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Facts and Tidbits about the Tattoo World

With respect for those that came before us.

Lenin’s caretakers start work on mummy
by The Associated Press
MOSCOW – Russian scientists are working to preserve the body of a 3,000-year-old tattooed man found in a Scythian burial mound in Siberia, the Inter fax news agency said Sunday.

The man was found recently on the Ukok plateau high in the Altai mountains near Russia’s borders with China and Mongolia, Inter fax said. His long red hair was in braids and he wore embroidered trousers, a fur coat and high boots. A horse was buried next to him.

His body was shipped to the Mausoleum Institute in Moscow, which has tended the mummified body of Lenin, the Soviet founder, for half a century. The institute is also working on another famous Scythian mummy known as The Lady.

The permafrost where the red-haired man lay for thousands of years preserved him so well that the large elk tattooed across his back and chest is still clearly visible.

Without special treatment, however, the body will deteriorate with exposure to heat and light and the skin will darken.

The Ukok plateau has yielded several other spectacular finds, including the tattooed Lady, who scientists assume was a priestess, a princess or both, and the bodies of a husband and wife, both wearing armor.

The Scythians were an ancient nomadic people from the Black Sea region. Some scientists believe the Scythian women were the Amazons of ancient Greek legend.

Depp Tattoo Gets a Rewrite
by The Los Angeles Times, Thursday, January 30, 1997
New York – Johnny Depp has altered that famous “Winona Forever” tattoo on his are – remember, he once was engaged to Winona Ryder? Out of deference to his current, on/off relationship with Kate Moss, the tattoo now reads “Wino Forever.” Oh, that wacky Johnny.

Herve Villechaize – April 23, 1943 – September 4, 1993.
Herve played the role of “Tattoo” on the TV show Fantasy Island from 1978 – 1984.

Mary Jane Haake – received her B.F.A. degree in tattooing May 15, 1982 Portland Art Museum School.  Bert Grimm certified by the faculty as instructor, never used his legitimate title of ‘Professor’.

‘The Tattooist’ painted by Norman Rockwell was on the March 4, 1944 edition of the Saturday Evening Post.  Born February 3, 1894.

Social Security
In June 1934 President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in a message to the Congress, called for legislation to safeguard men, women and children against misfortune. The economic security committee drew up recommendations for a social security program and the Social Security Act was signed into law on August 14, 1935. This was but one of the many facets of Roosevelt’s “New Deal”. This federal spending put money into peoples pockets and boosted confidence in the nation.

Tattooists have been doing ID tattoos for centuries so they were quick to jump on the idea of tattooing social security numbers as further identification. In a 1930’s news article Apache Harry, a Bowery tattooist, stated, “I’ve done as many as one hundred social security numbers a week, with one woman in every ten customers.” In that same article “Texas Jack”, a Chicago tattooist, said, “That his social security customers have saved the day for the profession.” That might be an overstatement, but it is clear that the Social Security Act of 1935 did have an impact on the tattoo business.

Thomas Alva Edison and Tattooing
Surprising as it might sound, Thomas Edison was responsible for the invention of the electric tattoo machine called the “Electric Pen” that was part of a document duplication system used by businesses.  In his April 26, 1876 patent drawings of a variety of electric engravers, that did not succeed commercially, lies the blue prints for the tattoo machine in use today, Patent No. 205,370 June 25, 1878. Edison’s attempt to modernize the printing industry with his electric stencil maker, forever changed the world of tattoo. He also held a world record of 1093 patents for inventions such as the light bulb and phonograph.

Word Source:
The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian “tatu” which means “to mark something.”

Universal Method:
Before the common use and convenience of electric power, tattooing was performed with primitive hand held pokers. These simple and varied instruments remained an unchanged universal method for thousands of years.  Whether it was a sharp bone, stick or a ship’s sewing needle, basically the hand-poked style was ancient in origin.

Tattoo Club of the Confederacywas founded January 13, 1974.

First issue of ‘Tattoo Life’ magazine March 14, 1979.

National Tattoo Club’s – first newsletter was April 8, 1976.

National Tattoo Association’s – first Tattoo Convention was March 23, 1979 in Denver, Colorado.

First Tattoo Exhibition – Rome, Italy April 11 – May 5, 1985.

First Australian Tattoo ConventionDecember 31, 1977.

Needle and India Ink:
As I said on the “About” page, under “Personal”, I started tattooing by hand with a needle and India Ink.  I would like to explain in detail but I have a fear that this knowledge will fall into the wrong hands.  I actually took it a step further by drawing what I was Tattooing on before and attaching the needle to a mechanical pencil for more control and a better grip.  This alone improved my work a great deal.  Don’t forget Tattoos came a long time before Mr. Franklin flew his kite.

American style tattoo:
The birthplace of the American style tattoo was Chatham Square in New York City. At the turn of the century it was a seaport and entertainment center attracting working-class people with money. Samuel O’Reilly came from Boston and set up shop there. He took on an apprentice named Charlie Wagner.  After O’Reilly’s death in 1908, Wagner opened a supply business with Lew Alberts.  Alberts had trained as a wallpaper designer and he transferred those skills to the design of tattoos. He is noted for redesigning a large portion of early tattoo flash art.

Production Line:
Here’s something that I experienced during my early days of Tattoo collecting.  I call it the “production line” method of Tattooing.  After choosing the tattoo I wanted and paying for it, Paul Rogers prepared my skin, applied the hand cut acetate stencil and did the outlining, when that was done I got up from his station and proceeded to Sailor Eddie’s station where he applied the black shading, after that I got up and went to Esther’s station (Sailor Eddie’s Wife) where she applied the color and bandaged the Tattoo.  Out the door I went.  Now to me that’s a “production line”.

Acetate Stencil:
As mentioned above, living in Las Vegas I would wager that more than half of today’s Tattooers would not even know what acetate stencils are and even less would know how to cut or use them.  I will try to explain.  In the days before thermal copy machines Tattooers used to have to etch their designs on clear acetate stencils.  What I used to do was to take a design, flip it backwards and place it on a light box and trace the design on regular paper, producing a mirror image of the lines of the design.  I would then tape the tracing to the acetate and start tracing with a very thick needle, similar to a 78 rpm record player needle, if you can remember those, into the acetate.  This would make the “groves” on the bottom of the acetate, or on the side that would be placed against the customer’s skin.  This would really get your fingers in shape even if you had the luxury of a needle holder.  After the stencil was cut it would practically last forever.  What a great product after all the stencils were cut, you were set, right?  Wrong.  What if the customer wanted the design smaller?  Or larger?  Not time to sit back and live the life of luxury yet, there’s more cutting to do.  Can’t Xerox acetate.  The customer’s skin would be prepared and stencil powder would be sprinkled on the stencil, rubbed in the grooves and placed on the skin.  Tattoo bottom right, all the way to top left so as not to remove any of the stencil from the skin.

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