Tattooing has been around for millennia, but tattoo machines are a more recent phenomenon that revolutionized tattoo design possibilities. They started with the electric pen that was invented by Thomas Edison in 1876. While it was intended more to be a duplicating device than anything else, in 1891 Samuel O’Reilly discovered it could be used to introduce ink into the skin and set out to improve the design for the sole purpose of tattooing.
The first tattoo machine, which was patented by O’Reilly, was rotary, but that wouldn’t last long. Not 20 days later, Thomas Riley, who was based in London, patented the single coil machine. Soon after, Alfred Charles South, who also originated from London, patented the two-coil tattoo machine configuration. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Nowadays most modern tattoo machines use electromagnets to operate. Machines have slowly evolved over the last century, giving tattoo artists more possibilities with each innovation.
These tattoos, and this gallery, seek to celebrate the mechanism that makes modern tattooing possible today. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
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