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Tattoo Forefathers
Samoan tattoos

In the world of tattooing it is important to recognized the fore fathers of this long lasting tradition, as the tattooing process could possibly be very different had they not participated in furthering the technology of tattoos. Although, thankfully our roots in tradition have still withstood the new technological advancements linking the past, with the future.

Samuel O’Reilly, the cousin of a renowned British tattoo artist who’s name was Tom Riley, had sent out a patent on his tattoo machine design in 1891, which is a modified version of Thomas Edison’s Autographic printing pen. This was the rotary tattoo machine that most tattoo artists use today.

This invention took flight, and made the technique of the natives (although it didn’t completely extinguish this long lasting tradition in western civilization) diaper. The invention of the electro mechanic tattoo machine came with many advantages, not only for the artist, but for the client. Tattooing was no longer a pain staking endeavor that could last for hours on end while needles attached to a stick were repeatedly tapped. This lessened the risk of many ailments that plagued the old-school tattoo artist, such as joint stiffness, and fatigue. This invention also allowed the commercial side of tattoos to boom, giving the artist time to complete one tattoo after another in a reasonable time frame.

Of course the invention of the tattoo machine, like most inventions didn’t go without the typical copy cats. O’Reilly spent thousands of dollars and numerous hours suing these people, without any success. Still today, you have many grand fathered artists who make their own machines, this is an art in of itself.

He, like many other greats in the tattoo industry are no longer with us, O’Reilly passed in 1908 by falling from a ladder while re-painting his home located in the Bronx.

This invention of the tattoo machine, has stood the test of time with only a few minor adjustments here and there. We, as artists should take the time to recognize that our world of tattooing may be very different had this invention not come to light.



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