The history of tattoos and evolving acceptance by society

The history of tattoos



Shelly Beraza


Tattoos have been in society since at least 4000 B.C., but around 1891 tattoos hit the United States when the first tattoo machine was issued to Irish tattooist Samuel O’Reilly. In 1891, O’Reilly opened up the first tattoo parlor in New York City.

Although tattoos were considered taboo, only appropriate in the circus, or associated with criminals, they slowly began to emerge all over the United States.

The first female tattooist was named Maud Stevens Wagner (1877-1961). She was a contortionist and aerialist in the circus, and learned to tattoo from her husband Gus Wagner.

She became an iconic figure for the modern-day tattooed female.

In 1940, tattoos were seen differently. The reason for this, according to, was the increasing number of soldiers in World War II, also creating a whole genre of tattoo art called old school or traditional.

These tattoos normally featured thick black outlines with primary coloring. Norman Collins, also known as Sailor Jerry, was one of the more famous artists for the traditional/old school style.

Since then, tattoos have become more popular and have created different styles.

According to Time magazine, 6 percent of all Americans had one tattoo in 1936.

The Pew Research Center conducted a survey in 2006 that found 36 percent of people between the ages of 18 to 25 have a tattoo, while 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 to 40 have one. These are significant changes compared to those 70 years ago.

U.S. News & World Report says more than 20,000 tattoo parlors are in the United States with an average of one added each day.

It seems that tattoos have become a social norm, and not having a tattoo puts a person in the minority. The future looks bright for the tattoo industry, but only time will tell where tattoos will be in the next 50 years.

The Puyallup Post is the award-winning news media of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2018. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube @thepuyalluppost

The history of tattoos and evolving acceptance by society

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