Backstory aside, it’s clear that inventors like Bonwill, Green, and Edison -who made the extraordinary, inventive leap of converting an electromagnetic coil mechanism in to a practical handheld instrument -greatly influenced the creation of Tattoo Supply. Unnamed others unquestionably played a role at the same time. From the 1870s, electric handheld implements were, since yet, novelties. When tradesman and practitioners began utilizing these tools inside a professional capacity, they encountered limitations. Efforts to resolve shortcomings resulted in further discovery and innovation. When tattoo artists began modifying a similar electric devices for his or her own purposes, it would have produced another wave of findings.
At this stage, the full selection of machines accessible to early tattooers isn’t known. But dental pluggers and Edison’s rotary pen (the only known Edison pen manufactured) were conceivably towards the top of their list. In a 1898 Ny Sun interview, O’Reilly said he experimented with both before settling on his patent design. With his dental plugger machine, he claimed, he could tattoo someone all over in under 6 weeks. But there is room for improvement. Discussing the trial-and-error process, he explained he first tried the dental plugger, then an Edison pen, but each was “too weak;” finally, after many trials, he “made a model after their own idea, had it patented, and got a qualified mechanic to construct the device.”
O’Reilly’s patent machine, basically an Edison pen, was modified by having an ink reservoir, accommodations for more than one needle, and a specialized tube assembly system meant to solve the “weakness” issue of his previous machines. Such as the original Edison pen, the reciprocating action of O’Reilly’s machine, was actuated with an eccentric (cam) working on top of the needle bar. But instead of a straight stylus, the tube encasing the needle bar (even the handle) was designed with two 90 degree angles, whilst the needle bar inside was segmented with pivots. This put in place allowed for the lever and fulcrum system that further acted in the budget in the needle bar and theoretically served to lengthen the stroke/throw in the needle.
Because it appears, the patent office didn’t consider O’Reilly’s “improvements” all of that innovative. They denied his application initially. Not because his invention was too much like Edison’s 1876 rotary device, but mainly because it bore likenesses to Augustus C. Carey’s 1884 autographic pen patent (US Patent 304,613). They denied it another time citing British patent UK 3332 (William Henry Abbott’s sewing machine patent), perhaps owed to the reciprocating needle assembly. Rejection notes clarify that in connection with great britain patent it will not have involved invention to incorporate an ink reservoir to the Carey pen. (Carey’s patent already included specifications for a kind of ink duct).
Because of the crossover in invention, O’Reilly needed to revise his claims many times before his patent was granted. This actually happened frequently. Patent law permits inventions according to existing patents. But applicants must prove their creation is novel and distinct. This could be tricky and may also be one reason a lot of the early tattoo artists didn’t patent their ideas -though for all those we realize several could have tried and failed. (Unfortunately, all pre-1920s abandoned patent applications have been destroyed).
According to legend, twenty days after O’Reilly obtained his rotary patent within the Usa, England’s Tom Riley allegedly obtained a British patent for the single-coil machine. However, while Riley could possibly have invented this type of device, he didn’t patent it. A British patent isn’t on file. Much more likely, the history is confused over the years. Pat Brooklyn -in his interview with Tom Riley entitled Pictures on the epidermis -discusses just one-coil machine Riley was tattooing within 1903, but doesn’t mention a patent for this machine in any way. What he does inform is this: “The electric-needle was introduced by Mr. Riley and his cousin, Mr. S.F. O’Riley [sic]…and was patented by them on December 8, 1891, even though it has since had several alterations and improvements intended to it.”
Since we realize Riley wasn’t O’Reilly’s co-patentee, his claims with this interview were obviously embellished. When the story was printed though, it had been probably transferred and muddied with each re-telling. It adequately might have inspired the comments in George Burchett’s Memoirs of your Tattooist; that Riley obtained a British patent on December 28, 1891, which improved on O’Reilly’s patent with the help of six needles. The initial British tattoo machine patent was actually issued to Sutherland MacDonald on December 29, 1894 (UK 3035) (note the similarity from the month and day using the alleged Riley patent). Sutherland’s machine was cylindrical shaped using the needles moving throughout the core in the electromagnetic coils inside, quite similarly to several of the cylindrical shaped dental pluggers and perforating pens in the era.
