Mrs Wagner & The Fish Knives



Mrs Wagner & The Fish Knives









Maud Stevens Wagner
Maud Wagner. Wife, mother and contortionist. Also the first woman in the United States to gain recognition as a professional tattoo artist, tutored by her husband Gus Wagner.. the infamous 'Tattoed Man'. It is Gus's fine handiwork you see adorning Maud's agile torso... It is reputed they met at the St Louis World Fair and it was love at first sight. Obviously a match made in heaven. Their love was so grand .. they named their daughter Lovetta.
Although Maud died in 1961 and Gus in 1941, both remain in service today... together again .. forever captured in glass paperweights .. to grace the homes of us modern day folk and remind us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and happiness awaits those with an adventurous spirit. Apologies for Gus's absence.. He's stuck in the camera waiting for a battery recharge... Maud however was keen to be in the limelight.. with only a slight grudge that the vintage silverware was the object of focus.. I think her menacing appearance would make her a worthy watcher of the family silverware and heirlooms.


My Grandmothers Sideboard
It's been a while since I posted a Silver Sunday hosted by the lovely Beth over at Gypsy Fish Journal .. Mostly as everything has been packed with the recent move .. but I love any opportunity to polish up the silverware for a bit of vintage indulgence. OK.. there was no polishing involved. I admit i love the pretty worn patina from years of show and tell. Childhood years digging through my grandmothers imposing sideboard to find all the shiny silver pieces hidden beneath the dusty napkins, vintage photos and cardboard boxes filled with strange little trinkets meaningless to anyone but the finder and keeper. That would be me! [sorry dear brother and any other lost family relative reading this post].
Rewards were at the waiting for those willing to tussle with the overstuffed drawers. Drawers that jammed prying little fingers rushing to hide their pilfering pilgrimage. A journey would take place in mind and imagination. An adventure into lands of shiny sparkly things, musky napkins, and faded memorabilia that documented the lives of unspoken relatives with ambitious dreams. Rewards were at the waiting for those brave enough to excavate the treasures from the sentinel of untold golfing trophies standing guard of a pirates loot. The world would seem a little more mysterious in the presence of these shiny silver things. Shiny silver things that had passed through hands of strangers and carers and traversed the decades to reach this bottomless pit.

Although Mrs Wagner and her trusty sidekick are new acquisitions, not residents of my childhood memories, they remind me of the strange inhabitants I encountered in the wonderful world of my grandmothers sideboard.


And on That Note I Bid You Adieu!!!

Oh and once again Congrats to Meredith on winning the Chic Little Shop
giveaway [see last post]

Julie b


All text & photography by me - [Being Ruby©]




Killiecrankie Farm said...

What an ecclectic collection, lovely colour symphony - not quite black and white :)
But isn't it great finding reminders that the Victorians weren't all straight laced and strict when you see such skin adornment -so like the Japanese skin art and modern sleeve work - everything seems to get reborn.

Beach House Living said...

Mrs. Wagner is quite imposing looking up close. In the background I thought it was dress. I enjoyed your vintage assembly of objects with the silver plate being my favorite of course. As you know, I'm quite fond of it. Not polishing it though.

Patyclau said...

I have enjoyed the text and the photographys very much, you are really great.


Tish Jett said...

Hello, Cherie!

What fun this was. I thought at first glance, Maud had caught on big time to the important fall/winter lace movement in the collections, but no it was her personal and permanent style statement.

Love all the silver. All the mysterious pieces I now own I probably never would have had if we hadn't moved to France. I love silver and mine too has that special patina.

Hope all is well in all ways in your world.


Princesa Nadie said...

Dear Ruby
Fantastic!that is the word I find for your post today
Fantastic your photographs,your cutlery ,the history about Maud and Gus Wagner...
I have enjoyed visiting you

Drawn to The Sea said...

What I thought it was fairly busy fabric was instead wild skin! What a great tale. Not going to google Gus; I'll wait instead for your introduction.

A world away (& probably quite a few years earlier) I too was digging in my grannies' sideboards, peeking at their goodies (& into the way their minds worked.)

Your Grandmother watches you & adores that you take good care of her pretty things... no doubt you were one of her most loved treasures.

Peaceful day, my faraway friend.

erin's art and gardens said...

nice!! actually it looks like Maud is wearing a lacey blouse and not tats. i love your plate of monochrome goodies, but it is your storytelling that really gets me going...
happy sunday,

Splendid Sass said...

