“A Fad For Tattoos”

I’ve found this story reprinted in a few papers. The earliest publication I could personally find it in was in The Davenport Daily Leader (December 28, 1884), but it was originally published in the Boston Journal slightly earlier.

Collecting In His Own Body Specimens of the Art From Everywhere.

I heard recently of an unusually odd kind of fad. It is in the possession of a wealthy Portsmouth man, who married an actress once familiarly known in Boston. He is a collector of tattoos. The exhibits are all on his own body, and I am told — it is only a matter of hearsay — that the collection is very rare. He is a connoisseur on the various kinds of tattoos, the methods of the tribes that wear them and their history. A new tattoo is as fascinating to him as a first edition or a bit of Egyptian glass that has survived the art to make it. Only a short time since he heard of a tribe in South America which owned a tattoo of which he had never heard before, and he started post haste for the interior of the southern half of the western continent and returned with the tattoo in his possession.

It surely has the claim of being an original fad, and it is one in which the collector is not likely to have many rivals. Moreover, it is a collection of which no one and no thing can rob him. It cannot be stolen; it cannot be auctioned by his creditors; envy cannot seize upon it, nor experts malign. It costs nothing to keep it, requires no insurance. Of course as an investment one cannot claim anything for it, but it has the advantage of being pursued for its own sake and not in any spirit that can be mistaken.

I really like that last paragraph, it’s really as true today as it was then (other than the first statement being wrong then, and wrong now). Anyway, because I like having pictures with entries, I’ll also share these two ads that ran alongside the article… maybe these could have been used for infected tattoos as well?

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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.

4 thoughts on ““A Fad For Tattoos”

  1. Wonderful, travel, tattoos, history and anthropology all in one article. :D
    “It is applied right to the parts” lol, I love the phraseology.

  2. “Moreover, it is a collection of which no one and no thing can rob him. It cannot be stolen”
    now there’s a reason to get tattooed!!

  3. Fully agreed, I think that to many people think that the design is what is important and that if coppied it ruins their own, but in truth it is the experience and memory of it.

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