With the problems O’Reilly encountered regarding his patent, it’s possible he enlisted help. The patent process entails consulting trusted experts and O’Reilly himself acknowledged that a “skilled mechanic” built his patent model. This might have been the machinist, inventor, and mechanical illusionist from England, named John Feggetter Blake, or “Professor Feggetter” to dime museum audiences. After arriving from the U.S. in 1872, Blake obtained numerous patents for his inventions, the 1st as a Three Headed Songstress illusion sponsored by Bunnell’s Dime Museum newest York. And, he was knowledgeable about O’Reilly.
National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, D.C.; Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in The Big Apple, 1792-1906 (M1674); Microfilm Serial: M1674; Microfilm Roll: 14
NARA; Washington, D.C.; Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in Ny City, 1792-1906. “40 South” was the location of Edwin Thomas’ tattoo shop before he was imprisoned for shooting his ex-girlfriend in 1890.
Not simply did Blake’s patent lawyers (John Van Santvoord and William Hauff) submit O’Reilly’s initial patent claim in July of 1891, and also, in October, not long after his patent claims were first denied, O’Reilly signed being a witness on Blake’s naturalization application.
Although we can’t make sure that Blake was involved in the development of O’Reilly’s invention, it’s striking that a great many of his inventions operated via pivots, levers, and fulcrums, just like O’Reilly’s tube assembly. Also, inside the years just following O’Reilly’s patent Blake began patenting a number of electromagnetic contact devices.
Increasing intrigue, Blake was connected with John Williams, the dime show tattooer who claimed both he and O’Reilly discovered a “new method” of tattooing several years earlier. Both had headlined together both in Boston and The Big Apple dime museums before Williams left for England.
No matter what the link by using these other men, O’Reilly holds the patent. Today, his invention is upheld because the ultimate tattoo machine from the day. As being the product of dedicated trials, O’Reilly’s patent machine significantly contributed to the advancement of tattoo machines. And, he certainly deserves the accolades for his efforts, specifically being the first to get yourself a patent. But there’s some question as to whether he ever manufactured his invention -on the large anyway -or if it was in wide spread use at any point.
In 1893, just a couple of years following the patent is at place, tattoo artist and vaudeville actor Arthur Birchman claimed he owned 2 of O’Reilly’s machines, but while he told the World newspaper reporter there have been only “…four on earth, one other two getting into the possession of Prof. O’Reilly…”
O’Reilly’s comments inside an 1898 New York City Sun interview are equally curious. He explained he had marketed a “smaller sort of machine” with a “small scale,” but had only ever sold several of these “he uses himself.”
These snippets infer: (1) that O’Reilly didn’t necessarily develop a large volume of the patent machines (2) which he had constructed multiple kind of machine between 1891 and 1898, and (3) how the patent wasn’t the preferred tattooing device throughout the 1800s.
The overall implication is the fact that O’Reilly (as well as other tattoo artists) continued tinkering with different machines and modifications, even after the patent was issued.
Media reports aren’t always reliable, needless to say. And, we’re definitely missing components of the puzzle. But there’s more. Additional evidence corroborates utilizing a number of tattoo needle cartridge during this era. Thus far, neither a working demonstration of O’Reilly’s patent model, nor a picture of merely one has surfaced. But a straight-handled adaptation in the Edison pen is depicted in a number of media photos. For several years, this machine is a huge way to obtain confusion. The most obvious stumper may be the missing crooked tube assembly. Ironically, the absence of this feature is really a clue by itself. It indicates there seemed to be an alternate way to render the Edison pen operable for tattooing.
