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Sailor Jerry's work typified this style of tattooing during the early-mid twentieth century. Swallows and an anchor incorporated into a larger tatttoo. Thanks for writing this excellent article. Question: I'm researching US tattoo art from the 1860's...any site you'd suggest for photos or design-books from that era? Over time, tattoos became one of the more popular traditions among mariners. Swallow Tattoo Meaning Swallow Tattoo Design Swallow Bird Tattoos Tattoos With Meaning Tattoo Meanings Marine Tattoos Navy Tattoos Sailor Jerry Tattoos Anchor Tattoos Of British origin in the early days of sailing, it was the image of a barn swallow, usually tattooed on the chest, hands or neck. @ Daniel Collison - You're welcome, I'm happy this article provided some insights. Back in the day, sailors actually tattooed each other and had to make do with what they had. According to one legend, a sailor tattooed with one swallow had travelled over 5,000 nautical miles (9,260 km); a sailor with two swallows had travelled 10,000 nautical miles (18,520 km). :), great post you can vist this site from NASA. In some circles, they represented the experience of the sailor with one swallow signifying the completion of 5,000 nautical miles, while two swallows indicating the sailor had completed 10,000 miles. Civilians with swallow tattoos don’t really bug me, because they don’t really know the meaning behind it, so I just chalk it up to “hey, that looks cool, I want THAT!”. In addition to indicating that a sailor had sailed 5000 miles, swallow tattoos are also associated with the idea of return. This "return" symbolism is rooted in two ideas. Sailor tattoos differentiated from these terrestrial tattoos as sailors continued to design new mariner motifs of their own, creating a distinct tattooing culture among sailors. However, if they later decided to join the navy they had to have a tattoo artist "dress" the woman. (Bear colored in gold to denote a surfacing submarine above the fifth parallel, or ice walk in the arctic). Leland Johnson from Midland MI on January 29, 2015: What an interesting article! I myself have served in the navy for 5 years now and it's always great to understand different types of old naval tradition such as tattooing. Harpoon: Refers to a member of the fishing fleet. Dragon: Refers to a sailor that has served in, Fully rigged Ship: Represents traversal of, Golden Dragon: Means a sailor has crossed the. These men include (broadly): technicians, engineers, control-man, firefighters, machinists and electricians. [1][2] Travelling these great distances was extremely difficult and dangerous in the early days of sailing, so one or more swallow tattoos denoted a very experienced and valuable sailor. It measures 8"x10" and is printed on premium matte acid free paper. I was hoping to see a Snipe tattoo. I often wondered why birds, now I know. Answer: The National Archives is a great place for historical info and photos. (Suggested by commenter “Jim Lynch” Thank you! I have already had a squid/anchor piece done on my forearm and was specifically looking for "milestone" related tattoos because I've already met the criteria for a few of them and this has helped me understand and verify my findings. Swallows are considered as bringers of good luck by some cultures, while they are regarded as a bad omen in others. Of British origin in the early days of sailing, it was the image of … @ Leland Johnson - Thank you so much for the kind words! Tattooed sailor aboard the USS New Jersey Sailor tattoos refer to a type of tattoo traditionally favored by sailors and the traditions that accompany these tattoos. [citation needed] A sailor would have one swallow tattooed before setting out on a journey, and the second swallow tattooed at the end of their tour of duty, upon return to their home port. There are quite a few others but these are the ones I remember from my service time. For example, the images of a pig and a hen were considered wards against drowning; both animals are not capable of swimming but during shipwrecks, the only survivors would be the animals caged in wooden crates, hence they would float. Back then, Snipes would work on coal-fed steam engines, and due to the atrociously high temperatures of their working space, The Pit was likened to the fiery depths of hell (also fitting since they were located at the bottom of the vessel). Didn't know about the 'Nautical Star' though. Aren't they interesting? Another legend holds that since swallows return to the same location every year to mate and nest, the swallow will guarantee the sailor returns home safely. It is considered a staple of the "British Traditional" and "Sailor Jerry Collins" style tattooing. The original swallow tattoos were barn swallows in flight. Hope you enjoyed reading about it. [1], It is believed that tattooing on European sailors originated with Captain James Cook's crew after he arrived in the Pacific. You can get a swallow tattoo placed anywhere, but the most popular places to get the swallows tattooed are chest, shoulders, hip and lower back. Some ex-Sailors of the British Royal Navy have a swallow tattoo on both wrists as a symbol of a successful voyage. You’ll remember the swallow represented 5000 nautical miles, and in this circumstance, it also represented the sailor who sailed those miles too. "Sailor Tattoos" print. Today, the symbol of the swallow can mean many different things. I'm very glad to have helped and I hope your next tattoo turns out beautifully (: Very informative, thank you. 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