Hoyt's German Cologne trade card, (1900s)
The Tattoo Archive has always been interested in the origin of tattoo designs. At times it seems that the walls of tattoo shops simply mirror the world outside it’s doors and the public may be our best source of new imagery. Everyday customers walk in the door with designs in hand and many of those designs will work their way through the business and some will become classics. It is those classics that we like to talk about!
Woman with butterfly design by Bob Wicks,
1920s (Courtesy Temple Tattoo Museum)
Flower designs have been a mainstay in the tattoo business for centuries and no flower design is more popular than the rose. The rose has been done in thousands of innovative ways and some tattooists have even made a name for themselves with their clever rose designs. One of our favorite variations on the rose is the “head in the rose” design. The Archive has versions of this design that date back to 1903 on postcards and trade cards, like the Hoyts German Cologne card seen above. Most of these show a baby or a young girl’s head as the center of the design, although a different flower design will sometimes be used with a woman’s head as the center.
The earliest tattoo version the Archive has seen of the head in the rose design comes from William Cail. The Temple Tattoo Museum has a beautiful sheet of flash by Cail, probably from the 1910’s. That design remained popular for the next fifty years and has been seen in different variations on sheets of flash. Some tattooists would not be satisfied with just the head as the center of the rose and would put full nude bodies coming out of the flower. Others would use hula girls, kewpie dolls and sailor girls. This design did fall out of favor in the 1950s but with the current popularity of traditional designs it is making a bit of a comeback.
1940s tattoo sailor girl design, artist unknown