This husband and wife team worked the circus and carnival circuit during the 1920s and 1930s. The Hamiltons are well known partly because of the tattooing that Percy Waters did on Pearl Hamilton, who was sometimes billed as "Mrs. Ted Hamilton."
Pearl, as shown here, and nicknamed Smitty, was also billed as "The Tattooed Doll." She had perhaps the world’s largest peacock back piece. Most of her pitch cards show her in a backless dress that maximized the effect of the tattooing. The Hamiltons probably worked the sideshows together, with Pearl working on stage with other attractions and Ted on the midway with a portable tattoo set-up. Ted, a right-handed tattooist, had worked with Milton Zeis on flash ideas for The Zeis Studio.
Ted often worked in a small canvas tent with his flash hung from the support rod of the tent and his tattoo case set up on a small wooden platform at the back of the tent. The platform was to keep him and his gear up and out of the mud; it was barely large enough for two chairs and his tattoo case. His case was spartan but complete and probably involved little time to set up and break down. When the Hamiltons were not on the road they could be found at #503 Sixth Street in Peoria, Illinois.
Pearl and her tattooing can be seen in Kobel photographs No. 452, 495, 523, 549, 688 and 921.
Originally published by the Tattoo Archive © 2002