Monday, August 3, 2020

Roller Skating Has An Interesting History.

Over the weekend, I attended a wonderful presentation on the clothing women wore when out involved in sports such as riding, ice skating, tennis, fencing, or roller skating from around 1800 to 1960.

The presenter showed us the photo they used as a guide for the clothing displays.  They found real period garments from head to toe.  One photo showed a woman from the 1930's or 1940's who was into roller derby.  Her uniform and skates were donated for one display.  Another card or advertisement showed "inline" skates from the late 19th century and were cool.  This lead me to wondering how long roller skating and derbies have been a part of our society.

It is said that the first skates first appeared in Holland in the early 1700's when someone decided to nail wooden spools to act as wheels to a piece of wood he attached to his shoes so he could "ice skate" in the summer. These dry land skates acquired the name "Skeelers" Then sometime in the 1700's between 1735 and 1760, one Joseph Merlin attended a masquerade party wearing metal wheeled boots to show his invention off.  Unfortunately, he chose to play the violin as he made his entrance, lost control, and ran into a mirror, breaking it.  

The next big development took place in Berlin when 1818, when a German ballet substituted roller skates in for ice skates because it was impossible to create ice on the stage.  The roller skates allowed dancers to flow across the stage. About one year later, in 1819, Frenchman Monsieur Pettibledin became the first one to patent the roller skate.  His roller skate was more like the inline skate of today with between two and four wheels made of copper, wood, or ivory laid in a line but with no way to turn.  Five years later, a Londoner patented a roller skate with single row of 5 wheels all in a line attached to a boot or shoe but again, the skater could not turn.

By 1840, a beer tavern in Germany has it's waitresses wearing roller skates to cover the huge beer hall.  By 1857, public roller rinks in England opened so everyone could enjoy skating.  Then James Leonard Plimpton redid the basic roller skate so it had two wheels under the ball of the foot, two wheels under the heel parallel to each other. In addition, he added rubber springs to make the ride smoother This design change made it possible for skaters to pivot and make turns.  Furthermore, he toured skating rinks, offering lessons to people who wanted to learn but much of the money he made off his invention was spent fighting over 300 copyright infringements.

In the 1880's someone invented pin ball bearing wheels which were used in roller skates to make them lighter and more maneuverable. Over the next few decades, more roller rinks opened such as the Coliseum in Chicago which attracted over 7,000 people on opening night in 1902.  Skating continued to gain in popularity as it branched out into dancing, roller derby, speed skating, polo skating and recreational skating on both indoor and outdoor rinks and eventually just after World War II many drive-in restaurants began having their waitresses also known as "car hops" use skates to deliver food faster to cars.

By the 1960's with the advent of plastic, changes were made to roller skates to make them lighter.  Roller skating continued to grow in popularity with the influx of disco roller rinks in the 1970's and 80's.  Furthermore, Hollywood helped with the growth of this when it released numerous disco roller movies.  Then in 1970, two brothers stumbled across a pair of the original inline type skates and redesigned them using the original idea but making it with modern materials thus giving birth to what we know as inline skates.  

People continued to make changes to inline skates, making them safer while eliminating some of the original issues.  Recently, people have been returning to the four wheel design made popular by Plimpton. Over the years, people have worn the heavy skates attached to the boots or used the lighter ones that you could attach to your tennis shoes so you didn't have to spend tons of money to enjoy the activity.  This is the type my family had because all of us kids could share one pair among us.   Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

No comments:

Post a Comment