Tattoos have a long history in world culture. We don't have a lot of imagery of people showing tattoos in the Historical Society’s photograph collection, however, as they were not widely acceptable in the United States in the 20th century. However, tattoos have become quite common for people aged 40 and under. Our collections manager (me!) has a number of them - some inspired obliquely by museum objects and one that I will show you today that was inspired directly by an item in our collection.
The item shown on the left above is the Reuben Locke powder horn. Reuben Locke fought in the Battle of Lexington. He continued his service in the Revolutionary War as a foot soldier and privateer, was taken prisoner in 1777, and imprisoned in Portsmouth, England. Locke’s experience is one of many amazing stories lived by Lexington’s Revolutionary War veterans.
Of particular note is the carving on Locke’s horn. It's conceivable that the carvings were done while he was imprisoned in Portsmouth England, as a way to pass the time. We don't know the specific inspiration for Reuben’s carvings, but there are daisy wheels and circles and hearts often seen in English folk imagery (more about daisy wheels, or hexafoils). Happily, Locke's story ends well. He survived the war, returned home to Lexington, married his pre-war fiancee Jerusha, had 8 children, and served as a tax collector. He died in 1823.
We featured Locke's powder horn in a exhibit in the CVS pharmacy windows in the spring of 2017. At the time, I was struck by the intricacy and beauty of the carvings on the horn and it quickly became one of my favorite objects in our collection. I selected nine shapes from the horn to be tattooed on my right forearm. And yes, I filled out a permission for use of images form!
When I showed the tattoos (some pictured above) to the collections and marketing committees, we started thinking about other objects in our collections that might make a great tattoo. I have identified a few in the images below, but I will also post more on a future #TattooTuesday. In the meantime, you can visit our online collections website and see if you can find any inspiration yourself!
-Stacey Fraser, Collections and Outreach Manager
Featuring the voices of Lexington Historical Society permanent staff and occasional guest authors.