An 1807 Record of Tattoos

This 1807 seaman’s proof of citizenship from Philadelphia provides an interesting physical description: a number of tattoos. The statement drew my attention as the description section is usually not as complete as it is in this document.

Curtis has quite a few tattoos for a man only about twenty-three years of age. Actually Curtis might have been at sea for a number of years as statements from seamen as young as fourteen appear in these records. 1807 probably was not his first year on the boat.

Usually the physical descriptions are not as lengthy and usually deal with missing fingers or toes, pock marks from smallpox, scars, and similar identifying characteristics. The ones for Curtis are atypical.

It took me a few seconds to determine that the first tattoo underlined here probably referred to an “Eagle on the Right arm.”

I. C. and B. C. may have something to do with his last name, but I’m not certain. He also had his name tattooed to him as well.

Unfortunately I don’t have any relatives in these records and, if I did, their descriptions would not be nearly as interesting as this one.


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