Gus Wagner is considered one of the first tattoo professionals, and his greatest body of work was, well, his own body. In all, Wagner said he had 264 tattoos, which led to him promoting himself in a circus-sideshow style act as “the most artistically marked up man in America.”
Sharing space with him on the marquee was his wife, Maud Stevens Wagner, who was apparently at least as much of an attraction — at least according to this photo and blurb that appeared in a Utah newspaper in 1909. All of her body art was, of course, completed by her husband, “The Original Gus Wagner.”
But Maud was more than just an inked canvas: she was also an aerialist, contortionist, and the mother to one daughter — Lovetta.
The photo shown at right (and the notice below) were published in the local newspaper in advance of the couples’ appearance at the Big Four State Fair. Also appearing: snake charmer Madame Brew, an 8-legged horse, “the largest number of race horses ever seen on any race track in the Rocky Mountain states,” trained ponies and dogs “of almost human intelligence,” and the main event: the Wild West show.
The Tattooed Woman
The Wagners, “The Tattooed People” are here, and can be seen in a sideshow at their museum in the southwest corner of the museum grounds.
Photo: Mrs Gus Wagner, the Tattooed Woman, who will exhibit, beginning Monday, at the Fair Grounds.