Posts Tagged ‘19th century entertainment’

A fascination with tattoo images swept the Victorian world when Samuel O’Reilly created the tattoo machine in 1891. A torture that could last weeks could be done faster and with less pain. The appetite for tattoos, seen as exotic through their association with the sea travel, was very present in the world of popular entertainment and among the circus people.  Even women without particular talent or beauty could make a living in the show business through displaying their tattooed bodies. However, they were marked for life as persons of low morals and dubious faith.

In the past, western civilization associated corporal marking with crime. This reputation was due to the practice of tattooing in prisons. Made with makeshift means, the tattoos had to be hidden because they were forbidden by the church. For the prisoners, it was a way to claim their personality despite the gray reality of confinement. This bad reputation was strengthened by the marking of prostitutes who were inspired by the criminals they frequented. In the world of low-class crime, tattoos displayed the membership of a gang. A discreet mark near the eyes identified at the first sight the Parisian Apache.

It was not until the 1970s that tattooing became popular with the arrival of the hippie movement. Little by little, this practice became more widespread as sports and music stars began publicly wearing tattoos.

Related post:

The Gangs of Paris: Les Apaches

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