Your kind ain’t welcome here, boy.

This story is from the Morning Herald Despatch (Decatur, IL) newspaper, dated July 2, 1897. The characterizations are kind of odd — although I do find the idea of using “heathen” to describe anyone who’s not Christian sort of amusing…


A young and dirty looking tattoo artist drifted into Quong Kee’s Chinese laundry on East Eldorado street shortly before dark last night and before he left the place became mixed in a row with the heathen and was locked up by Officers Holser and Weity. The young fellow claimed that he had gone into the place to purchase some India ink and when he offered the shirt strainer the money for the ink he refused to take it and swatted him in the face. The heathen grabbed the fellow’s coat and ran after the police to whom he told an unintelligible story and the tattoo artist was placed in the lockup for the night. The police were unable to understand the Celestial but thought from his motions and carryings on that the fellow had tried to get out of his wash shop without settling for his purchaser. From his looks the police do not think he will make good citizen of this town and he will be fired out at sun up in the morning.

Now, I’m not sure that the above story is really “anti-tattoo”, because it could just as easily be “anti-criminal”. But let’s post a story that’s later into the tattoo trend, from the Reno Evening Gazette‘s August 7, 1906 edition. I like that child protection was one of the dominion of the Humane Society!

Tattooing Will Be Done Away With

Old Custom of Sailors Has Been Frowned Upong By the Navy Department, and Practice Will Be Stopped.

WASHINGTON, August 7.— Enlisted men in the navy have instituted a movement to do away with tattoo marking, which was formerly popular with sailors. Since the conviction of a Brooklyn man, through the efforts of officers of the Humane Society, for mutilating the arms of a young boy by decorating them with India ink designs, tattooers have shown unwillingness to embellish the bodies of men who are not known to be of age, and as few adults care to have their bodies decorated, the practice may soon become a thing of the past.

The following description of a deserter of the navy shows to what extremes some men have gone in decorations which cannot be removed:
Tattoo marks on chest, shoulders, arms and back, vis: Eagle, ship, woman, flag, sailor, cards, clasped hands, flag and flowers.

Tattoo marks are a ready means of identification of deserters.

I guess the war on tattoos was as successful as the war on drugs… It just made people want them more.

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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 LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

5 thoughts on “Your kind ain’t welcome here, boy.

  1. If you watch HBO’s Deadwood, David Milch (the executive producer) uses those terms (heathen, Celestial, etc.) to describe the Chinese immigrants in camp (through the lips of his characters, of course). In the special features he explains it as “pseudo-speciation” or making the “other” less human and therefore more easily brutalized.

    Native Americans are likewise denigrated, my personal favorite being “Dirt Worshiper.”

    Its interesting that the Immigrant was able to get some semblance of justice against a White man. Though, as some might contend, the presence of visible tattoos could serve to place one in a like-wise minority position.

  2. Sic basicly means that the word spelled wrong was done so on purpose, or copied verbatim from somewhere.
    Those are interesting articles by the way, I love how you are doing the history of body mods now

  3. Even more amusing than calling the dude a Heathen is that the paper can call the apparent two town cops by name as if everyone would know who they were. :) Small world back then!

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