Maude Wagner was the first American woman who displayed tattoos done of her own volition, but she also became the first American woman tattoo artist. She was a circus performer, an aerialist and contortionist. What caused her to became the tattooed lady? It was love.
He was Gus Wagner, a midwestern man himself who had been sailing the world in the late 1800s and returned home covered in nearly 300 tattoos. He claimed to have learned his tattoo technique from tribesmen in Java and Borneo.
Wagner met Maud at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, where she was working as an aerialist. At the time, Gus was also traveling in circuses and doing sideshows, amazing audiences with his intricate and extreme ink work. In exchange for a date, Gus offered to give Maud a lesson in tattooing. She obliged, and the rest was history.
Gus and Maude looked like any ordinary family, with their daughter Lotteva, dressed with their arms and legs covered like proper Victorians. But without the yards of clothing, they were covered in art. They even taught Lotteva to ink tats, starting when she was nine years old. Read the story of Maude Wagner at Messy Messy Chic.