Although the art of tattooing has risen so drastically in popularity throughout recent years, it is important for us to consider the societal stigma that was once so readily attached to having ink. While most of us remember the fear of our parents catching us with a tramp stamp or tribal arm band, these historical figures were practicing a riskier form of rebellion. In many ways, their blazon defiance has paved the way for the entrance of tattoos into mainstream pop culture.
R.H. Macy (1822 – 1877)
As the chain of department stores in his namesake could not possibly be a more conventional American establishment, R.H. Macy was surprisingly ahead of the times. In fact, many accounts have cast light upon the Macy’s store founder as the “hipster” of his era. That iconic Macy’s red star symbol was actually inspired by the department store founder’s very own tattoo. R.H. Macy had served in the United States Navy as a young man. He received the ink during these earlier years on adventures as a sailor.
Thomas Edison (1847 – 1931)
Probably the most famous American inventor, the revered Thomas Edison still maintains the record for most patents earned by a single individual. Furthermore, the developer of the first tattoo machine, Samuel O’Reilly utilized the emerging technology initiated by Edison for an electric pen. Although the renowned inventor is best known for his intellectual accomplishments, it is interesting to note that he donned a fairly mysterious tattoo of five simple dots on his forearm. It is unknown exactly what this represented to the incredible innovator, but we can surely be thankful for his work. Without it, we may not have the modern tattoo machine commonly used today.
Teddy Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)
Some may not find it so shocking that our 26th president and the epitome of old school machismo would have a tattoo. However, Teddy Roosevelt was still a rebel of his day. The president rocked a fitting tat of his family crest on his chest.
Czar Nicholas II (1894 – 1917)
Czar Nicholas II may as well have been known as the man with the dragon tattoo. While the iconic symbol is a famous go to piece for ink addicts worldwide, it was still an oddity among Russian royalty of the era. The czar got his tat while visiting Japan in 1891.
“Pretty Boy” Floyd (1904 – 1934)
The infamous bank robber “Pretty Boy” Floyd’s wanted poster referred to a tattoo of “Nurse in Rose.” Floyd’s art was inked by the legendary Bert Grimm who was completely unaware he had tattooed the notorious public enemy. It wasn’t until a U.S. Marshall interviewed him about the work that Grimm realized who he had marked. What’s more, the Marshall admired the skilled artwork so much that he requested the same tattoo.
George Orwell (1903 – 1950)
Orwell’s literary achievements with his dystopian works like 1984 and Animal Farm have illustrated his views on society and influenced modern day rebels significantly. However, it may still be rather surprising that he had tattoos. During a stint in Burma with the Indian Imperial Police, the author received a blue dot on each knuckle meant to protect the wearer.
Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965)
The famous Winston Churchill wore an anchor on his arm. While Churchill’s ink may have been fairly prosaic, his mother seemingly may have had a wilder side. Lady Randolph Churchill had the image of a snake wrapped around her wrist which she was able to cover with jewelry when she saw fit. Like mother, like son?