From streets to shops
Martin Hildebrandt is credited as being the first professional tattoo artist. He set up shop in New York City, the hub of American tattoo culture, and invented the tattoo machine in 1891. The first professional female tattoo artist to do the same was Millie Hull, who opened for business during the World War II era. The move from streets to shops was a crucial step in transforming the art of tattooing from hobby to career, igniting the long process of legitimizing the practice.
Did you know that tattooing was actually illegal until very recently? The practice was outlawed in NYC in 1961 as a result of widespread hepatitis, which was suggested to be the result of poor tattooing standards and procedures. The medical ban was not lifted until 1997, although there were artists who continued tattooing in secret while it was illegal.
What really flung tattooing into the mainstream in a positive way was the onset of tattoo TV shows. Reality shows such as Miami Ink, LA Ink, NY Ink and Ink Master pushed tattoos more toward the center of American culture. From these programs came some of the most recognizable tattoo icons, such as Kat Von D, Megan Massacre and Ami James. From there, tattoos and tattoo artists made the jump into the makeup and fashion industries.
A change in perspective
Today, tattoos are still not wholly accepted. There are companies that still won’t employ tattooed people, individuals who reject tattoos because of their spiritual beliefs and concerned mothers who won’t approve of you dating their son. However, we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were a little more than 20 years ago; it is estimated that about 40 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo. So the next time someone decides to judge you for your tattoos, you might want to give them a little history lesson.