There was a time when many people thought of tattoos as belonging almost exclusively to sailors. Perhaps the reason for mostly sailors having tattoos, were that they sailed to the foreign lands where body art was much more common than in their home lands. For example the elaborate tattoos of the Polynesian culture became popular among Europeans after James Cook's British expedition to Tahiti in 1769.The sailors often would choose a tattoo symbolizing their profession, such as an anchor on their forearm where it could be easily displayed. The islanders' term "tatatau" or "tattau," meaning to hit or strike was a reference to their method of imprinting the designs unto the skin. The term eventually became our modern term tattoo.
In 1796 a congressional act was put into place to safeguard American seamen. In accordance with this, tattoos became a popular way for sailors to identify themselves as American citizens. Tattoos were catalogued alongside other identifying features such as, birthmarks, scars, race, and height on official documents. Pigments for the tattoos were sometimes derived from gunpowder and even urine. Aside from nautical themes, tattoos consisted of initials, important dates and religious
By now, tattoos are seen on every age group, gender and walk of life, but the seafaring theme still remains popular in the form of anchors, mermaids and ships to this day. I don't have any nautical tattoos, though pirate ship or a mermaid would make a nice addition. I hope you enjoyed this history lesson; sometimes the most ordinary things have the most extraordinary origins.