Anyone knowledgeable about rotary driven machines -of any sort -understands that proper functioning is contingent using the cam mechanism. The cam is actually a machine part that changes a machine’s motion, usually from rotary motion to reciprocating motion, by acting on a follower (i.e. needle/needle bar with a tattoo machine). Cams come in varied styles and sizes. An apt sized/shaped cam is very important to precise control and timing of your machine, and when damaged or changed, can modify the way a machine operates. Is it feasible, then, which simply altering the cam on Edison’s rotary pen may make it functional for tattooing? All the evidence demonstrates that it had been a significant section of the solution.
Thomas Edison paid special focus on the cam mechanism on his 1876 rotary pen. The cam was enclosed in a nook towards the top of the needle-bar, in which the needle bar met the rotating shaft (axis). The rotating shaft (axis) was positioned with the direct center of the cam and the flywheel. Because the fly wheel revolved, and turned the rotating shaft, the cam turned from it, resulting in the needle-bar (follower) to go all around.
From the text of his 1875 British patent (UK 3762), Edison noted that the cam on his rotary pens could possibly have “one or maybe more arms” acting upon the needle bar. Annually later, when he patented the rotary pen inside the U.S. (US Patent 180,857), he specified that he’d chosen to implement a 3 pointed-cam (three-armed or triangle-shaped cam), because it gave three down and up motions to the needle per revolution, and thus more perforations per revolution. Perhaps, after some experimentation, Edison determined this specific cam shape best-produced the rapid movement required of his stencil pen. As you may know, it didn’t benefit tattooing. In O’Reilly’s words, it absolutely was too “weak” -the stroke/throw in the machine wasn’t of sufficient length -and wasn’t suitable for getting ink in to the skin.
Modern day rotary tattoo machines also greatly depend on cam mechanics, but they’re fitted having a round shaped “eccentric cam” having an off-centered pin instead of an armed cam. A lot of today’s rotary machines are constructed to match various different sized eccentric cams, which adjust the machine’s throw, so it can be used for either outlining or shading or coloring. i.e. larger cams lengthen the throw, smaller ones shorten it. (Note: The terms eccentric and cam tend to be used interchangeably).
Did O’Reilly know about the function of the cam? Unfortunately, since O’Reilly’s foremost invention claims were the custom tube assembly and the addition of an ink reservoir, he wasn’t necessary to outline the cam or cam mechanism on his patent application. Keep in mind, however, that this cam on O’Reilly’s accompanying diagram is conspicuously diamond-shaped as opposed to three-pointed as on Edison’s rotary. It also looks to be of larger proportion. If O’Reilly’s diagram is true-to-life, it suggests he was aware for some degree that changing the cam would affect just how the machine operated. Why, then, did he visit the greater extent of devising a complicated tube assembly?
Maybe O’Reilly wasn’t capable of implement a cam that completely solved the adaptability issues of the Edison pen. It’s in the same way possible the modified tube assembly was meant to make your machine more functional far above a fitting cam. Frustratingly, we’ll probably never know. Whatever the case, it seems that sooner or later someone (possibly even O’Reilly) did discover a cam (or multiple cams) that worked sufficiently enough for tattooing.
Quite pertinently, each year plus a half after the 1891 patent is in place -in July of 1893 -the Boston Herald published an article about Captain Fred McKay of Boston, and distinctly described his tattoo machine as being an “Edison electric pen” with a “larger eccentric” to “give the needle more play;” he used this type of machine for outlining (with one needle) and shading (with seven needles).
Considering that the article doesn’t illustrate McKay’s machine, we can’t be 100% sure it didn’t include O’Reilly’s specialized tube assembly. However, it’s hard to explain why the Boston Herald reporter might have singled out your altered cam, a small tucked away feature, over a large outward modification for instance a re-configured tube assembly. Besides, all evidence signifies that altering the cam was actually a feasible adaptation; one who also makes up about the existence of straight-handled Edison pen-tattoo machines. (See postscripts 1 & 2)
Did early tattooers use various different size cams to modify the throw around the Edison pen? Were additional modifications required? Also, would the cam solution are already pretty much effective than O’Reilly’s tube assembly system? And which came first? Who is able to say. Something is for certain progression in technology requires ongoing trials -constant tinkering, testing, and sharing of information. Patents are simply one part of this process.
