Vintage Circus and Tattoos

Early tattooed – ‘painted’ – women were publicly seen in the Circus


The circus as we know it started in the later part of the 18th century, in 1768, but one of the earliest tattooed women was shown in 1907 she is in the gallery below. The name tatau is actually form the Tahitian language and was a result of James Cook’s expeditions there.  Tattooing became very popular in the early 19th century. Initially it was mainly sailors and the criminal class but by the later half of the 19th century it was also popular in the aristocratic and upper classes in Britain and across most of Europe.