05 April 2014

"Hold Fast!?" Great-grandpa Peter?

Here is the 1898 voter registration for Precinct 2, Assembly District 32, San Francisco County, (Click on it to enlarge) --

In it we see my wife's great-grandfather Peter Casattas who has been the subject of research lately.  It says he is a mariner, 42 years old, 5'10", dark complexion, brown eyes, dark hair, he is from Greece, his address in San Francisco is 509 3rd Street, he occupies the whole second floor at that address, he was naturalized in the S.F. Superior Court on 1/25/1894, he registered to vote in August, he could write his name, read the Constitution, and mark his ballot.  But what we want to focus on is the comment "tattoos both hands."

Body art is ancient, going back several hundreds if not thousands of years.  Tattoos are believed to have entered into western culture around 1750 when Capt. Cook and his crew visited Tahiti and decided to get tattoos as souvenirs.  Yep, tattoos in western culture are all the fault of sailors!  "Mariners."  Mariners like g-grandpa Peter commonly got tattooed.  Sailors tattoos are often meaningful -- certain tattoo for having sailed around the cape; certain tattoo for having sailed to China, certain tattoo for fisherman, or merchant marine, navy.

But there is only one tattoo that is common for sailors to have on both hands --

-- "Hold Fast" with one letter on each finger to remind the sailor to not let go of the rigging that could mean loss of control of the sail and him falling overboard.  "Hold Fast."

Was this the tattoo g-grandfather Peter Casattas had on his hands?  We don't know yet for sure.  We might never know.  But it is very likely.  "Hold fast," g-grandfather Peter.  "Hold fast."

Copyright © 2014 by Kevin W. Walker

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