons. Two months ago I was surprised by a call from a tramp. He wanted a peculiar mark by which he was known to knights of the road tattooed in the palm of his right hand.”

I wonder… if Professor Riley could see the world today, would he me amazed, or bored?

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by BMEzine.com LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by BMEzine.com LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

3 thoughts on ““Tattooing Now A Fad”

  1. I love how tattoo stories in the media have stated off the same way for more than 100 years “tattoos used to be only for sailors and lowerclassmen but they are gaining in popularity”

  2. Pingback: ModBlog - Talk about a state of denial! - Body modification and ritual blog sponsored by BMEzine.com

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