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55 Things You Never Knew About Tattoos

(Besides that they’re AWESOME.)

1. The U.S. collectively spends $1.65 billion on tattoos each year.
2. The word “tattoo” was first written in 1769 and comes from the Polynesian noun tatau, which means “mark made on skin.”
3. The first tattoo machine was patented by Samuel O’Reilly in 1891, which was based off an autographic printing machine patented by Thomas Edison 15 years earlier.
4. President Theodore Roosevelt had his family crest tattooed on his chest.
5. And presidents Jackson and Polk also had small, hidden tattoos.
6. Forty-five million Americans have at least one tattoo.
7. And 40% of U.S. adults ages 26–40 have at least one tattoo.
8. Tattoos used to be markings of shame or punishment on sailors or people deemed uncivilized.

9. Sailor tattoos are believed to have special meanings (for example, a dragon meant a person had traveled to China).
10. King Neptune or turtle tattoos signified that the sailor crossed the equator.
11. And some sailors had pig and rooster tattoos on their feet to prevent drowning. (Neither animal can swim, but because they were stored in buoyant crates, they were cargo that typically survived shipwreck.)
12. Ötzi, the ancient ice man found in the Alps, was the oldest mummy ever discovered to have tattoos.
13. And he had over 50 of them, made by puncturing the skin and rubbing in charcoal.
14. The Greek emperor Theophilus punished two monks who publicly criticized him by tattooing 11 lines of obscenity on their foreheads.
15. And sadistic Roman emperor Caligula would tattoo members of his court for fun.
16. One of the oldest recorded tattoo ink recipes consists of Egyptian pine bark, corroded bronze, vinegar, vitriol, leek juice, and insect eggs.
17. And early forms of tattoo removal included the application of wine, garlic, lime, or pigeon feces.
18. Samoan tattoos would take days to complete, would go on until the pain was unbearable, and would put the tattooed at risk of infection and death.

19. Queen Kamamalu of Hawaii was the first person to ever get a tongue tattoo, and she did so out of grief when her mother died in the 1820s.
20. Olive Oatman was the first white woman in America to have a tattoo; she was given one after her family was killed and she was adopted by Mohave Indians in the 1850s.
21. The first televised beauty pageant featured Betty Broadbent, who had over 565 tattoos.
22. 2012 was the first year more women were tattooed than men.
23. Up until the 1970s, “nice girls” had to have marriage licenses and be accompanied by their husband to get a tattoo.
24. Thirty-two percent of people with tattoos claim they’re “addicted” to ink.
25. Your skin is pricked between 50 to 3,000 times a minute when getting a tattoo.
26. Due to an outbreak of hepatitis B, it was illegal to get a tattoo in New York from 1961 to 1997.
27. And until 2006, it was illegal to get a tattoo in Oklahoma.
28. The FDA does not approve of or regulate the ink used in tattoos.

29. Most tattoo ink is made from metal salts, not actual dye.
30. Prison tattoo guns can be made from the motor in CD players and an empty pen barrel.
31. And prison tattoo ink is sometimes made by melting down boot heels and mixing it with blood and urine.
32. Lucky Diamond Rich is the most tattooed person in the world, and he has lighter tattoos over darker tattoos because he literally ran out of space on his body.
33. And Robbie Koch broke the world record for most tattoos given in 24 hours (which came to a total of 577).
34. The world’s richest tattoo artist is Scott Campbell, who charges $1,000 for the first hour and only works on the weekends.
35. The longest recorded tattoo session lasted 50 hours and 10 minutes.
36. The girl who got 56 stars tattooed on her face and then tried to sue the tattoo artist finally got all of them removed.
37. The same tattoo artist also tattooed his name in Gothic block letters on his girlfriend’s face the day they met in person for the first time.

38. In 2005, Kimberly Smith tattooed “Golden Palace Casino.com” on her forehead to pay for her son’s tuition, making her the first person to tattoo an advertisement.
39. Former soldier Shaun Clark has had the names of all the soldiers killed in Afghanistan tattooed on his body.
40. Recently, a 1,300-year-old Egyptian mummy was found with a tattoo of the Christian archangel Michael.
41. Most tattooed Egyptian mummies were female, and the tattoos are believed to belong to “dancing girls,” or royal concubines.
42. Face tattoos were seen as marks of high status by the Maori culture of New Zealand, as the head was considered the most valued part of the body.
43. After the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped in 1932, many concerned parents got their babies tattooed in case.
44. Nora Hildebrandt was America’s first professional tattooed lady, touring with Barnum and Bailey in the 1890s.
45. And her father, Martin Hildebrandt, was the first professional tattoo artist in America, arriving to the country from Germany in 1846.
46. In 1936, when social security cards first came out, some people got their numbers tattooed on their arms.
47. And in 1955, the assistant secretary of defense encouraged people to get a tattoo of their blood type in case of a military attack on the U.S.

48. In 1999, Mattel released “Butterfly Art Barbie” that came with a set of temporary tattoos; it was subsequently pulled from shelves because of complaints from parents.
49. And every other time Mattel tried to put tattoos on Barbie, it was met with many complaints from parents.
50. A brothel in Cologne, Germany, offers a lifetime of free service if clients get a tattoo of the logo.
51. And some restaurants offer free food for life in exchange for tattoos.
52. Tattoo artist Vinnie Myers creates 3D nipple tattoos for breast cancer survivors.
53. Laser surgery works by breaking up the pigments and having the body’s immune system carry them away naturally.
54. And black is the easiest color to remove since it absorbs all wavelengths.
55. Tribal tattoos are the most common design requests.

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