Jessie Knight, Britain’s first professional female tattoo artist at work (via)
Tattoo Jack applies a flash design to a customer in his Nyhavn shop c. 1940s (via)
Jeff Newton and Pamela Nash, members of the Bristol Tattooing Club c. 1950s
Charles Wagner (1875 - January 1, 1953) was a tattoo artist and the apprentice of Samuel O’Reilly, the inventor of the electric tattoo machine. As a young boy, Wagner saw Prince Constantine at a dime museum in the 1880s. This experience influenced his career choice.
Charles worked as a tattoo artist in New York City for over 50 years, and in 1904, acquired a patent of his own for a new tattoo machine, with the coils aligned differently to O’Reilly’s original. Charles’ design is very similar to many of those still used today. Sailors were his biggest customers but he also did work for tattooed ladies such as Betty Broadbent, Mildred Hull, Irene Woodward, May Vandermark and Lotta Pictoria.
When Samuel O’Reilly died, Wagner took over his studio and worked there until he died in 1953.
Wagner was arrested in 1943 in New York for violating the Sanitary Code. He told the judge he was too busy doing necessary work for the war (tattooing clothing on sailors’ pin up tattoos) to keep his needles clean. He got a fine for 10$ and was told to clean up his shop.
After he died, the contents of his studio, including his artwork were taken to the city dump. (x)
I’ve seen this photograph constantly posted as Betty Broadbent.
This is not Betty Broadbent- this is former circus attraction Irene “Bobbie” Libarry photographed by Imogen Cunningham, 1976.
Betty Broadbent was born on November 1, 1909 in Philadelphia.
Her interest in tattooing began at the early age of fourteen. It was then she met Jack Redcloud while working as a nanny in Atlantic City. Redcloud introduced her to his tattoo artist, Charlie Wagner. In 1927 Wagner, alongside several other tattoo artists, including: Tony Rhineagear, Joe Van Hart and Red Gibbons would tattoo a bodysuit of over 565 tattoos on Broadbent.
On May 3, of 1939 the New York Times would quote Broadbent stating, “It hurt something awful, but it was was worth it.” In the same year, Broadbent began exhibiting her art with the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. While working in a side show in 1939, Broadbent challenged the traditional views of beauty for women during the 1930s by participating in a beauty pageant at the World’s Fair.
Alongside exhibiting her art, Broadbent tattooed others herself. She worked in shops across the country including spaces located in Montreal, San Francisco and New York. She also spent time working for independent circuses in both New Zealand and Australia. When she returned home to the United States, she continued performing and traveling in a side show until she retired in 1967.
Betty Broadbent is regarded as the most photographed tattooed lady of the 20th century. In 1981, Broadbent was the first person to be inducted into the Tattoo Hall of Fame.
Betty Broadbent died in Florida on March 28, 1983 (x)