America’s First Female Tattoo Artists Pictured in Santa Barbara

By Pat Fish

The above photo is from 1907, Gus & Maude Wagner (identified in the caption as “wife”) and their tattoo parlor and sideshow in Santa Barbara.

Does anyone recognize the shopfront? 

Maud Stevens Wagner was a contortionist and aerialist, she met her husband Gus Wagner at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. He wanted to date her, she wanted to learn how to tattoo, a bargain was struck and Gus taught her how to hand-poke. Maud Wagner became the first known western female tattoo artist in the United States.

Certainly, she was the first female tattooist in Santa Barbara, and the only one until I (Pat Fish) opened a studio in 1984 at 435 East Haley Street, and remains in business now at 2007 State Street.

Maud Stevens Wagner, tattoo artist, circa 1907. (Photo: The Plaza Gallery, Los Angeles)


Written by Lucky 777

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