What We Have
How to Contribute
Illustrated Supplement, Sunday, October 26, 1902
WHY AMATEURS PRACTICE
CHILDREN -- "PROFESSOR"
When schools on the East
Side opened a few weeks ago the teachers were astonished at the number
of tattooed youngsters who appeared for beginning their schooling. Some
of them were as variously decorated as the saltiest of seaman, and the
boys who had escaped the needle were so envious that they only wanted
an opportunity to join the ranks of the "skin pictures" as the
tattooed boys were called.
The designs were not unlike those one sees on
the arms of grown men. Youthful taste had not been allowed to assert itself,
for the reason that the tattooers were simply practicing on the boys that
they might do better work on the men who came to them. So there was the
usual round of anchors, eagles, stars, butterflies, frogs, snakes, hearts
entwined and bleeding hearts.
Then, in a careless moment, one of the tattooers
made a mistake. He wanted to try some religious emblems, and was not particular
as to the faith of the victim. In everlasting ink he put a picture of
the crucifixion, popular with Roman Catholics, upon the chest of a Jewish
boy. The father naturally objected and complained to the boy's teacher.
Another amateur tattooer pricked out an elaborate
cemetery scene with the inscription "To the memory of Beloved Mother
Gone to Rest." Quite by accident, probably, he put it on the skin
of a boy whose mother is very much alive, and has no idea of "going
to rest" just yet.
The boy strutted all the way home and was the
envy of every other child in Attonrey-st. He hunted up his mother and
showed her the pathetic tribute to her memory. She failed to see the joke.
So did the boy after she had finished tattooing another part of his anatomy
with a slipper. She, too, complained to the boy's teacher.
The craze for tattooing grew worse, and each morning
saw new additions to the ranks of the disfigured. One morning the climax
was reached when a dozen little boys and several little girls appeared
with beetles, shrimps, lobsters and butterflies crawling over their faces.
The teachers reported this wholesale outrage to
the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Then they investigated
and found that facial decorations were only imitations of real tattooing.
The designs had been stamped on from transfer paper and would entirely
disappear after a few washings. This, however, means some little span
of time among many East Side children.
In the mean time Agent King, of the Childrens
society, had been busy, and arrested Charles Wagner, a young tattooer,
of No. 23 ½ Bowery. Magistrate Deuel let him go on his promise
to keep his needles away from young boys.
It serves them right for practicing on kids,
said Electric Elmer, the Wonder Tattooer, of Chatham
Square. His real name is real name is Elmer E. Glitchell. Those who call
at his tattooing shop address him as Professor. He says he
is an artist, and that his art should rank with music, poetry
Never would you catch me tattooing a kid,
he continued. They are not old enough to know whether or not they
really want to be tattooed, and they have no ideas about picking out artistic
designs for the decoration of their skins. The judge did right in stopping
the amateur tattooers.
Its a good thing for you that there
is no society for the prevention of cruelty to grown men and women,
said his visitor.
Youre on the wrong track, my son,
said the Professor. There is no cruelty about tattooing
by my electric process. It feels just like scratching your hand, and does
not even draw blood.
But you will admit that you disfigure your
patients, suggested the visitor.
Disfigure! he exclaimed. Wrong
again, and mighty wrong. If the tattooing is done artistic-like it is
a positive decoration. Why, some of the men I turn out are as proud as
a turkey with two tails. Theyd like to go around with their coats
off in the winter time just to show my clever work.
Im afraid you dont know much
about the way the human mind works on the tattooing strain of thought.
To get it straight, Ill outline you the history of the art.
Tattooing is an ancient and honorable practice.
It goes back to the wooden agebefore the folks that lived then knew
what metal was. They went to war with axes made from wood. In order to
harden the wood they carried it slightly with fire. They whacked each
other with a good deal of skill and some of the charcoal came off in the
wound. When it healed a
blue streak was left. Warriors were known from the number of such streaks
that their faces showed. Presently they found out how to make streaks
in times of peace. From what it was but a step to crude designs, and in
the centuries that followed tattooing has developed.
Professor Glitchell described in detail
the crude methods used by half civilized and barbarous tribes in various
parts of the world. Then he showed examples of elaborate Japanese tattooing
and the neat tools which the little brown men use.
Finally, with a proud smile, he turned to the
electric tattooing machine which he invented a number of years ago.
He was about to illustrate its manner of working
by adding to the designs upon his own arm, when a young East Side merchant
came in. He wanted a sitting and the professor was willing. The first
thing to do was to decide upon the design. The young man though he wanted
Give me something that will show a couple
of hearts and my sweethearts name, he said. Her name
Now young man, said the professor
sagely, just let me give you some advice. This tattooing is more
serious than getting married. It is for life, and marriagewell you
can get the law to break up a marriage. There is no law that will divorce
tattooing. You love Freda now; are you sure that you will always love
her? Your next girl might not care for
anothers name on your hide.
The young merchant was not sure, and went further
for a design. He finally selected a sword bearing this inscription: Death
"It is surprising," said the "professor,"
"how many 'Death-before-dishonors' I put in. It shows the fine feelings
and uprightness of the young men who come to me."
The young man bared his arm and the operation
began. The professor washed the skin with antiseptic and shaved
away the hairs. He rubbed a little cocaine into the skin and then stenciled
the design. He turned the current into his electric outline machine, and
at the rate of a thousand punctures a minute traced
The patient winced once or twice at first,
but soon got used to the pricking sensation, and made no complaint. There
was little or no sign of blood. The "professor" held out his
arm that the patient might select the colors he desired, and the arm made
a perfect color sheet. Blue, red and green were the colors that appealed
to the merchant and the outline was soon completed with a brush.
The design was finished with a shading machine
also operated by electricity. Although eight needles went into the man's
skin at each throb of the current he said that it did not hurt as much
as the outline machine with its single point of steel. More color was
worked into the holes left by the shading machine, and the job was done,
all but binding up the arm.
According to the "Professor" a
great many women in New-York have fallen victims to the tattooing craze
at one time or another. "Real silk-stocking society women at that,"
says he. "The Saviour wearing a crown of thorns is the most popular
piece with women, and after that they go for butterflies. I know one woman
who has her husband's portrait tattooed upon her breast. Another man who
lost his wife and two little girls had me do their pictures on his chest.
Then there is a sort of tattooing that some women demand which has nothing
to do with a design. It is for the purpose of giving them a new and permanent
complexion, a case of cheeks always rosy. There are possibilities in
this direction for the tattooer who is willing to sacrifice his art. But
as for me--I am an artist."
Transcribed by Mark Maier, University
of South Carolina
TATTOOING IS A METHOD OF DECORATION
WHICH HAS RECENTLY BEEN PUSHED TOO
(Click the image to enlarge it.)
REPRODUCTIONS OF FAMOUS PAINTINGS IN
TATTOOING ARE POSSIBLE
A MOURNING HUSBAND AND FATHER
With portraits of his wife and children on his breast.
TATTOOING ARTIST PUTTING THE FINISHING
TO HIS MASTERPIECE.