No one loves sterling more than I do. Some absolutely beautiful silver. Love this post!
Have a nice day, Ruby.

Blessed Serendipity said...

WOW. What a wild woman of her time for sure. I assumed that was lace on her dress until I read through to the end.


Jane said...

Stunning photos!! I really love the silver pieces you pictured today and enjoyed reading about Maud. Not until I read you post did I realize that those were tattoos (at first I thought it was lace on a dress). Maud was ahead of her time!

Johanna Gehrlein said...

Hi Julie,
what an interesting post. Was Mrs. Wagner your grandmother? What an amazing life she had. I usually don't love tattoos but how outstanding must it has been for her at this time. Isn't it amazing how modern she has been? And is it her silverware. So pretty?
Greetings, Johanna

Jennifer Beaudet said...

Hi Julie! I love your post! So fun! I just got to go through my grandma's trunk of goodies! I took a few things but left most of them for another time.
I don't know why but I can never leave comments for you. It looks like it will work this time though! Yay! I've left quite a few that just disappeared and then I got frustrated and gave up. I wanted to say thank you for being such a great friend.:) Have a great week! Jennifer

Ruby said...

LOVE the photos! Adore the paper weight , especially since I have tattoos! Where ever did you find it??

Luiza said...

Such wonderful silver and beautiful photos!!!

Have a wonderful week!

sharon santoni at my french country home said...

Hi Julie

The styling for these photos is beautiful. I love the combination of the silver, the black transfer ware, the sea shell and the light bulb!

You're so clever, the tattoo story was good too!

Carole said...

The story is as good as the photographs but that's what I've come to expect from you my friend. Me I would have just said "hey isn't this pretty?" and made it a day.
Great textures and combinations on that plate....and btw I love that plate!

I don't know what's more disturbing Mrs Wagners tattoos or her eyebrows:))
but you've made her look lovely with your photography skills.

Brabourne Farm said...

I love Mrs Wagner - I thought she was wearing a beautiful lace dress! Your description of your grandmother's sideboard brings back so many memories - I can almost smell it! Gorgeous photos as usual. Leigh

Just Martha said...

I thought she was wearing some lace!! Julie - your posts are always a delight!!

Diann @ the Thrifty Groove said...

Absolutely gorgeous photos! The silver is just so pretty!

Simply Mel {Reverie} said...

Julie ~

This post makes my day ~ I love the introduction to Mrs. Wagner and then seeing her amongst all the gorgeous silver/fish knives just makes me grin from ear-to-ear! You are a cleverly talented soul, and I'm so happy to visit your beautiful 'world' as much as I can.

Have a wonderful week!

oldgreymare said...

Oh Julie, I am just tingling after reading this one. Your creative fire is burning brightly. This post is just charming.

Hope that means things are going well down your way - now if you can just get the darn internet to work, because I definitely want to see more like this.

BTW...I am sad : ( I won't get an aussie or NY pillow.... boo hoo me ; 0



simon said...

well well well- this post reminds me of my our families antique shop. It was set in a historic Mill in Victoria, and every room was "themed" and everything was for sale.

What was a buzz- was having dinner- getting all the antique knives, forks, spoons, plates, etc and eating at the antique table, sitting on antique chairs! everything had a price tag, and everything had to be put back on display for the following days trade. :o)

Ms Bingles Vintage Christmas said...

Oh, my goodness... Your pictures are Gorgeous!
Just beautiful!
Thank you for sharing!

Unknown said...

Oh thank you for sharing these images....some of my favorite things (no, I won't sing) I do love silver, old especially, and shells and photographs and ribbon, and! just perfect....smiles.

Beatnheart said...

To think in those days Tatoos were a thing to be viewed at Carnivale Sideshows and today its all over the streets.

rjerdee said...

What a delightful and curious collection of beauties! A tatooed lady? I never noticed until you said so! I overlooked her "dress," thinking it was black lace. I love how she fits in with your "tatooed" plates!

You're such a playful photographer you are! Thanks for a totally enjoyable piece

Unknown said...

great words, (true to my own heart and preoccupations as an antique dealer/artist),images and oh yes! blog...
(please pop by chez moi one 'n all if bored)

Stephanie said...

