Tattoo Parlors in NH: A Brief History of American Tattooing

March 12, 2014

It seems fitting that we take this time to discuss a bit about the history of tattoos in America. After all, we are called Tattoo America and have been tattooing for longer than any other tattoo parlors in NH. So a brief summary of our industry’s history in these United States is an ideal topic for us to impart onto our customers.

When your average American thinks about tattoos in NH, or about tattoos in general, they may think about popular reality TV shows like, “LA Ink,” and, “NY Ink,” and imagine that what Kat Von D does on her television show is what goes on in tattoo parlors across America. Although somewhat realistic, the majority of these television shows are more for entertainment purposes rather than informational. In today’s society, it’s easy to be lulled into a way of thinking that tattoos are completely commonplace and always have been, when the truth is that it took a long time for tattoos to become as popular as they are today.

An Age Old Taboo

A US Navy Tattoo

Tattoos used to be somewhat taboo in our American society. The history behind American tattooing reaches all the way back to the Civil War, old circuses and early 19th century sideshows, all the way up to the, “reality,” shows we see on mainstream television today. Back then, tattoos were commonly associated with soldiers branding themselves with images of pride or the camaraderie they shared with their peers, or the, “tattooed lady,” made famous by old sideshow acts.

During the 1940s, when soldiers were coming back from WWII with tattoos, American public opinion regarding tattoos experienced a paradigm shift. It was from this era that sprung what is called the, “Traditional,” or, “Old School,” style of tattooing made famous by tattoo artist, “Sailor Jerry,” a.k.a. Norman Collins. This style of tattooing features heavy, bold, black outlines of military-associated images that are usually filled in with red or blue ink. Many anchors and jet bombers were tattooed on people back then.

Then, during the 1970s and on to the 1990s, tribal tattoos started to become prevalent in many tattoo parlors in NH. This phenomenon is known as the Modern-Primitive movement; which includes tattoo artists, piercers, and body modification enthusiasts who sought to reclaim the art of body modification by looking back to the history of it. Those associated with this movement looked back to the global history of tattooing and produced a great deal of, “Tribal,” tattoos. These Polynesian and New Zealand art inspired tattoos were made famous by tattoo artist Fakir Musafar.

Throughout the last hundred or so years, tattooing and body modification became far more accepted in American culture and has recently been made mainstream by artists like Kat Von D and Ami James. Yes, there are many tattoo, “reality,” shows out there today, but it took a long time for tattooing to be associated more with prisoners than the common beach goers of today.

If you’re interested in tattoos in NH, contact us at: 603-594-3007