O’Reilly’s patent innovations were important and surely resulted in additional experimentation and discoveries. Simultaneously, there need to have been numerous un-patented inventions. It stands to reason there were multiple adaptations from the Edison pen (In the March 4, 1898 Jackson Patriot news article, an ex-sailor named Clarence Smith claimed to have adapted the Edison pen for tattooing around 1890 by somehow “shortening the stroke” and “altering the needle”). Early tattooers certainly constructed a miscellany of machines with diverse modifications, affected by perforating devices, dental drills, engravers, sewing machines, telegraphs, telephones, and several other related devices; some we’ve never seen or find out about and some that worked better than others.
While care ought to be taken with media reports, the consistent use of the word “hammer” inside the article invokes something apart from an Edison pen; a dental plugger aka dental hammer is really what comes to mind. (A visit hammer’s pivoting hammer arm shares an uncanny resemblance together with the like part over a dental plugger). That O’Reilly could have been tattooing with a dental plugger despite his patent is in place is not really so farfetched. The device he’s holding within the image seen in this 1901 article looks suspiciously just like a dental plugger.
Yet another report in an 1897 Nebraska Journal article, described O’Reilly outlining tattoos having a “stylus using a small battery on the end,” and investing in color having a similar, but smaller, machine using more needles. This article is not going to specify what forms of machines these were, even though word “stylus” implies a straight-handled device. Also, the point that they differed in dimensions, indicates they probably weren’t Edison pens, which as far as we understand arrived one standard size.
A similar article continues to clarify O’Reilly’s shading machine, which operated by clockwork as an alternative to electricity. It had fifty needles and was “actuated by a heavy [clockwork] spring.” This machine could possibly be the one depicted in the September 11, 1898 Chicago Tribune illustration of O’Reilly tattooing dogs. It appears much like other perforator pens from the era, an excellent example being the pattern making device patented by British sewing machine manufacturers Wilson, Hansen, and Treinan (UK 5009)December 7, 1878. This piece of equipment experienced a wind up mechanism similar to a clock and it is believed to happen to be modified for tattooing.
1899 Ev’ry Month Magazine. Another unique machine appears inside an 1899 Ev’ry Month Magazine article about O’Reilly, England’s Sutherland McDonald, and Japan’s Hori Chiyo. This writer of the article, however, didn’t offer specifics about this device.
Another unique machine appears in a October 1899 Ev’ry Month Magazine article about O’Reilly, England’s Sutherland McDonald, and Japan’s Hori Chiyo. This writer from the article, however, didn’t offer specifics with this device.
An innovator with this era, who never obtained a patent for his invention, was “Electric” Elmer Getchell (1863-1940), a longstanding tattoo artist from Boston. Getchell’s descendants say he was “scholarly” and “a jack of most trades,” skilled like a steamboat captain, horseshoer, chemist, and water color artist. Family lore also says he was the inventor of the contemporary electric tattoo machine.
In the Spanish American war Getchell partnered with O’Reilly in their Ny Bowery shop at 5 Chatham Square. Ultimately, that they had a falling out. According to documents from the United states District Court for that Southern District newest York, in April of 1899, O’Reilly filed charges against Getchell, claiming that he had infringed on his patent by selling machines made according to the patent “within the district of Massachusetts and elsewhere,” and this he was “threatening to create the aforesaid tattooing machines in large quantities, as well as give you the market therewith as well as sell the same…” Getchell then hired a lawyer and moved to an alternative shop across the street at 11 Chatham Square.
In his rebuttal testimony, Getchell clarified that his tattoo machine had not been made “employing or containing any area of the said alleged invention [patent].” He further proclaimed that O’Reilly didn’t even use the patent machine, since it was “impractical, inoperative, and wholly useless.” Most significantly, he maintained that the first step toward O’Reilly’s machines was, in reality, created by Thomas Edison.
