Captain Costentenus is often regarded as the first tattooed man
to be exhibited in the United States. That, however, is not
true. The first tattooed man is believed to have been James F.
O’Connel. Evidence indicates that O’Connel appeared at Barnum’s
American Museum in 1842 and Constentenus didn’t appear until the
1870’s. O’Connel was also the first tattooed man to write and
publish his embellished origin, as an extra source of income,
under the title ‘The Life and
Adventures of James F. O’Connel, The Tattooed Man’.
Constentenus was not the first, he was by far the most
remarkable tattooed man of the 1800’s. In fact, he was likely
the most heavily tattooed man in the world during that century.
Even today, the magnitude of his tattoo coverage remains rather
remarkable. The Captain was the first man to display a full body
tattoo with his face, scalp, genitals and finger webbing all
tattooed. The only part of his body not tattooed were the soles
of his feet.
designs were Burmese in origin, blue and red in color and
depicted mostly animals native to Burma and eastern mythology.
known of Constentenus, rumor has it that he was born in Albania
in 1836, and it is believed that he tattooed himself for the
sole purpose of exhibition. Exactly who did the work is unknown.
His origin story involves the same ‘kidnapped and forcibly
tattooed by island natives’ story that was par for the tales
told by his European contemporaries and it was, of course,
completely false. The same story alleged that Captain
Costentenus was actually an Albanian prince.
person, or persons, who actually did the tattoo work were
masters of their craft as the quality of his tattoos were the
most elaborate ever exhibited at that point. As a result,
Constentenus enthralled doctors and skin specialists and he was
even extensively studied by the University of Vienna on several
America, Constentenus was exhibited by Great Farini and P. T.
Barnum and he proved to be a very successful attraction. He
eventually commanded a weekly base salary of $1000, which he
further augmented with sales of his mostly fictional biography.
time of his death he was a wealthy man. According to legend he
willed half of his fortune to the Greek Church of London. The
other half of his fortune he divided amongst his fellow showmen
New York Times - March 31, 1878
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