Tattooing was revolutionized by Samuel O'Reilly's invention of the electric tattoo machine during the last decade of the 19 th century. The time required to complete a design went from hours to minutes, moving the art away from personally conceived, hand picked designs towards stock choices that were displayed like art on the walls of the tattoo parlor. Much of this tattooing was also conducted in the back of beer halls and barbershops.
The years ahead would see vast improvements in O'Reilly's machine, plus the establishment of tattoo equipment manufacturing companies. This machine was the prototype for the tattoo gun that is the standard of the industry today.
In the 1920's and 30's the styling of tattoos adapted to include comic strip characters like Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat, Lindbergh's crossing, stars and starlets of the silver screen and phrases that were popularized in the press.
Cosmetic tattooing also originated during this time period. Many artists offering specialties such as moles and beauty marks rosy cheeks, permanent eyeliner and red lips to both male and female customers.
A reproduction of a World War I tattoo Courtesy of Rueben "Rue" Kayden www.tattoorue.com
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