Amund Dietzel was born in the town of Fredrikstad, Norway in 1890, and went to sea at the tender age of ten. He learned the art of hand tattooing during those early sailor years. While with the Danish Merchant Marines, Dietzel was ship-wrecked in the Saint Lawrence Seaway and stayed in the United States. By 1907 he was tattooing on State Street in Chicago.
As with other tattooists of his era, Dietzel worked in many cities, including New Haven, CT, Albany, NY, Detroit, MI, and Columbus, OH. In Columbus he met Fred Clark who went on to tattoo for the side show. 1915 found Dietzel back on State Street, this time working with Bill Grimshaw.
In 1916 he made the move to Milwaukee and opened a shop at #207 Third Street. He still hit the road in the summer months to tattoo in different towns. It was around this same time that Nick Melroy started working on two tattoo machine frame designs that went on to be associated with Dietzel.
In the 1940's Dietzel moved to larger quarters at #948 Plankton Avenue in Milwaukee. It was here that Dietzel had the space to gear up for the war time business that was heading his way. During World War II, the Plankton location had four tattooists (including Dietzel) working 12 hour shifts.
A shipping label from Paul Rogers' collection.
In 1963 the state of Illinois raised the minimum age for getting a tattoo to twenty-one. Most of the tattooists left town and several relocated to Milwaukee. This was of little bother to Dietzel who was still doing sailing ships for $2.50, and had all the business he could handle.
Milwaukee got caught up in the legislation against tattooing, and in 1967 outlawed tattooing within the city limits. Dietzel's comment was, "At least it took the city fifty-one years to find out it doesn't want me. Milwaukee used to be a very nice town."
Tattoo Archive © 1991