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10 Pioneers of Traditional Tattooing


Cap Colemann Tattooing a customer
Cap Colemann tattooing a sailor

Traditional tattooing is an art form that has captivated cultures across the globe for centuries. The bold lines, vibrant colors, and timeless designs associated with traditional tattoos have a rich history, and behind this art form stand a handful of pioneering artists who paved the way for its enduring popularity.

In this blog, we will delve into the world of traditional tattooing and pay homage to some of the first pioneers who shaped this art into what it is today.


The Roots of Western Traditional Tattooing, often referred to as "old school" or "American traditional" tattooing, has its roots in various cultures and regions.

These tattoo styles share common features: bold outlines, limited color palettes, and timeless imagery.


Here we introduce briefly only 10 of the many traditional tattoo pioneers:


Sailor Jerry (Norman Keith Collins):

  • Contribution: Sailor Jerry is often regarded as one of the founding fathers of American traditional tattooing. He popularized bold, colorful designs, such as anchors, swallows, and pin-up girls, and his work remains highly influential in the tattoo industry.


Amund Dietzel:

  • Contribution: Amund Dietzel was a Norwegian tattoo artist who brought the art of tattooing to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the early 20th century. His work featured nautical themes and American Folk designs.


Lyle Tuttle:

  • Contribution: Known as the Father of Modern Tattooing. Lyle Tuttle was a pivotal figure in the tattoo world. He not only worked as a tattoo artist but also helped to destigmatize tattooing by tattooing many celebrities and appearing on TV shows during the 1960s and 1970s.


Charlie Wagner:

  • Contribution: Charlie Wagner was a tattooist in New York City during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Charles Wagner was also instrumental in the development of tattoo machines. He is credited with refining and improving upon the designs of early tattoo machines.

Maud Stevens Wagner:

  • Contribution: Maud Stevens Wagner was one of the first well-known female tattoo artists in the United States. She was not only a skilled tattooist but also a circus performer, making her a trailblazer for women in the tattoo industry.

Cap Coleman:

  • Contribution: Cap Coleman was a tattoo artist known for his extraordinary skill in shading and intricate designs. He worked in Norfolk, Virginia, and his work is celebrated for its precise and beautiful execution.


Bob Wicks:

  • Contribution: Robert Wicks was better known in the tattoo and show business world as "Texas Bobby Wicks". It is a mystery how he got the Texas nickname because it was said that he was never west of Ohio. While at #11 Chatham Square, Wicks and Wagner tattooed each other and by the age of 19 Wicks was billed as America's youngest tattooer.


Samuel O'Reilly:

  • Contribution: Samuel O'Reilly is often credited with improving upon and patenting Thomas Edison's electric pen to create a tattoo machine in 1891. His invention greatly sped up the tattooing process and made it more accessible.


Herbert Hoffman :

  • Contribution: Hoffman was a German tattoo artist known for his work in the early 20th century. He played a significant role in popularizing tattooing in Germany and Europe, and his tattoo shop in Hamburg became a renowned destination for tattoo enthusiasts.


Dainty Dotty (Dorothy Holmes):

  • Contribution: Dainty Dotty was one of the few female tattoo artists in the early 20th century. She became a successful tattooist known for her delicate and intricate designs.


These pioneers played essential roles in shaping the history and artistry of traditional tattooing. Their contributions continue to influence and inspire tattoo artists and enthusiasts around the world today.





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