Samuel F. O’Reilly

Considered to be the godfather of the American Tattoo, Samuel was tattooing as early as 1875. He developed the first electric tattoo machine based on Thomas A. Edison’s autographic printing pen. On the Bowery he ran a small parlor at 11 Chatham Sq. He was very successful due to his tattoo machine design which modern…

Goodnight Irene

Irene Woodward, also known as La Belle Irene, was a tattooed lady who performed during the 1880s. She made her New York debut just weeks after Nora Hildebrandt to great fanfare, including a report in the New York Times. She worked at Bunnell’s museum and successfully toured Europe. Onstage, she claimed to have been tattooed…

Swinging on a Star

Irene Woodward, born 1862, signed and incsribed  “Age 20…”  on this carte de viste. Probably for sale to adoring fans at the circus. That’s if we can believe she was 20 when she signed the the back of the card.  My other job is working in a liquor store so I’ve gotten pretty good at…

The Greatful Crane

Cranes are common symbols and themes in the folklore of East Asia, including Japan. The Grateful Crane or the Crane Wife is a particularly well-known tale in Japan, see the resources below:“The Grateful Crane” (Japanese fairy tale) Thomas Berg, circa 1910 (Detail) Cranes are an important motif in Chinese mythology. There are various myths involving…

First Tattoo Pinup Ever?

Samuel F. O’Reilly  After emigrating from Ireland in 1871, Samuel F. O’Reilly set up his tattoo business in the back of a barber shop at 11 Chatham Square, New York City. This image, showing a woman’s legs was considered quite racy in the late 1800s. A lady, when crossing the street, must raise her dress a…

Ed Smith

America’s Tattoo Master, Mr. Samuel F. O’Reilly, trained Ed Smith along with Charles Wagner in the 20’s and 30’s on the Bowery in New York City. Bums, empty bottles, and the elevated train ran the streets back then. We have all seen photos of tattooed people but not too many self-portraits of the tattoo artist…