References for Tattoo History

If you’ve been following my blog for some time now, you’re probably quite aware of the numerous occasions where I’ve stated that I’m a nerd for learning about tattoo history. It’s a topic that I thoroughly enjoy reading up on; just the other day I mentioned this when posting the latest episode of Tattoo Age. Well, here’s an absolutely awesome collection of excellent videos, books, photos, interviews, and you name it in regards to the history of tattooing. There really is a bunch of awesome finds in there, so take a look around. Thanks to slayer9019 for putting all of that together for everyone.

If you’re unfamiliar with LST, Last Sparrow Tattoo is an amazing community of tattooers and tattoo enthusiasts that talk, discuss, debate, and share all things tattoos. LST is a site that I frequent on a daily basis, and it is a really great resource to gather information on tattooing, ask questions, or just to shot the breeze like any other message board. Make sure to read up on some of the guidelines for newcomers before posting if you decide to stick around and post.

I’ll leave you with these awesome quotes from Hello Sailor! The Nautical Roots of Popular Tattoos:

But beyond mere records of their travels, tattoos also served a superstitious purpose among those living an unpredictable, and often risky, lifestyle. “Many sailors are extremely superstitious,” says Eldridge, “so they would get specific tattoos to relieve this anxiety over their beliefs. There are stories of guys in the old, wooden-ship days who would get Christ’s head tattooed on their backs so if they got into trouble and had to take lashes, the person wielding the lash would be more sympathetic.”

The variety of designs matched each and every danger aboard a ship. “Sailors would get things like a pig and rooster on their feet to keep them from drowning,” Eldridge says. “They would have ‘Hold Fast’ tattooed on their knuckles so that when they were in the riggings, their hands would stay strong. They would get hinges on their elbows to keep them from having rheumatism and arthritis, and sometimes they would even get a little oil can tattooed above the hinge so that the hinges would stay lubricated.”

Though the meanings of such tattoos have often shifted according to context, for some sailors, crosses on the feet were an attempt to ward off sharks, swallows were associated with a safe voyage home, and nautical stars were linked to accurate navigation. “The stereotypical images we think of as classic tattoo designs today—pierced hearts, swallows, anchors, suns and moons, mermaids, naked women, memorial images such as graves, and religious imagery such as crosses—were all common motifs by the time militaries started recording the tattoos of enlisted men,” says Lodder. “All these designs can be found in naval handicrafts and folk art of the same period, too, etched into tobacco tins, carved into whalebone as scrimshaw, or included in love-tokens made from beads and shells.”


About Our Endless Days

I am an avid traditional tattoo enthusiast that enjoys the rich culture, history, and art of tattoos. At this point in time, I'm slowly but surely adding to my tattoos.
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