Depression photo. Never forget. The past can repeat itself.
Sailor Tattoo Front ca 1900
The history of sailor or fishermen tattoos can be traced back to the 1700s when Captain Hook stumbled upon the natives in the South Pacific. Impressed by their tattooed bodies, the sailors on Hook’s ship decided to get their own tattoos as a souvenir of their visit to the area. From here, the connection between sailors and tattoos was established.
The demand for potentially “obscene” sailor tattoos, however, grew when young men discovered they may provide an out for participating in the United States Navy. After the government issued a circular proclaiming that men would be rejected if they had “indecent or obscene tattooing” in 1909, the industry saw an incredible boom. Many of these tattoos were of naked women. When men decided later that they did want to participate in the military, they had to first have these women “dressed” by a tattoo artists before they could be accepted.
I couldn’t find any commentary by Harry Benson and this photograph more than any other piqued my interest into what he might have to say about it. The visual is startling in many ways. The KKK brings to mind violence, burning crosses and bigotry so to see a woman caring for her child is contrary to my perceptions. When I think a moment longer, it saddens me as I realize this innocent child will have little choice but to follow their parent’s short-sighted and prejudice way of life.
Vintage Navy photos have caught my eye