51 Amazing Vintage Tattoo Photos

Published February 28, 2017
Updated January 16, 2019

Check out some astounding vintage tattoos in this collection of history's coolest photographs of people displaying their ink.

Charlie Wagner Vintage Tattoos
Charlie Wagner in New York studio, 1940s.Bodies of Subversion/Powerhouse Books

Jessie Knight Vintage Tattoos
Work by Jessie Knight, Britain's first female tattoo artist, circa 1939.Public Domain

Vintage Tattoos Japanese Men
Japan, 1870.Felice Beato/Library of Congress

Che Guevara
Poster of woman wearing nun's habit revealing a tattoo of Che Guevara, 1965.Library of Congress

Australian Tattoos
Private Burchall and L/Corp. Griffith displaying their tattoos in 1944.Public Domain

Steel Corporation
Tattoo at the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Baltimore, 1935Margaret Bourke-White/Public Domain

Japanese Tattoo Man
Japanese man, 1890.New York Public Library

Stevens Wagner
Mrs. M. Stevens Wagner, 1907.Library of Congress

German Stowaway
German stowaway at Ellis Island, 1911.Augustus F. Sherman/New York Public Library

Butterfly
1955.Sherman Hulton/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Glove Tattoo
A model in the 1970s.Roy Kemp/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Jessie Knight Butterfly
Butterfly leg tattoo by Jessie Knight, circa 1939.Public Domain

Betty Broadbent A
Betty Broadbent, 1930s.Vintage Images/Getty Images

Jrma Senta
Irma Senta, 1920s.Public Domain

Pirate Vintage Tattoo Flash
Vintage pirate and veterans designs.Vintage Tattoo Flash

Japanese Woman Back Tat
Because kimonos were usually reserved for royalty and the elite, Japanese lower classes rebelled with large body tattoos, circa 1940s.Public Domain

Roy Kemp
August, 1973.Roy Kemp/Getty Images

Sweet Sour Boob Tattoo
Al Schiefley and Les Skuse give woman "sweet" and "sour" tattoos in 1940s England.Public Domain

Social Secuity Tattoo
Doris Sherrel getting her social security number tattooed by Jack Julian, 1942.Public Domain

Jessie Knight Bird
Bird tattoo by Jessie Knight. Virginia, circa 1939.Public Domain

Beauty Spot Tattoo
A woman gets a permanent beauty mark tattoo in Copenhagen, 1956. John Firth/Getty Images

Amsterdam Tattoo Museum
Janet “Rusty” Skuse, who held the Guinness World Record of Britain's most tattooed woman for more than 20 years.Amsterdam Tattoo Museum

Edith Burchet London
Edith Burchet. London, 1920.Public Domain

Vintage Tattoo Flash
Date unknown.Vintage Tattoo Flash

Pam Nash
Les Skuse at work on champion tattoo lady Pam Nash in 1960. John Pratt/Keystone Features/Getty Images

Aritta
Wallona Aritta, date unknown.Public Domain

Vintage Tattoo Flash Mermaid
Vintage mermaid tattoo design.Vintage Flash Tattoo

Sexy Sailor
Tattooed sailor in 1908.Huton Archive/Getty Images

Last Supper Tat
Emma de Burgh's Last Supper tattoo, 1897.Mary Evans Picture Library/Everett Collection

Cally Dastra
Cally d'Astra, 1860.Time Life Pictures/Mansell/Getty Images

Naked Lady On Bird
Tattoo of a naked woman riding a bird in 1928.Fox Photos/Getty Images

Stella Grassman
Tattoo artist Stella Grassman in the 1930s.Pinterest

Face Back Tat
Back tattoo of man's face, 1936.William Vanderson/Fox Photos/Getty Images

Bettoes Grooms
Japanese man in the 1870s.Felice Beato/New York Public Library

Horse Jockey
Horse and jockey tattoo, 1930s.Public Doman

Tattooed Boy Sidonia
Young man with tattoos, date unknown.New York Public Library

Mary Evans
Unidentified woman, 1897.Mary Evans Picture Library/Everett Collection

Betty Broadbent
Betty Broadbent, date unspecified.Public Domain

Butterfly Garter Belt
Butterfly garter belt tattoo, 1930s.Public Domain

Midway Activities
Tattooed lady on the midway during the World's Fair, circa 1939 - 1940.New York Public Library

Vintage Tattoo Drawings
Bob Wicks' flash sheet number 36, circa 1930.New York Historical Society

Tattoo India Japan Nypl
India, 1880s.New York Public Library

Tattooed Lady Nypl
Tattooed lady with sailor during the World's Fair, 1939-1940.New York Public Library

Snake
Snake tattoo, 1928.Public Domain

Eagle Shield Tattoo Design
Eagle and shield, circa 1875–1905, by Samuel O'Reilly.New York Historical Society

Pilgrim Tattoo
Tattooist and goldsmith "Nerses the Goldsmith" tattooing a pilgrim, probably an Armenian woman, at his store underneath the Armenian Patriarchate, in the Armenian Quarter of Jerusalem. Circa 1900-1911.Library of Congress

Tlingit Woman
Alaskan indigenous Tlingit woman named Kaw-Claa wearing her potlatch dancing costume, Alaska, 1906. Frank H. Nowell/Alaska Digital Collection/Wikimedia Commons

Mrs Rabone
Māori woman, Mrs. Rabone, in 1870. Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand.Wikimedia Commons

Thom De Vita Studio
Thom de Vita and client in his studio at 326 E. 4th Street in New York, 1976.John Wyatt/New York Historical Society

Rock Of Ages Tattoo
Ed Smith's self-portrait showing Rock of Ages back piece, circa 1920.New York Historical Society

Nora Hildebrandt
Nora Hildebrandt, circa 1880.Charles Eisenmann/New York Historical Society

We know for a fact that humans have been tattooing themselves for at least 5,200 years (the discovery of Iceman Otzi and his 61 tattoos from 3250 BC proved as much).

Since then, body art has been used to denote faith, class, fashion, patriotism, and everything in between. The styles have changed with the decades -- as have the procedural methods, thank God -- but the most important thing about getting inked has remained constant: It looks really cool.

Above, you'll find 51 photos of vintage tattoos that help represent the world's most personal art form.


Intrigued by this look at vintage tattoos? Next, can you read these tattoo history facts without wanting to get inked? Then, check out these quirky traits about your favorite artists.

All That's Interesting
All That's Interesting is a Brooklyn-based digital publisher that seeks out the stories to illuminate the past, present, and future.