Student Research Projects

Natural Canvas: Using the Body as a Sign of the Time

Student Bill Schisel
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department History
Course HIST 360: Junior Research Seminar


Generations have spoken volumes in ink, but often times the ink has been muted through regulation. In Norfolk, Virginia, following their return from World War II, many sailors and marines chose to use tattooing as a means to express affiliation and to document their life experiences. Norfolk city council members and military officials sought to regulate tattooing because they saw tattoo parlors as being unethical, unsanitary, and as hosts to drinking and prostitution. Norfolk city council and military officials began regulating activities within tattoo parlors by first forbidding the sale of alcohol, and when that failed to slow activity they sought an outright ban of tattoo parlors. Regulation of tattoos and tattoo parlors, though, did not stop military members from obtaining tattoos. This research serves to show how recent deregulation has led to discovering links between the post-World War II and other generations through their use of tattoos in order to express themselves and to show affiliation to groups.