10 Historical Titans With Surprising Tattoos

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Regretting that Taz-too on your ankle? Don’t! You’re walking in the footsteps of greatness.

1. THOMAS EDISON

Tattoos would never have taken off if Edison’s patented “electric pen” hadn’t paved the way for the first tattoo gun. So it’s only fitting that he had a quincunx, a geometric pattern of five dots, inked on his forearm.

2. GEORGE ORWELL

The 1984 author also saw spots. His were bright blue and tattooed on his knuckles. The dots were supposedly a bit of youthful rebellion from Orwell’s days as a policeman in colonial Burma.

3. JAMES K. POLK

America’s 11th president annexed Texas, but he had another legacy that was just as lasting: starting the trend of Chinese-character tattoos. Polk’s ink translated as “eager,” or so he was told.

4. TEDDY ROOSEVELT

Polk wasn’t the only tattooed commander in chief. Teddy Roosevelt had his family crest emblazoned across his chest. (Yes, that image is Photoshopped.)

5. ANDREW JACKSON

The notoriously cranky Jackson was never one to bury the hatchet, but he did have a tomahawk inked on his inner thigh.

6. DOROTHY PARKER

The sharp-tongued writer sported a small blue star near her elbow as a memento of a drunken night in the 1930s.

7. WINSTON CHURCHILL

As of 2012, the U.K. holds the title of the world’s most tattooed nation, and the trend goes back ages. Even Churchill sported some body art: an anchor on his forearm.

8. BARRY GOLDWATER

Longtime senator Barry “Mr. Conservative” Goldwater adorned his hand with a crescent moon and four dots, the trademark of the Smoki People, an Arizona organization dedicated to preserving Native American culture.

9. CZAR NICHOLAS II

In 1891, Nicholas II of Russia visited Japan to improve Russo-Japanese relations. He survived an assassination attempt on his trip, but he also came home with a souvenir: a colorful dragon on his right arm.

10. KING HAROLD II

Royal tattoos have been around longer than you’d think. After England’s Harold II emerged as the big loser at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, his allies identified his body using his ink, including his wife’s name, Edith, scrawled across his heart.

This article originally appeared in mental_floss magazine. You can get a free issue here.

May 24, 2013 - 11:22pm
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