If you have a chance to drop by the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania anytime between April 24,4, 2009 and January 2, 2010 you will have the opportunity to take a look at a unique slice of American tattoo history. The museum is hosting a show which focuses on the specific history of tattooing and the American sailor.
SKIN & BONES - TATTOOS IN THE LIVES OF THE AMERICAN SAILOR is an original exhibition, researched and curated by Craig Bruns and the staff of the Seaport Museum. Material spans from the dawn of the American naval tattoo (the end of the 18th century) to the "golden age" of American Naval tattooing (World War II) and up through the modern retro appeal of these classic designs. In addition to tattoo flash and photographs, the exhibit features tattoo tools, and audio and video commentary from sailors telling their personal experiences and histories. Throughout the exhibition's run there will also be special feature presentations and lectures including a special documentary on "Sailor Jerry" Collins, one of the grandfathers of modern tattooing.
Tattooing established a stronger presence with sailors due to the combination of long hours at sea and contact with cultures which practiced permanent skin art. During World War II, tattoo parlors boomed in naval towns not only due to the fact that there was an established history of tattooing in that particular branch of the military but also because the Navy paid sailors twice a month versus once a month paydays that the other services branches experienced. This meant that sailors more frequently had pocket money to spend compared to their fellow servicemen in the Army or Marines.
If you've ever wondered why sailors got tattoos on their feet of a rooster and a pig, or wanted to know what it meant if you saw a sailor with two bluebirds on his chest, this is the place to get those answers!
For more details about the exhibit, or to submit your own story as a tattooed sailor, please visit the Skin & Bones exhibit web site.