I think one of the valuable threads that the AC lost from the crash involved a discussion of mid 19th tattoos and the practice of tattooing. “Tatoos in the war...” from 02-02-2004. While the origins of that thread still exist, I think there may have been many follow up posts in that thread that are now missing.
As such, I wanted to begin a new thread and see if we can’t regain some of that lost information. It is likely that the discussion will cover time periods outside the 1861-65 time frame, hence the “broad” heading for the new thread.
(Of course I must also plug Mark Jaeger’s fine articles on the subject in Civil War Historian magazine.)
Below are some articles that I had posted at one time. They are now transcribed to aid those that use the “search” function.
TURNED UP AGAIN.-A couple of weeks since we exposed the imposition of a pretended “fugitive slave” upon the too susceptible charity of one of the leading black republicans of Greene; and we supposed, from the facts of his imposition having got into print, we should hear no more of him along the lake shore-but by the following from the Ashtabula Sentinel it appears he is still “roping in” the shriekers: That paper describes him thus:
“He is a light mulatto, supposed to be about 23 years old, slender built, about 5 feet 7 inches in height; has India ink figures tattooed on each hand near the thumbs. He represents himself as being the slave of Hon. John B. Thompson, of Kentucky,-that he has spent the winter in Washington, and from there made his escape to New York City; thence to Dunkirk, where he was arrested and rescued from his master and the marshal. He claims to know all about Washington City, the members of Congress, and all prominent men-Horace Greeley in particular.”
The Erie Observer
April 10, 1858; Page 2
***MYSTERIOUS MURDER AT ST. LOUIS.-On the 6th inst., the dead body of a well-dressed, but unknown young man, was found lying on a common near St. Louis. It had, it appears, been stabbed in no less than twenty places. By the side of the body was found an elegant gold locket, containing the miniature of a beautiful girl, and on his person another likeness of the girl. The letters P.P., and a “soldier” were tattooed on his right arm; on his left, a small Maltose cross.
July 12, 1859; Page 1
***TATTOOING MADE SERVICEABLE.-The Boston Advertiser of the 3d inst. Has the following:
“Life being notoriously insecure in New York, one of the New York papers has proposed that every citizen should have his name and residence marked on his clothing, so that, in case anything should happen to him-to use a mild expression-whatever is found may be identified. The discovery of a body stripped and sunk in the river, however, has suggested a defect in this arrangement, and it is now proposed (need we say by the Louisville Journal?) that every New Yorker should have his name tattooed in his breast, or some such secure place ‘As to marking the place of residence, that would be impossible, for New Yorkers all move every May-day, so that a full-grown man or woman would look like a printed directory.’ “
May 5, 1860; Page 2
***TO REMOVE INDIA INK.-Many men who, in their youth, were so foolish as to permit the marking of their persons with India Ink, have deeply regretted the act, and wished in vain for some means of removing the disfigurement without leaving a scar in its stead. Some newspaper writer says that if the parts are blistered with a plaster, a little larger than the mark, and the place kept open for a week with an ointment, it may be dressed to get well, and, as the new skin grows, the tattoo will disappear.
The Columbia Spy
March 7, 1868; Page 1