Tattoos and the Civil War

Tattoos and the name Martin Hildebrandt go hand in hand. Hildebrandt set up New York’s first tattoo shop on Oak Street in lower Manhattan where he tattooed soldiers who fought on both sides of the Civil War. He tattooed military insignias and the names of sweethearts. His daughter Nora Hildebrandt at age 22, became the first tattooed woman to be exhibited in America. 

In 1870, Hildebrandt established an “atelier” on Oak Street in New York City and this is considered to be the first American tattoo studio. 

From "Corporal Si Klegg and His Pard" (page 303): How They Lived and Talked, and what They Did and Suffered, While Fighting for the Flag (Google eBook)  "As a matter of fact the army did get pretty thoroughly tattooed during the war. Every regiment had its tattooers, with outfits of needles and India-ink, who for a consideration decorated the limbs and bodies of their comrades with flags, muskets, cannons, sabers, and an infinite variety of patriotic emblems and warlike and grotesque devices … Thousands of the soldiers had name, regiment, and residence tattooed into their arms or legs. In portions of the army this was recommended in general orders, to afford means of identification if killed in battle."  (Book is written by a Civil War veteran, who served in the Ohio 65th Volunteer Infantry)


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