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Temporary Tattoos: A Diverse And Rich History

Temporary Tattoos: A Diverse And Rich History

Did you know that the first temporary tattoos were found in bubble gum?

Though it is difficult to determine when the first temporary tattoo was printed, it is thought that they have been designed and manufactured since the turn of the 20th century. They were first used as prizes in bubble gum and later, in 1890, and the well into the 1900s, temporary tattoos were created and included in boxes of Cracker Jacks® snacks. These temporary tattoos were transferred from paper to the skin with the use of water.  Cracker Jack® amazingly still includes the same style temporary tattoos as one of their “prize in every box” giveaways today.

Unfortunately, tattoos of the early 20th century were of poor quality and came off as soon as they were rubbed or got wet.  My, have tattoos evolved!  But before we get to the quality temporary tattoos that are available today, we have a few more decades to weed through.

Temporary tattoos as giveaways in conjunction with snacks or other toys remained the cornerstone of temporary tattoos usage for decades. In addition to snacks, television programs, sports teams and cartoon characters started to use temporary tattoos as promotional tools.  For example, not only did sports card packs include chewing gum, beginning in the 1970s, many included temporary tattoos which are considered collectors items today.  Smurfs, PeeWee’s Playhouse and the Bionic Woman were also card packs that included temporary tattoos, intended as a means to promote their television programs.

In 1980, temporary tattoos were created using different and exotic ink systems. 3M designed and developed a special coating called Micro-Fragrance® that made scratch-n-sniff technology possible.  The temporary tattoo industry adopted the scratch-n-sniff concept and a few companies released scented tattoos.

Around this time advances in ink and screen printing were also developed.  These advances made the tattoos last longer and look more realistic.  As tattoos quality increased, so did demand.  People began seeing temporary tattoos as a product that could last and could be used outside of inexpensive giveaways.

Enter the era of universal demand and consumption.  Today, temporary tattoos are sold everywhere from vending machines to check-out counters at mass retailers to high-end boutiques.  A tattoo exists for every demographic; Marvel superhero tattoos for young boys, glitter designs for girls, Ed Hardy temporary tattoos for trendy adults and clubbing designs for young people.  Temporary tattoos have become a healthy activity for children and a must-have accessory for adults.

From bubble gum prizes to high-end accessory pieces, temporary tattoos have a diverse and rich history.  They’re here to stay, that goes without saying.  The question is, what will we see next?

Amber Golden serves as public relations specialist for Tattoo Manufacturing, the largest manufacturer of temporary tattoos in the world.

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