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Author Topic: Beyond bad character: The history of tattoos on Victorian convicts.  (Read 496 times)
Mercury Wells
Rogue Ætherlord
I insiste that you do call me WELLS. :)

« on: December 18, 2019, 02:14:34 pm »

Beyond bad character: The history of tattoos on Victorian convicts.

Thomas Whitton was a labourer and shoemaker from Shoreditch, east London. He was just 13 in June 1836 when he was convicted at the Old Bailey for shoplifting printed cotton. His sentence was transportation to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania).

When he arrived on the shores of Australia a year later, the brown haired, blue-eyed Londoner had acquired some interesting tattoos on his long voyage. On his right arm there was a tribute to a girl with the words “love to thy heart” and on his left, images of two men with a bottle and glass, a mermaid, an anchor and the initials “R.R.”.

Whitton (who was eventually freed at the age of 20) was just one of 57,990 Victorian convicts whose tattoo descriptions we found as we data-mined the judicial archives. At the time, some commentators believed that “persons of bad repute” used tattoos to mark themselves “like savages” as a sign they belonged to a criminal gang. But our database reveals that convict tattoos expressed a surprisingly wide range of positive and indeed fashionable sentiments. And convicts were by no means the only Victorians who acquired them.
(C) The Independent '19
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