Roller Skates

The ever-popular roller skates for youngsters and adults had to start slowly to be what they became later. Roller skates were first invented in 1735 by a Belgian man named John Joseph Merlin. He famously introduced his wheeled shoes at a London party, and the skates had no brakes, he then crashed into a mirror. In 1819, a man named Monsieur Petitbled patented the roller skate, his version had only three wheels and no way to turn! It had a wood sole and was attached to the bottom of a boot. The wheels were made of copper, wood or ivory. Then James Leonard Plimpton of New York in 1863 reinvented the wheel design. He patented a four-wooden wheeled roller-skate that allowed skaters to turn as needed. Plimpton also established the New York Roller Skating Association and had a new skating rink at a Rhode Island resort by 1866.

The first public skating rink opened in 1866. By 1875, metal wheeled skates with roller bearings were developed. In 1876 the toe stop was patented, so a skater could stop by tipping the skate onto the toe. By the 1880s, roller skates were being mass-produced in the United States and becoming very popular. In 1902, the Chicago Coliseum opened a public skating rink with 7,000 people attending on opening day.

The Roller Skate Rink Owner’s Association started in 1937 and that began the golden age of skating. Skating became even more popular when waitresses at drive-ins in the 1950s-60s began wheeling meals to customers.

There is a National Museum of Roller-Skating in Lincoln, Nebraska. In Lakeland, Florida (near Orlando) there is a big skating rink called ‘Skate World’.

Everyone must have a story of when they first learned to roller skate, either in the neighborhood streets or in a rink. Write down your memories and then find other relatives and learn their story of roller skating. There could be some interesting family history to be added.

Photo: A girl skating on the neighborhood sidewalk in the 1950s.

Related Blogs:

An Ancestor’s Special Talent

Social and School Life in the 1950s

Having Fun in the 1880s

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