In the United States, the American style of tattooing was born in Chatham Square in New York City. This was a place which was a seaport and entertainment center, the place which attracted people with money. A person named Samuel O'Riely came to the place from Boston and set up a small shop in the area. O'Riely took on a man named Wagner as his assistant and when O'Riely passed away, Wagner, in collaboration with Lew Alberts, opened a business. Alberts was trained in wallpaper design and both moved on to design different kinds of tattoos using the design skill that Alberts had.
During this period tattooing was declining and losing its popularity in the country. But the work of art in Chatham Square was flourishing. Men had their wives tattooed with the best of their work in the businesses that the husbands were in, and this formed a "walking advertisement" for their best work. Slowly cosmetic tattoos became popular, and women had blush for cheeks, colored lips, and eyeliner. World War I started and tattoos took the shape of those of bravery and wartime icons.
The glamour of Chatham Square lost its appeal at the time when prohibition and then the depression set in the 1920's. The work of art moved to a place called Coney Island. Shops started to open across the US. Tattooists started to have a roving business. Tattoos began to be travel markers, and these marks indicated where the person has traveled to. The World War II saw further degradation of interest in tattoos by their associations with Marlon Brando type bikers and Juvenile delinquents.
At this time the general population thought very low of tattoo parlors. At first the government wanted the tattooists to form an association which the tattooists, as individuals, failed to form. The result was tattooing was banned on health grounds, and all the tattoo shops at the Times Corner and Coney Island were shut down. Tattooing in New York became impossible, and since it was illegal, tattoos got a bad name. Most of the shops which closed moved to Philadelphia and New Jersey where it was still legal.