I’m a big fan of Dangerous Minds so I was really happy to see they’ve published a blog post about Sutherland Macdonald. Macdonald has been recognised as the first registered tattooer in the country, but he’s also one of the greatest from his time. Even George Burchett, who is also considered a legend in his own right, had nothing but great things to say in his memoirs about Macdonald.
By 1889, Macdonald had moved his business from Aldershot to a small basement parlor under the Hamam Turkish Baths off the main drag of gentleman’s clubs on Jermyn Street, London. He offered his customers any design (“Heraldic, Sporting, Oriental”) at fixed prices and claimed he operated “Under the Patronage of the Highest Imperial and Royal Personages in Europe.” The rumor that he had inked royalty made Macdonald’s tattoo parlor exceedingly popular with the patriotic Victorian public. As Burchett wrote:
For nearly forty years crowned heads and famous people climbed the narrow staircase in Jermyn Street to visit Macdonald and to leave bearing some of the most wonderful ornaments ever placed on human skin. A well spoken, intelligent and gentle man, Sutherland Macdonald made friends of his customers, who treated him as an equal.
There are some really lovely images on this post which show Macdonald’s work, and you should definitely check them out. These accounts and pictures alone should show why people get so excited about tattooing’s rich history, as they’re amazing to see! Here are some below, for which DM credits Ufunk and the National Archives: