It's strange to think that the art of tattooing has only been legal in New York City for twenty years after the initial ban back in 1961. The history of Tattooing is interwoven with the history of New York going back further than when Wall Street was a literal wall.
Images of Coney Island and sailors clad in ink come to mind for many people who think of the connection between New York City and tattooing. What many forget is the art has been around for centuries, practiced by the Native populations of the New York region for much longer.
Given it's rich history, the improper ban of tattooing based on the fear mongering around a Hepatitis B outbreak makes the nearly forty year ban a greater insult to the art.
March of 1997, the ban was lifted with support of City Council by Rudolph Giuliani thus ending the prohibition. It was an improtant step at the time as tattooing had never ceased in NYC but continued without government oversight, potentially leading to unsafe practices. By legalizing and formally having Tattoo Artists become liscensed, the city protected artists and citizens alike by setting a standard in saftey that was not on the books for nearly forty years.
Progress never stopped and thanks to advances in techniques and equipment, tattooing is flourishing in the Big Apple like never before. So next time you're getting tattooed in NYC, keep the history in mind. Take pride in the fact you're part of a long legacy filled with sacrifice by artists and patrons who fought for the right to get inked.