Tattooed Women

Tattoo History

Stella Grassman is the 9th in my series about the history of the tattooed lady. Grassman was a tattoo artist and a tattoo attraction. Like many of the famous tattooed ladies, Nora Hildebrandt, Emma de Burgh, Maude Wagner, Annie Howard, Edith Burchett and Artoria, she was married to her tattoo artist. She worked for the sideshows of the big circuses like Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey and also the « dime museums », museums that featured all kinds of odd things and that cost 10 cents to enter. She had a short, sporty bob haircut and had wholesome, good girl looks. She was a frequent model of Bernard Kobel. Kobel photographed lots of unusual people, but especially tattooed women.

On the Road

« Deafy » Grassman, her husband probably taught her to tattoo. The Grassman’s moved around a lot with the circuses and tattooed in Philadelphia, in New York on the Bowery, in Newark, New Jersey, in Newport, Rhode Island, and in Charleston, South Carolina where they had restaurant/tattoo shop called The Ship’s Inn.

The Grassmans divorced by the mid 1950’s but when Stella passed away in 1977, 12 years after her ex husband, she was buried next to him and they share the same grave marker in Charleston, South Carolina.

Her tattoos: angels and saints on her shins, spiderwebs on her feet, an Indian girl on one forearm and a gypsy girl on the other, stars on her knees, a butterfly chest piece, a well known tattoo flash of a geisha and a girl wrapped in an American flag. On her back a battle Royal, between a dragon and a tiger, illustrated on a Japanese fan.

It is said that there are color photos of Stella in a 1930’s issue National Geographic, but no one as yet has republished these photos.