More Developments

Something needed to make skating popular with the public. The Germans came up with it in the late 1840s, add beer and pretty girls. A newspaper of the time describes skating waitresses skimming the floor, describing clever curves around tables, smooth but sudden stops and all while carrying any number of glass pint pots in both hands without disturbing the froth. They used neatly fitted strong boots with metal wheels let into the sole, the only downside mentioned was the rattle and how tired the girls looked toward midnight, understandable knowing how hard the skates were to turn.

More attention was gained in 1849 when skating met the Grand Opera! To meet the demands of a famous composer, M.Legrange, a machinist produced two types of skates. For the actors, two wheels inline well spaced; for the actresses four wheels coupled front and back with the space between, women were believed to have weak ankles. THESE SKATES WORKED! He patented them on August 21,1849, shipments of skates followed the Opera tour as audiences caught the skating fever. More Operas and increasing skill by the performers catapulted skating into a public passion.

In 1857 the first public rink was opened in Floral Hall at Covent Garden and in the Strand,London but the four wheel inline skates were hard to manage, the friction was enormous. Improvements and failures came and went rapidly and continue to this day.

Jackson Haines, an American ballet master, evolved new ideas of freedom and rhythm in ice skating which became the "international style". He then went on to master the moves on roller skates, a very difficult task as their crude design and construction created great friction and fought attempts to turn. However, he did indeed master them and in 1864 was a sensation in a European tour. He skated with images of ice blades fastened alongside to hide the wheels and further the illusion.

The Woodward skate brought out in 1859 was the first to have vulcanized rubber rollers, inlines again with the center ones larger.

Many inovations quickly followed. A skate with four pair of coupled wheels that could be spread out more for beginners. Another "wheelbarrow skate. Still edges and curves required tremendous exertion. Australia was introduced to skating in1860 by Miss Nellie Jackson who did almost all toe work having only front wheels. People were not inclined to copy her.

An antique skate. From Massachusetts came James Plimpton with an inquiring mechanical mind who had his own macine shop at age 21. He had improved his health by ice skating and wished to continue the exercise. IN 1863 HE PATENTED A QUAD! A pair of wheels side by side under the ball of the foot and another pair under the heel. The wheels were made of boxwood and had rubber springs so that when a skater leaned the wheels on that side came closer together and the outside wheels further apart. The skate had a strap at the ankle and two buckles across the foot. FINALLY a skate the easily allowed the skater to perform any manuver!

An add run 20 years later gives the price of a pair of Plimpton skates at $3. Plimpton organized the New York Roller Skating Association and designed and built a $100,000 rink in N.Y.C.,then worked brilliantly to bring skating to popular favor with the public. Within a few years rinks were being built throughout the U.S. and Europe. Asphalt was proving too sticky and concret to unforgiving so Plimpton invented the wooden skating floor. Narrow strips of wood with the grain at right angles of the board direction properly backed provided an excellent surface and held up well. Efforts were made to keep skating a sport of Ladies and Gentlemen, rules forbid any other type of conduct. Ability was rewarded, Plimpton's company had an award of merit that gave the winner admission to all company rinks.The skate in this illustration was invented in 1863!