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  The History of Tattooing

The word tattoo comes from the Tahitian tatu meaning 'to mark something'. The art of tattooing itself is surrounded by a great deal of controversy. It is claimed that it dates back to around 12,000 BC. Throughout its history, the purpose of tattooing has varied from culture to culture.
tattoo history

Ritual and tradition have been common and constant factors in tattooing. In Borneo, for example, women bore a symbol on their arms to denote their specific skills, thus increasing their potential for marriage, whilst tattoos worn around the fingers and wrist were said to ward off illness. Clan or society membership have also often been symbolised by tattoos throughout history. It has also been believed that the wearer of an image calls the spirit of that image. For example, the ferocity of a tiger would belong to the person baring this tattoo.

Although controversial, many believe tattooing originates in Egypt, from the time of the Pharaohs and the construction of the Great Pyramids. As the Egyptian Empire spread, so did the art of tattooing and around 2000 BC it reached China.

In ancient Greece, the tattoo was used to mark spies while the Romans used the tattoo to mark slaves and criminals. In western Asia, the Ainu people used tattoos to signify social status. The Ainu were said to have carried the art to Japan where is became a mark of religion. Dayak warriors who had 'taken a head' were signified by a tattoo on the hand. The Polynesians employed tattoos to denote status, tribal communities and rank. They carried this art to New Zealand where a facial tattoo, Moko, was developed. The Danes, Saxons and Norse were often tattooed with their family crest.

tattoo history1

In 787 AD, Pope Hadrian banned tattooing, although it was still practised in Britain until the Norman invasion of 1066. It then vanished from Western culture until the 16th century. During this time of scarcity in the west, tattooing thrived in Japan, where is progressed from a method to mark criminals to an aesthetic form. Around 1700, the Japanese body suit originated, primarily among the middle classes.

Tattooing was re-introduced to the west by the sailor and explorer William Dampher. In 1691 he brought to London Prince Giolo, a heavily tattooed Polynesian. He was a profitable subject, being used for exhibition, mostly as tattoos had not been seen in Europe for six-hundred years.

In the late 1700s, Captain Cook brought to London another Polynesian, Omai. Due to the success of the art displayed by Omai, tattooing became popular with the upper classes on a small scale.

In those days, tattooing was a slow and painful procedure, being completely done by hand. Based on Edison's earlier invention, Samuel O'Reily patented the first electric tattoo machine in 1891. This increased the availability of tattooing and made it a much more affordable procedure. Since tattooing was now common, the upper classes turned away from it.

By the start of the 20th century, tattooing was beginning to be viewed as sleazy. Heavily tattooed people, previously admired, were now appearing in circuses and freak shows, the most famous being Betty Broadbent of Ringling Brothers Circus. Tattooing was forced underground as it became socially unacceptable. Training was in short supply and magazines showing tattoos unheard of.
tattoo history2

Chatham Square in New York was the birthplace of the American style tattoo. Samuel O'Riley opened a studio there, later taking on Charlie Wagner as an apprentice. After O'Riley's death, Wagner joined forces with Lew Alberts to begin the supply of equipment. Alberts is known for his design of tattoo flash art. Chatham Square flourished while the art of tattooing declined in popularity across the rest of the country. The onset of the First World War, images of bravery and wartime icons became the order of the day.

The onset of prohibition and the depression of the 1930s caused Chatham square to lose its appeal, with the focus shifting to Coney Island. Tattoo studios opened in towns with military bases, then the largest source of business. The tattoo focus was then on representing the places the person had travelled.

The Second World War again caused the popularity of tattooing to decline as they were beginning to be seen as the mark of juvenile delinquents, bikers and the many other entities society attempted to cast out.

In the 1960s, an outbreak of hepatitis, coupled with media horror stories of blood poisoning and disease, caused by the failure of most studios to properly sterilise equipment, prompted tattooing to fall into further disrepute. The previously booming businesses of Times Square and Coney Island were closed after violations of new health codes. For many years, tattoos were nearly impossible to get as the procedure was illegal in New York. Moreover, with the reputation now surrounding them, very few people wanted tattoos.

In the late 1960s, Lyle Tuttle managed to change many of the negative views surrounding the art of tattooing. He tattooed celebrities, mostly female, and became a vocal media advocate for the art form.

Currently, tattooing is more popular than ever and is also more widely accepted as a part of our society. Tattooists are now considered 'fine artists' and receive more respect than in years past. Artists now combine more traditional art with their own flavour to create some truly stunning work. Hygiene is also now a major consideration of any self-respecting tattooist. All in all, the changes that have occurred have today created a safe, artistic form of self-expression.

Is Art Just Skin Deep?
Finding Your Tattoo

Popeye"s meant he sailed the Atlantic. Robbie Williams looked to Maori culture for inspiration in choosing his. Winston Churchill"s mother discreetly covered hers with a bracelet. All three bear a personal history etched in skin - a practice as old as man, but until recently in Western culture, one that was relegated to sea salts, criminals and whores.


Getting a tattoo is the most permanent commitment that many of us will ever make. And if you"re thinking -- "but I can always get it removed" -- then you are definitely not ready to get a tattoo.


Does it hurt?
Tattoo After Care

This is usually the first question that most people ask before getting a tattoo. The short answer is "Yes, it does hurt." However, the real question to ask is "How much does it hurt?"


Tattooing, a technique of marking the skin with colors, has been practiced since antiquity. Now this ancient art is enjoying a renaissance. Movie, television and sports stars have begun sporting Tattoos, and others are following their lead. We want your new Tattoo to turn out perfect for you to enjoy for years to come. So please follow our recommendations for the proper care of your new Tattoo.


Statistics Show Lower Hepatitis Risk in Tattoo Shops than in Dentists" offices

The health risks associated with commercial tattooing are often exaggerated when individuals or groups mount campaigns to prohibit the opening of a community"s first tattoo shop, according to news accounts from across the U.S.