Tattoos are common in our culture today, worthy of an Instagram post, but not much else. It wasn’t always that way though. Tattoos have a long history of being taboo in Western cultures. They were the marks of indigenous people, of sailors, and of thugs. It might be shocking to learn that quite a few of the historical figures in those textbooks you studied in school had tattoos of their own.
Let’s start off with some US Presidents. Andrew Jackson was the 7th president of the United States. He was an extremely controversial president, mainly due to his campaign to kill and relocate Native Americans. The ironic thing is that his tattoo was a giant tomahawk, a tool, and weapon closely associated with the culture he tried to destroy. It was located on his inner thigh and people still don’t know why he got it.
James K. Polk
Yet another president with hidden ink. Polk spent most of his presidency trying to round up land for the US. Maybe we can also credit him with starting the Chinese character tattoo craze of the 90s. President Polk had a Chinese character tattoo, which translated to “eager”. Hey, it could have been worse.
Ahh, the good old Roosevelt family. Teddy Roosevelt was the 26th President of the US and had such a great reputation his face was put on Mount Rushmore alongside those of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln. What Mount Rushmore doesn’t depict though was his tattoo. Teddy Roosevelt reportedly has his family crest tattooed on his chest. We would expect nothing less of someone from the Roosevelt family.
John Wilkes Booth
While not a president, he did end up killing one. The 26-year old was an actor that ended up assassinating President Abraham Lincoln. He was a typical actor with a big ego and thought of himself as “God’s instrument”. Oh, and he had a tattoo of his own initials on his hand. In fact, that’s how his body was identified after he was killed.
Thomas Edison is known for so many inventions (he actually holds the record for the largest number of patents) it would be hard to list them all here. What you might not know is that you should also credit him for inventing an electric pen. Samuel O’Reilly who developed the first tattoo machine then used this pen. So in a way, Thomas Edison helped invent that tattoo machine. Turns out he was so intrigued that he ended up with some tattoos himself- 5 cryptic dots on his forearm.
Churchill led Britain through WW2, all with a tattoo. He’s a national hero and many would be surprised to know he had a tattoo. He had a classic anchor on his forearm. We’re guessing his mother didn’t mind seeing as she had a snake tattoo herself on her wrist (that she would hide with jewelry).
Czar Nicholas II
Known mostly for being the last emperor of Imperial Russia, Czar Nicholas also had a tattoo. In 1891 he went on a trip to Japan to try to improve Russo-Japanese relations. He came back with a little souvenir in the form of a dragon tattoo on his arm. Guess that’s one way to mend a relationship.
No doubt you know this man’s name from reading his famous book, 1984, in high school. While he’s most well known for inking some of the best writing in the 20th century, he also had some ink on his body. While serving time as a policeman in Burma he got a blue dot on each knuckle. They were said to protect the wearer from harm.
King Frederick IX of Denmark
King Frederick led Denmark for 25 years. If that’s not badass enough, he had a number of bold tattoos. His ink covered his arms and his chest. He acquired them during his time serving as a sailor. We guess going shirtless with all that ink made quite a statement to his enemies.
You may not know the name, but you know the store. R.H. Macy was the founder of Macy’s department store. Ever wonder where the store’s logo came from? Well, it’s said to be inspired by R.H. Macy’s tattoo of a red star that he had on his forearm. He acquired it in his youth when he was a sailor.
Tattoos have a long history, and if they’re good enough for Presidents and Kings, they’re good enough for you. Contact us or visit our downtown Toronto tattoo shop to book an appointment for your next ink.