"Sailor Jerry" Collins

About the Museum Artifacts Prime Movers USMC Tattoo Display Henry Rollins Merchandise Visitors Links Contact Info

1911-1973

Sailor Jerry was merchant marine/tattooer/machine builder the revolutionized modern tattooing with his ink and needle inventions. He also brought Asian tattooing into mainstream American tattooing. Best known for his "Bulldog" machine design.

Collins, better known as "Sailor Jerry" in the tattoo business, was born in 1911. By the 1920s he was sailing the Great Lakes, traveling the United States and tattooing on the side. For a short time Jerry operated a shop on South State Street in Chicago. When he moved to Hawaii, he rubber stamped his new address of 150 North Hotel Street in Honolulu on the South State Street card!

Sailor Jerry worked at a few locations in Honolulu, including 13 South Hotel Street, as seen above, before he settled into his 1033 Smith Street location.

Although Jerry was world famous for his tattooing, he had other interests. The sea was always a part of his life and while holding Captain's papers in the 1950s; he skippered a tour ship that covered the Pearl Harbor memorial. His study of electronics led to a first class FCC license, and for several years he hosted a late night talk show on a local radio station. On that show he was known as "Old Ironsides", another reflection on his interest in the sea.

For a workingman's tattoo shop in an era where acetate stencils were king, Jerry would make rubs from his new designs and mail them out to his friends. This was a popular way for an artist to exchange designs.

Sailor Jerry died June 12, 1973.