In 1961, it officially became illegal to give someone a tattoo in New York City. But Thom deVita didn’t let this new restriction deter him from inking people. The day after it was put into law, the tattoo artist quietly opened the doors of his tattoo shop in Alphabet City, then one of the grittiest neighborhoods in the area. He limited himself to just five clients per day, working late at night when many other people were asleep. While these may seem like temporary measures for such a vibrant city that seldom sleeps, it wouldn’t be until 1997—36 years later—that it would finally lift the ban.
This is just one of the many interesting facets of the city’s storied ink history covered in Tattooed New York
, an exhibition dedicated to epidermal art and its history that is on display through April 30 at the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library.