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The History of Tattoos in America

Updated on November 6, 2009

For starters, A tattoo is a design which is permanently carved in the skin with needles and ink. The word "Tattoo" came from the Tahitian term "Tatua" which means "To Mark".

Different forms of tattoo art have been practiced for centuries by many different cultures all over the world. It has been documented that Egyptians started tattooing as early as 4000 BC. The Japanese began the art of tattooing in around 500 BC. They used this form of art for cosmetic and religious purposes.They even used tattoos as a brand known to criminals as a part of their punishment. The Japanese used to make tattoos by puncturing the skin with fine metal needles and creating multi color designs. Eskimo tribes invented a new technique of tattooing using bone needles.

In 1769 Captain James Cook traveled to Tahiti and observed skin marking customs in the natives. These skin markings were referred to as Tatua. Later that year, Cook went on a journey to the southern continent, New Zealand. He discovered a small group of islands that had not had visitors from Europe in over a century, it was on this voyage that Cook aroused the passion of many sailors to skin art.

The art of tattooing was sparked in America in the 1800's by immigrants. It was a German immigrant, Martin Hildebrandt who got the honor of the first professional tattooist in the United states. Even then, tattoos where all done by hand. It wasn't until 1891 when the first electric tattoo machine was issued to the Irish tattooist Samual O'reilly. He opened the first documented U.S. "tattoo parlor" in New York City.

For years tattoo parlors were considered dangerous and were socially unaccepted. But soon tattoo parlors became a trend in the united states. Then during the first and second world wars, U.S. military adopted tattooing as a means of protection, brotherhood and remembrance.

Through the years conventions, magazines and other various forms of exposure made tattooing popular in the United States. Today there is a growing trend of teens and young adults using tattoos to express themselves, their feelings, style, etc. Just through the last century, Tattooing has changed from something rare and looked down upon in the U.S. to being one of the most popular forms of self expression through art. It is amazing to see how far tattooing has come in the years and it will be very interesting to see how far it goes. I believe tattooing will continue to grow and become more and more popular with people of all race, gender, religion and age.


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      10 years ago

      Good writing!!!!!!!!

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      10 years ago

      Amazeing story keep up the good work!!!!

    • profile image

      justin vanwagoner  

      10 years ago

      this is sweet

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Good Post Tara!!


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