Around 1891 the tattooing under the British aristocrates was so popular that people from other countries almost found them crazy.

The first British tattooist who was known by name was B.W. Purdy. He had a tattoo shop in the north of London. At the end of his activities he wrote a book with the title : Tattooing: how to tattoo, what to use, etc.”

One of the most famous Tattooists of the 19.century was the British tattoo artist Tom Riley. Riley’s father was a regular soldier and as a young man he followed his example and began a military career.

He had such a natural talent for drawing and was so good at it, that thousands of soldiers had their military insignia tattooed on their bodies during the South African war and the Sudanese campaign.

After he has left the Army, Riley established himself as a tattoo artist in London.

In 1890, his American cousin, Samuel O’Reilly, also a famous tattooist in New York, invented and patented the first electronic tattooing machine.

Samuel O’Reilly shared his invention with Tom Riley who was the first British tattooist who worked with this machine.

Quickly, he rose above his colleagues and enjoyed a long and profitable carrer. In this time he travelled a lot and tattooed a lot of aristrocates from the continent. It was still very common that aristrocates had tattoos.

As Riley was not only a great artist but also a good showman he had the craziest ideas.

One of his most inventive shows was the all-over-tattooing of an Indian water buffallo. The reporters never left his side.This artwork took place over a 3 week period in 1904 at the Hippodrome in Paris. The press reported that Riley was amused about the almost 20 Indians who worshiped this tattooed cow with incense!