Vintage Photos

Postcards, cabinet cards, Kobel photos

A good majority of early tattoo history wasn't recorded, albeit the photographs they've left behind. Most of the early tattoo photos depict either circus sideshow attractions or military service members as they were the biggest collectors of tattooing. Many had professionally done photographs often posed for the occasion. Others had cabinet cards made that were sold to supplement their income. 

Percy Waters (Detroit) and Charlie Wagner (NYC) ran tattoo supply companies and sold photos and postcards of their work . 

In the 1950s a man named Bernard Kobel from Florida, USA began photographing sideshow attractions, and in the process photoed a lot of the early tattoo attractions. He ran a mail order business out of his home selling these photos. Many of his photos were simply older photos that other photographers had taken that he would rephotograph and sell. These photos are highly collectible and very much sought after, fetching hundreds of dollars each.