The past part of Getchell’s argument held particular weight. As he had likely borrowed ideas using their company devices to make his machine, even O’Reilly’s (i.e. an ink reservoir), he only had to demonstrate the novelty of his invention, just like O’Reilly had done with his patent. As being an aside, Getchell called upon patent expert Octavius Knight to testify in the case. Court documents do not specify whether Knight ever took the stand, but regarding the time he was anticipated to appear, the truth was dropped.
So what exactly was Getchell’s invention? Court papers reference two of Getchell’s machines, Exhibit A, the appliance he was currently using, and Exhibit C, a piece of equipment he’d supposedly invented in prior years. Unfortunately, neither is illustrated in almost any detail. Tattoo artist Lew Alberts (1880-1954) described Getchell’s invention as being a “vibrator” in the 1926 interview using the Winston-Salem Journal, which he differentiated from O’Reilly’s “electric needle.” The term “vibrator” infers that Getchell’s machine operated by means of a vibrating electromagnetic motor. (Edison known as his electromagnetic stencil pen being a “vibrator.”)
Alberts’ description isn’t specific and could have referenced a number of electromagnetic devices. But a grainy picture of Getchell’s machine in the 1902 The Big Apple Tribune article looks like a current day tattoo machine, including an L-shaped frame and dual front-to-back (in accordance with the frame) electromagnetic coils.
A clearer duplicate on this image seen below -which once hung within the tattoo shop of famous Norfolk, Virginia tattoo artist “Cap” Coleman which is now housed inside the Tattoo Archive -settles any uncertainty on the matter. Getchell’s machine was absolutely of recent day build.
Evidently, Getchell have been using this particular machine for quite a while. The 1902 New York City Tribune article reported which he had invented it “a variety of years” prior, inferably around the time O’Reilly brought charges against him. Possibly even earlier. As noted, O’Reilly claimed Getchell had made and sold his machines “within the district of Massachusetts.” It’s quite entirely possible that Getchell had invented the appliance under consideration before he permanently left his hometown of Boston, Massachusetts in 1897.
It’s well-established that modern tattoo machines are based on vibrating bell mechanisms -operated by two electromagnetic coils, which actuate the vibrating motion of an armature thus the reciprocating motion of your needle. More specifically, what type with all the armature lined up together with the coils. Vibrating bell mechanisms were quite powerful, ingeniously streamlined constructions found in various types of alarms, annunciators, indicators, and doorbells through the mid-1800s on. Whether or not it was actually Getchell or other people, who once more, made the intuitive leap of transforming a standalone electromagnetic mechanism right into a handheld device, the bell tattoo machine had irrefutably taken hold by the turn from the century. A number of period photos have turned up depicting quite modern looking machines.
We could never are aware of the precise date the initial bell tattoo machine was developed. But it’s possible their seemingly sudden popularity is connected with the emergence of mail order catalogs in charge of bringing affordable technology towards the door of the average citizen within the late 1800s. Sears Roebuck and plenty of other retailers set the trend once they began offering a variety of merchandise through mail order; the assortment of electric bells (i.e. alarms, annunciators, and doorbells), batteries, wiring, et cetera could have provided a multiplicity of inspiration for tattoo artists.
Interestingly, the catalogs marketed some types of bells (particularly doorbells) as outfits, on account of lack of electrical wiring generally in most homes and buildings. They was made up of a battery, wiring, and either a nickel or wood box encasing. There’s something to be said for the point that tattoo machines were also later sold as “outfits,” including batteries and wiring. (In England, on March 24, 1900, Alfred South of England actually received a patent for the tattoo machine based on a doorbell mechanism (UK 13,359). In addition, it included the doorbell encasing).
