NORA HILDEBRANDT – The First Tattooed Lady

Nora-Hildebrandt-tattooed lady

 

Nora Hildebrandt was America’s first professional tattooed lady. Her place in history is due mostly to the fact that her father, German born Martin Hildebrandt, was America’s first professional tattoo artist. Nora stood in as a canvas for her father when he was not tattooing sailors and soldiers from both sides of the Civil War.

Martin set up shop in New York in 1846 and Nora was born sometime in the 1850’s. Nora began to exhibit herself in 1882. By that time, she was covered in tattoo ink, neck to toe, with a reported 365 tattooed designs. She toured primarily with Barnum & Bailey Circus throughout the 1890’s. Initially, she borrowed heavily from the embellished origins laid out by the tattooed men of years past like John Rutherford and Captain Constentenus. In her fictional biography, Nora stated that she and her father were originally forcibly tattooed by American Indians. According to her story, she was tattooed daily for an entire year, while tied to a tree. At one point, she even claimed that Sitting Bull was involved in her torture.
Nora’s fabricated tale proved to entertain audiences but she eventually discounted it and regaled audiences instead with the details of the work done by her father while displaying her body for all to see.She proved a very popular attraction among men. However her fame was rather short lived as another attractive tattooed lady debuted shortly after her. Irene Woodward quickly eclipsed Nora’s spotlight and Nora’s exact fate is still lost to history.

Image: 1942 reproduction of an Eisenmann cabinet card.

Author, researcher and an expert of the odd, J. Tithonus Pednaud has been chronicling bizarre history and highlighting the lives of those born exceeding different for over a decade.

11 Comments

  • […] Nora Hildebrandt claimed her and her father were captured by Sitting Bull and taught to tattoo http://thehumanmarvels.com/?p=68 […]

  • Reply September 20, 2011

    Amanda

    Hi, thank you so much for digging up this story, as a modern heavily tattooed woman I am very interested in learning about those beautiful ladies who came before me :)

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  • […] Nora Hildebrandt nació en 1857 y fue la primera mujer tatuada en ser una atracción de circo. Realizó su debut en el museo Bunnell de Nueva York el 1 de marzo de 1882. Como muchas otras mujeres tatuadas de aquella temprana época, Nora dijo que había sido forzada a tatuarse por los indios de Toro Sentado cuando fue cautiva por orden del jefe nativo. Contaba que fue tatuada diariamente durante un año mientras estuvo atada a un árbol. Nora fue tatuada en Nueva York por su padre, el alemán Martin Hildebrandt, uno de los primeros hombres en montar una tienda de tatuajes en Estados Unidos, concretamente en 1846 en Nueva York. Semanas después de su debut, otra mujer tatuada, Irene Woodward, entró en escena y consiguió eclipsar a Nora. […]

  • […] many concerned parents got their babies tattooed in case. 44. Nora Hildebrandt was America’s first professional tattooed lady, touring with Barnum and Bailey’s in the 1890s. 45. And her father, Martin Hildebrandt, was […]

  • Reply May 23, 2014

    Lindsay

    I love this site. Great information, layout and concept.

  • […] many concerned parents got their babies tattooed in case. 44. Nora Hildebrandt was America’s first professional tattooed lady, touring with Barnum and Bailey in the 1890s.45. And her father, Martin Hildebrandt, was the first […]

  • […] many concerned parents got their babies tattooed in case. 44. Nora Hildebrandt was America’s first professional tattooed lady, touring with Barnum and Bailey in the 1890s.45. And her father, Martin Hildebrandt, was the first […]

  • […] NORA HILDEBRANDT – The First Tattooed Lady – Circus Freaks and Human Oddites […]

  • […] (Image: via The Human Marvels) […]

  • […] many concerned parents got their babies tattooed in case. 44. Nora Hildebrandt was America’s first professional tattooed lady, touring with Barnum and Bailey in the 1890s.45. And her father, Martin Hildebrandt, was the first […]

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