August ‘Cap’ Coleman (1884-1973) was born in 1884 near Cincinnati, Ohio. After being tattooed by J. F. Barber, Coleman enlisted with Sheeshley Shows as their tattooed attraction and tattoo artist. Lenora Platt was his female counterpart on the show. He wintered in Norfolk where he opened a shop around 1918 and never looked back. He quickly became a living legend and today is considered The Godfather of American tattooing.

Many of Coleman’s tattoos, which included the large eagle, the flag chest piece, the ship on the stomach, the sun designs on the kneecaps, and the fancy socks design, could be seen on the small statue that was displayed in his shop window in Norfolk. But when Norfolk’s City Council ruled tattooing illegal in June 1950, Coleman, along with many other tattooists were forced out of the city.

Coleman’s body was found in the Elizabeth River near his home on October 25, 1973. It is thought that he slipped and fell into the river. Coleman had invested his tattooing money wisely in the stock market. At the time of his death he’d accumulated a small fortune which he left to the Virginia School for the Deaf, the Norfolk United Fund, the Tidewater Lions Club and the St. Mary’s Infants Fund.