Many old-school tattooists recalled seeing their first tattooed person in the sideshow, as the circus sideshow spread tattooing from coast to coast in America. They admitted that this had a major impact on them choosing the art of tattooing for a livelihood.
Ethel Martin Vangi, aka Lady Viola, born in March 1898, was one of those circus troopers causing a stir in the tattoo world and the outdoor amusement business. The Bowery-Coney Island-Brooklyn tattooist Frank Graf tattooed her in the 1920s.
Lady Viola did have a very special suit of tattoos, often being billed as “The Most Beautiful Tattooed Woman in the World.” Along with popular tattoo figures of the time, she had the United States Capitol on her back and the Statue of Liberty and Rock of Ages on her legs. She spent decades in the show business world and was still working with the Thomas Joyland Show at the age of 73!
Although Lady Viola made her name as a tattoo attraction, like many other female attractions (including Betty Broadbent) she also did some tattooing.
She died in april, 1977 and the last pic is one of her last photos.
Lady Viola (originally born Ethel Martin); Covington, Kentucky, 1898; tattooed by Frank Graf (Coney Island) in the 1920s.
A circus attraction, billed as “The Most Beautiful Tattooed Woman in the World”; she wasn’t only a tattooed lady but also a tattoo artist: in 1970, at the age of 73, she was known as the oldest performing tattoo artist in the world.