Learn more about the history of tattooing.

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History of Tattooing (Cont.)

History of Tattooing (Cont.)

1769 -- After an expedition to Tahiti and New Zealand, British explorer Capt. James Cook brings back tales of the natives' elaborate body art. He also popularizes the vocabulary we still use today: The Polynesian word tatau (meaning "to strike") gives rise to the Western term "tattoo."

1846 -- Martin Hildebrandt opens the first U.S. tattoo parlor in New York City, servicing clientele that includes soldiers from both sides of the Civil War. His daughter, Nora, rises to fame in the 1890s when she tours with the Barnum and Bailey Circus as the Tattooed Lady.

1891 -- Samuel O'Reilly invents the electric tattoo machine, which is inspired by Thomas Edison's autographic printing pen. Modern tattoo machines are still largely based on O'Reilly's design.

1961 -- New York City bans tattooing, fearing a potential hepatitis B epidemic. The New York City Council lifts the ban in 1997. Three months later, the first annual New York Tattoo Convention is held in the city.

2006 -- Scientists at Harvard University develop an erasable tattoo ink. Though it won't wash off in the shower, the ink's structure makes it easier for lasers to remove tattoos. Erasable tattoo ink gains popularity among those who stencil their sweetheart's name on their bicep, as the design is less regrettable after a breakup.