The Story of How I Became the Tatoo Queen
THE STORY OF HOW I BECAME
THE TATOO QUEEN
pitchcard pamphlet, six page fold-out with three photographs, circa
A story of star-crossed lovers, brought together at last by a transformation
suggested by a sword swallower. How a bearded woman become a tattooed lady
— the stuff of a Harlequin romance novel on the carnival midway. More literary
than most pitchcards, this text (presented below in its entirety) seems to be a reprint of a magazine article
by an unknown author.
FOR FIFTEEN YEARS John Carson and Jean Furella
were in love. They would meet and sigh and part, broken-hearted, like
lovers crossed by Fate through the ages. For there was a barrier between
them that seemed insuperable. The barrier that kept the lovers apart was
a long, luxuriant, dark, silky beard.
The couple discussed their plight one day with a mutual friend of long
standing. The friend is Alec Linton, who is famous all over the United
States and many foreign countries, where he has thrilled countless thousands
with his artistry. Mr. Linton is a swallower of swords. He works in circuses
and in carnivals. And Mr. Linton, miraculously, came up with a solution
of the problem that had been sorely trying his two friends for so many years.
“Why not,” said Mr. Linton, “have your beard removed? You say that
you want to stay in show business; well, suppose you remove your beard,
and then, while it is being done, you get yourself tattooed.” Mr. Linton
leaned forward in his seat, tense with the excitement of his inspired thought,
but careful, nonetheless, of the wicked blade that he had been cleaning
after his sword swallowing act. “Then,” he continued, “you will still be
able to work in circuses and carnivals, because you will be just as great
an attraction. A tattooed lady is an even greater rarity than a bearded
MRS. JOHN CARSON, the former Jean Furella,
had tears in her eyes, although she was smiling joyfully, as she told
the story of the happy solution of her dilemma.
“I was one of the few real, honest-to-goodness bearded ladies in the
business,” she said. “Most of the bearded ladies you see around are fakers.
And I was happy, except that I loved John here, and he loved me, but he
just couldn’t see his way clear to marrying me while I had a beard.”
John Carson has been a circus and carnival worker all his life. He
ran away from his home in Youngstown, Ohio, before he reached his teens.
He followed a circus that came through Youngstown, and he was, successively,
a water boy, then a roust-about, and after he reaced [sic] maturity, a
“It was eighteen years ago,” said John Carson, “that I first laid eyes
on Jean. She had just joined our show — the Hagenback and Wallace Circus,
it was — and she was 14 years old and beautiful. What I mean is, she
had a gorgeous figure. But she had this beard. There are a lot of girls
around a circus, you know, a lot of beautiful girls. But I could never
take my mind off Jean, even with the beard.”
Mr. Carson shook his head ruefully. “I loved her, all right, but I
just couldn’t bring myself to make love to her. I just couldn’t kiss
her. It always seemed to me it would be like kissing my uncle.”
Jean laughed. “I never did get kissed,” she said, “until three years
ago, when my beard was finally all off, and John and I became engaged.
It was just like I always thought it would be. It was like electricity.”
That’s a sweet story, but imagine what a draw a tattooed
bearded lady would have been!
All Images and Text © James G. Mundie 2003 - 2011