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Lyle Gilbert Tuttle (October 7, 1931 – March 25, 2019) was an American tattoo artist and historian of the medium, who had been tattooing since 1949.[1]

Lyle Tuttle
Lyle Gilbert Tuttle

(1931-10-07)October 7, 1931
DiedMarch 25, 2019(2019-03-25) (aged 87)
OccupationTattoo artist
Years active1940s–1990s
Spouse(s)Judy Aurre
Betty Lawson

Biographical and career informationEdit

Tuttle was born in Chariton, Iowa on October 7, 1931 and grew up in Ukiah, California.[2] At the age of fourteen he purchased his first tattoo for $3.50 (equivalent to $50 today). In 1949, he began tattooing professionally.[3] In 1954 he opened his own studio in San Francisco. This first shop was open for 35 years.[4] Tuttle tattooed Janis Joplin, Cher, Jo Baker,[5] Paul Stanley, and many other notable musicians, actors, and celebrities.

He tattooed on all seven continents,[6] was tattooed on six continents, and never knowingly tattooed a minor.[3] He officially retired in 1990 but would still occasionally tattoo his signature on a friend or acquaintance. His fame within tattooing was somewhat controversial, as many tattooists of his day disliked his statements to the press and "shameless self-promotion".[1] When Tuttle was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in October 1970, Sailor Jerry put the picture inside his toilet.[7]

Tuttle taught seminars in "Tattoo machine maintenance and machine building" at tattoo conventions around the United States.[8]

When asked what made tattooing gain in popularity during his early career, he responded:

"Women's liberation! One hundred percent women's liberation! That put tattooing back on the map. With women getting a new found freedom, they could get tattooed if they so desired. It increased and opened the market by 50% of the population – half of the human race! For three years, I tattooed almost nothing but women. Most women got tattooed for the entertainment value ... circus side show attractions and so forth. Self-made freaks, that sort of stuff. The women made tattooing a softer and kinder art form."[1]

Lyle Tuttle Oct. 2018 - with a picture of Horst Streckenbach

His first shop when working for Bert Grimm at 16 Cedar Way, Long Beach, California. on "The Pike". After tattooing in Anchorage and Fairbanks, Alaska and California.[4] Tuttle opened up shop in 1960 at #30 7th St., in between Mission St. and Market St., also referred to as South of Market, San Francisco, California. Tuttle tattooed at #30 7th St., San Francisco, California. for 29 and a half years, until the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused the building to be yellow tagged. The shop reopened soon after at 841 Columbus St. and continues to operate as a studio and museum.

On January 21, 2014, Tuttle became the first person to tattoo on all seven continents setting up an impromptu tattoo station in a scientist's guesthouse at the Russian Bellingshausen Station where he tattooed his signature tattoo, his autograph, on project assistant/tattoo historian Anna Felicity Friedman.[9] A long-standing “bucket list” item of his, this accomplishment fulfilled a personal mission for Tuttle. He said of the endeavor: “Because I was lucky to have the greatest time slot that any tattoo artist ever had in tattooing, it wound up that I had tattooed on six continents. So I had an opportunity to tattoo on seven continents. Well, I’m not out to break any records but why not do it, it’s there! Edmund Hillary, they asked him why he climbed Mount Everest, and he said ‘because it was there’,” even though that legendary quotation in fact is attributed to George Mallory.

On March 25, 2019, Tuttle died at the age of 87. [10]


  1. ^ a b c Chuck Brank. "Lyle Tuttle: Forefather of modern tattooing (interview)". Prick Magazine. Archived from the original on 2015-04-27. Retrieved 2006-12-24.
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Aaron Beck (May 13, 2006). "For tattoo master, every mark is special". Columbus Dispatch.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b "1970-1990 | LYLE TUTTLE.COM". Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  5. ^ Portrait of Jo Baker;Getty Images. Retrieved 2017-01-13.
  6. ^ "Lyle Tuttle Antarctica 2014 Press Release". 2014-02-10. Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  7. ^ Macleans – The end: Donald Paul Leslie, 1937–2007 Archived 2014-02-22 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Sloan, Dave (November 2, 2011), "The Father of Modern Tattooing", IMA blog, Indianapolis Museum of Art, retrieved November 7, 2011
  9. ^ "A History-Assisting Historian? Helping Lyle Tuttle Tattoo on 7 Continents!". 2014-01-23. Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  10. ^ *World Renowned Tattoo Artist Lyle Tuttle Dies

External linksEdit