queer stories of a queer craze

In 1898, R J Stephen wrote this article –  TATTOOED ROYALTY: Queer Stories of a Queer Craze for The Harmsworth Monthly Pictorial Magazine.

image found here

“What wonder, then, that tattooing is now the most popular pastime of the leisured world? For one of the best-known men in high European circles, the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, is most elaborately tattooed. And Prince and Princess Waldemar of Denmark, Queen Olga of Greece, King Oscar of Sweden, the Duke of York, the Grand Duke Constantine, Lady Randolph Churchill, with many others of royal and distinguished rank, have submitted themselves to the tickling, but painless and albeit pleasant, sensation afforded by the improved tattooing needle, aided by the galvanic current, the genius of the artist supplying the rest of the operation.

Lady Randolph Churchill found here

The Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, like his cousin Alexis of Russia is another elaborately tattooed man; but even his decorations, and those of other profusely tattooed men, fall short in point of quantity when compared with those marks upon the body of that Greek gentleman who was exhibited not long ago at the Royal Aquarium, whose body was completely covered with fine tattoo work, every square inch of it.

world’s most tattooed man found here

Professor Riley’s work is pronounced to be the finest in the world. The present fancy for being tattooed, according to Professor Riley, mainly exists among men who have travelled much; while ladies have also taken a strong liking to this form of personal decoration, which, from a woman’s point of view, is about as expensive as a dress, but not so costly as good jewellery. In place of spending her spare time posing in front of the camera, or reclining her head in the dentist’s chair, or placing herself resignedly in the hands of her hairdresser, or for the purpose of passing her time in the “off” season, the lady about town now consents to be pricked by the tattoo artist’s needle, and to have her forearm or shoulder adorned with a mark such as this – a serpent holding its tail in its mouth – a symbol representing eternity.

image found here

Tattooing has its humorous side. A lover who once felt a passionate love, got the artist to imprint a single heart of charming and delicate outline, coloured in all the blushing tints, with the name of his loved one stamped thereon. Three years later he followed the artist to London, and, seeking him out, with face pallid, the light of his eye almost gone out, and looking utterly miserable and careworn, he requested that the tattooer imprint under that same symbol, in bold, big letters, the word “deceived”.

A well known army officer had tattooed over his heart the simple name of “Mary” with a lover’s knot, but six months afterwards the same gentleman had the uncanny word “traitress” tattooed underneath.

An English actress had a butterfly tattooed on her fair shoulder, the initials of her fiance, “F.V.” being placed underneath. Not long afterwards she also came back and had the “F” converted into “E” and the “V” into “W”, the letters reading “E.W.” She eventually married “E.W.” and to this day “E.W” thinks his initials were the first tattooed on her arm.

image found here

Professor Riley is at the present time engaged in etching on a man’s back Landseer’s famous picture “Dignity and Impudence”. He is also outlining on the chest of a Scotch baron a copy of Constable’s famous etching, “Mrs. Pelham,” after Sir Joshua Reynolds, the original of which fetched, at Christie’s, the record sum of 425 pounds.

Dignity and Impudence by Landseer found here

While most people are pleased to go through the performance of being tattooed just for the fun of it, many approach the tattooer with a serious object in view. Eschewing all fancy designs, they choose frequently their own name and address as an aid to identification in case of accident

Stargate address tattoo found here

Tattooing spread among the upper classes all over Europe in the nineteenth century, but particularly in Britain where it was estimated in Harmsworth Magazine in 1898 that as many as one in five members of the gentry were tattooed. There, it was not uncommon for members of the social elite to gather in the drawing rooms and libraries of the great country estate homes after dinner and partially disrobe in to show off their tattoos. As well as her consort Prince Albert, there are persistent rumours that Queen Victoria had a small tattoo in an undisclosed ‘intimate’ location. Winston Churchill’s mother, Lady Randolph Churchill, not only had a tattoo of a snake around her wrist, which she covered when the need arose with a specially crafted diamond bracelet, but had her nipples pierced as well.

Lady Churchill and Winston found here

Published in: on March 20, 2012 at 7:58 am  Comments (48)  
Tags: , , ,

jock and george and omi and jacob

The history of London tattoo artists is a fascinating one

image found here

Jock Liddel  first began tattooing in his native Scotland at a time when there were only a couple of tattoo artists working there. After Jock moved to London in 1948 he took to visiting George Burchett at his Waterloo Road studio. George tattooed the famous showman ‘The Great Omi‘ and told a funny story how his name came about. He was in Burchett’s studio one day and asked if it would be ok to pay for his latest tattoo the next week – and with that Burchett was supposed to have said as the Omi walked out ‘There goes the great omi (owe me) and he will be owing me until the day he dies’.

The Great Omi sculpture found here

Jock spent his first years in London working alone – until he struck up what was to be a lifetime friendship with two of the great characters of the British tattoo scene. ‘I tattooed for years in my house – and one day out of the blue I met Jack Zeek and Charlie (Cash) Cooper and we became known as the ‘Crazy Threesome’ – because I was a drinker and Jack was a drinker but Cash was a better drinker than both me and Jack put together.’

Jack Zeek found here

‘One of the funniest things I remember was when I was out walking with my father one day and this bicycle came towards us with old Jacob Van Dyn riding it – with blood streaming down his face – as he had just been to Burchett’s place and had a red love heart tattooed on his nose’.

image found here

‘In the old days you never saw a book or a magazine advertising tattooing gear as it was a very secret organisation. The way we used to do it…the way to buy equipment… was from another tattooist…and you had to prove to them that you really wanted to come into the business for all the right reasons.’

image found here

Jock once appeared on British TV’s quiz show ‘The Sale Of The Century’ where not only did he win…he also took all the prizes home with him. He tattooed part of the design on (at the time – the world’s most tattooed man) Tom Wooldridge ‘The Leopard Man’ and he also appeared in many newspaper and magazine articles…including clippings on how Jock had the rights to the tattooed head of Jacob Van Dyn upon his death. Saying that of course…Ben Gunn, Cash Cooper, Jack Ringo, Ron Ackers and Micky Bloor also paid Van Dyn £5.00 pounds for the privilege of buying his tattooed head and face after his demise (no one ever got the head of course).

Leopard Man found here

Jacob van Dyn was rumoured to have been a bootlegger and a gunman for Al Capone. Whenever he was short of money he borrowed from London’s tattooists. The whole of his body was adorned but he was especially proud of the tattoos on his head which included the signs of the zodiac. His penis was also heavily tattooed. He was well known at Speaker’s Corner, Marble Arch and claimed to have been in every famous prison in the world, including Sing Sing and Devil’s Island.