Beautiful photos and collection! I had never heard of Mrs. Wagner - but dang that is a lot of skin for those days, isn't it? She looks so prim from the neck up and then Wow! Have a wonderful week friend!

Sue said...

I love those fish pretty! I didn't realize your lovely Mrs. Wagner wasn't wearing lace until reading your info. I do think she is a bit scary looking. I love all things about the St. Louis World's Fair. After walking through the remaining buildings I went a bit crazy doing research.

Thanks for your comment on my 9/11 post. It has been really interesting reading what those who don't live in the U.S. have had to say about the day. I didn't realize how greatly it touched the rest of the world.

Jeanne Henriques said...

Julie...this is brilliant! How many times do I say that when I visit you? I love how you weave your photographs and words together. You find the most unusual things and they look just perfect....everytime. I love the story of Maud, Gus and Lovetta..(thinking that might be a thought for your research project?) We find inspiration in the most interesting places.

I now want to find all my silver and madly polish it and I can tell you that is NOT something I have ever wanted to do before!

Well done Miss Julie!

Jeanne xx

PS...thank you so much for all your wonderful birthday made my day over and over again!

nerines said...

Wow, you really know how to tell a story!
Love the pictures! And how super cool is Mrs. Wagner!!:) xo

maría cecilia said...

Dear Julie, a very interesting story about this Wagner couple...I didn´t know the art of tattoo was something that old.
You have created a beautiful vignette and the images are wonderful!!
Regarding my Mary Virgin, I really don´t know if thre is many like this one, this is the first time I get one and never looked before for one.
maria cecilia

Yvonne - Frl. Klein said...

Dear Julie,
what beautiful silverware you have! I love it!

Venice is one of my favourite towns too. We are travel almost every year to venice because it is not to go that far.
The photo that you mean is at the Doge´s Palace!

Have a great day,
Big Hugs,

Anonymous said...

My great-grandmother had similar treasures throughout her home - so fun to take them out and ask a million questions about each one.
Mrs Wagner's tatoos are amazining. Hope Gus makes it out of the camera for a visit sometime soon.

Angie Muresan said...

I have never been brave enough to get a tattoo. Does that mean I'm really not as cool as I think I am? Hmm... Something to think about. ;)

Dumbwit Tellher said...

Lovely to meet Mrs. Wagner & always fun to see you capture the gorgeousness of your beloved vintage silver pieces of your grandmothers. I only wish I had put more value into such treasures when I had the opportunity to acquire them. What was I thinking? My grandmothers both had such beautiful silver & all with a story to be told. I so enjoyed your photos. I love the hues. Julie I hope all is well and you are having a good week so far? Sending best wishes your way. xx

Gypsy Fish said... what it's all about...wish I could have known Ms. Maude she seems intriguing.

Anonymous said...

Haunting imagery, non threatening ghosts.
Beautiful work.
X David, NYC

Greet Lefèvre said...

What a nice post!! And the gorgeous pictures!! Did you really have taken them! You are an artist!!!
Is Mr Wagner your grandmother?

Roberta said...

So fortunate to have such a collection of beautiful silverware Julie. Fun story and especially love the last photo! xo

Splendid Willow said...

Julie, you generate the most interesting posts! I truly enjoy coming here.

I first thought it was her dress! What amazing work. I wonder if he was inspired by his many travels. I even spy palm trees!

And your photos my friend, gorgeous as always.

Love to you, Mon

Made in Persbo...Carina said...

Lovely photos of Mrs. Wagner Julie!
Hugs, Carina

Charlotta Ward said...

Greetings from Sweden my dear!

How wonderful to be a female tatoo artist back in those days, and I absolutely love how her upper body has artwork resembling an Edwardian lace top!
Also adore how you teamed her lovely adornments with lavish vintage silver - the ornamental patterns match so well. Genius!

Sweden is lovely, though I and Oscar are both really sick. Came down with serious influenza en route and have been bed riden since we landed on Sunday (a day behind schedule due to a cancelled flight..). Antibiotics, high fever, ER and total boredom..!
Fighting to get back to good health so that we can take on Sweden full throttle. Lots to catch up on.

Big hugs
xx C

mermaid gallery said...

almost calming in color, the vignettes are so charming....I remember polishing my Mother's silver ware before each holiday meal. She was ahead of her time with the tattoo art!