Sailor Jerry: The Father of Tattooing
In his teens, Norman, AKA Jerry, began hitchhiking across the country until he landed in Chicago where he met a man named Gib “Tatts” Thomas who introduced Jerry to the art of tattooing. “Tatts” agreed to teach Jerry how to tattoo but very few people were interested in the rookie learning on their bodies.
Therefore, Tatts and Jerry began sneaking into local morgues at the middle of the night to practice tattooing on corpses; that is until, one of the bodies they were practicing on was very much alive and well.
In those early days, Jerry found a lot of his clientele were Navy Cadets from the local training academy who would often talk about exotic places they were soon to be stationed and the romanticism of the military lifestyle. With the itch to hit the road again, Jerry soon enlisted and ultimately ended up in Hawaii. While off duty, Jerry continued tattooing locals and fellow sailors which led to the nickname “Sailor Jerry”.
After his years of service, Sailor Jerry opened shop in Hawaii and began working as a tattoo artist full time. Throughout his life, he researched different cultures who practiced the art while also inventing purple ink and more importantly the practice of needle sterilization. Jerry continued tattooing throughout his life until 1972 when he suffered a heart attack while riding his motorcycle.
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