However tinkering tattoo artists were brought to bells, the discovery led the right way to a new world of innovation. With much variety in bells and the versatility with their movable parts, tattoo artists could try countless inventive combinations, good to go to operate by using an excpetionally reliable mechanism.
Bell mechanisms were typically mounted on a wood or metal base, so they are often hung on a wall. Its not all, however some, were also fitted in a frame which was intended to keep working parts properly aligned despite the constant jarring from the bell. With minor modification a bell mechanism, in particular those using a frame, could possibly be pulled from the wood or metal base and transformed into a tattoo machine; i.e. adding a needle bar, tube, as well as a tube holder (vice) of some type.
The normal consensus is the fact that earliest bell tattoo machines were built up/modified bell mechanisms, with additional parts, for example the tube and/or vice, welded or screwed on. Later, as tattoo machines evolved, frames were cast from customized intact molds, then assembled with the addition of the adjustable parts; i.e. the armature, coils, needle bar, armature springs, binding posts, contacts, etc.
One particular bell put in place provided the framework of any tattoo machine style known today as being a “classic single-upright” -a device having an L-shaped frame, a vertical bar using one side as well as a short “shelf” extending through the back side.
Machines with left-side uprights are termed as left-handed machines. Machines with right-side uprights are referred to as right-handed machines. (It has nothing to do with whether or not the tattoo artist is left-handed or right-handed).su4
It’s generally believed that left-handed machines came first, for the reason that frame is similar to typical bell frames in the era. Right-handed machines, which eventually won out over left-handed machines, are viewed to possess come along around or after the 1910s. However, as evidenced from the Getchell photo, right-handed tattoo machines were made in a significantly early date.
That’s its not all. The reason why right-handed tattoo machines are believed to possess come later is because are seen as spin-offs of left-handed machines, the assumption being that this right side upright was really a never-before-seen innovation implemented by an experimenting tattoo artist. (i.e. a frame casting mold was “invented” that positioned the upright around the right side as opposed to the left side). Mainly because it appears, bell frames with right side uprights existed alongside their left-sided counterparts. Though they have been rarer, they adequately might have provided the inspiration for right-handed tattoo machines.
You will find too many bell-influenced adaptations to outline in this post. But one prominent example is definitely the back return spring assembly modification containing often been implemented in Round Liner HOLLOW over time. On bells -with or without a frame -this create is made up of lengthened armature, or an extra steel pivoting piece, extended past the top back part of the armature. The armature or pivoting piece is steadied by two screws at a pivot point, a return spring is attached on the backmost end and anchored to bolt below. As outlined by one catalog description, these bells produced “a powerful blow” ideal for a burglar alarm or railroad signal.
The setup on tattoo machines is similar, except a rubberband is oftentimes used as opposed to a return spring. Basically, a rubberband or return spring is coupled to the top, backmost part of a lengthened armature and then secured to a modified, lengthened post at the end end of your frame. The back return spring essentially regulates tension and proper functioning, exactly like the back armature spring on modern tattoo machines. (An illustration of this Walter Cleveland’s c. 1920s to 1940s version of this particular machine is seen in the Tattoo Archive’s online store here).
The pivoting armature-return spring create could have been first implemented with an early date. Notably, bells using the corresponding structure were sold by companies like Vallee Bros. and Stanley & Patterson and Company from the mid-to-late 1890s.
Charlie Wagner implemented a variation for this idea within his 1904 patent machine (US Patent 768,413). His version consisted of a long pivoting piece coupled to the armature 20dexmpky bent downward at the 90 degree angle off the rear of the equipment frame; the return spring was connected horizontally, between the bent down arm as well as the machine, instead of vertically.
The pivoting armature-return spring set up actually goes back much further. It absolutely was an essential element of a number of the early 1800s telegraph relay systems (though in telegraphs, the coils, armature, and return spring were positioned differently). To emphasize just how much overlap there may be in invention, each of W.G.A. Bonwill’s twin-coiled dental plugger patents (and the improved, manufactured model) employed variants with this create. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, Bonwill was inspired by the telegraph.