Sunday, December 30, 2018

Samuel F. O'Reilly #tattoo

US Patent 464,801.
Image source: Google Patents.
I believe that we all learn at least something from even trivial experiences. By total coincidence when I was listening to RTÉ radio on the morning after my tattoo, there was a feature on Irish inventors - one of whom I learn was Samuel F. O'Reilly who is credited with inventing the tattoo machine. He was born in Waterbury, Connecticut to Irish immigrant parents in 1854. He was twice imprisoned for crimes like burglary - he also deserted from the US Marine Corps. 

By the mid 1980s he had moved away from a life of crime and opened a tattoo studio in New York - he also transformed himself into "Professor O’Reilly". At that time, tattoos were inflicted using needles attached to a wooden stake which were hammered into the skin. Based on an electric pen invented by Thomas Edison - Prof O'Reilly patented an electric rotary tattoo machine on 8th December, 1891. The patent (#464,801) is described as a "Tattooing apparatus with incorporated liquid feeding device".

Due to the success of his tattooing apparatus, tattooing became very popular, especially amongst sailors who were not considered "seaworthy" unless they had a tattoo. It was also considered to be high fashion to have a tattoo - Prof O'Reilly even made house calls to those who did not want to be seen in his tattoo studio. 

Little did I know that the machine used on me last Friday was invented by an ex-con Irishman - you learn something new every day! You can read more about "Professor Samuel F. O'Reilly" in the Irish America website.

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