1896 Patin Bicyclette Road Skates (Richard-Choubersky)



Manufactured by Richard-Choubersky

(Now sold)

Charles Choubersky was an avid inventor and very interesting character. His inventions brought him worldwide fame, but he committed suicide in 1891.

Though these road skates – and his name – are well-known over a century later because of the famous poster (above), very few of the actual skates are still in existence.


C de Chouberksy was a famous French inventor. Though there are not so many of his skates still around in the 21st century, his ornate woodstoves can still be found.

Charles Choubersky was a communications engineer, well-known railways specialist and inventor. Born 1835 in Tula, where his father, also a well-known railway engineer, was at that time in charge of the arms factory he had built there. C. began to manifest an ability for invention at an early age, and at 10 was interested in the problem of perpetual motion. For this reason his father, having first sent him to the Imperial St Petersburg Lyceum, transferred him to the Institute of the Corps of Communications Engineers. Having passed the entrance examination with third highest mark in 1851, C was top of the class throughout his 4 years at the Institute, and when he graduated in 1855 with the rank of lieutenant, was honoured on a marble plaque.

While still at the Institute he invented a new method for designing bridges, which he published in the Communications Journal in 1855. Because of this, as soon as he graduated he was sent by the Director of Communications and Public Buildings on a trip abroad to study the construction of railways, especially on steep slopes, and also the, manufacture of locomotives. It was during this trip that there first occurred to him the idea for the “Makhovoz” device, which he was later to put into practise, although unfortunately with limited success. While diligently observing and studying all the notable foreign railway equipment, C did not forget the manufacture of locomotives and carriages, and whenever he came across something of interest he spared neither time nor trouble in acquainting himself with every detail of its manufacture. For example, he did not hesitate to take employment as an ordinary fitter at the Maggei locomotive factory in Munich, where he worked until he was adept at all the techniques involved.

On returning from abroad, C was entrusted with making a survey of the Warsaw railway from Warsaw to the Prussian border. He then surveyed the Oryol-Gryozi, Azov and Rostov-Vladikavkaz lines. While engaged on this work, he saw for himself the heavy costs occasioned by hilly country) and, trying to find a remedy for this, C started to develop his “Makhovoz”, which consisted of a system of flywheels and was first described by C in the Communications Journal in 1860. The article sparked off a violent debate, and C’s invention was criticised by several noted engineers. However, when C published a description of the machine in a separate book, in 1862, a number of well-known engineers came to his defence. But when the time came to pass from theoretical discussion to experiment, the opponents of the “Makhovoz” were proved right, and the invention did not justify the hopes which had been placed upon it. This was the result of insufficiently careful design, rather than of any inherent fault in the idea, which was put into practise many years ago in the shape of the so called Russian Mountains *,hence the French name for them, “Montaigne Russe” literally Russian Mountain , which are constructed in Petersburg for the Shrovetide celebrations and are popular abroad. In the mid 1860’s, when the construction of, the OryolGryazi and Voronezh-Rostov railways was nearing completion, rolling stock needed to be built for them; C was amongst those enlisted to help in this task. Here for the first time he was able to apply the knowledge he had acquired at the Maggei factory in Munich.

His creative talent had its fullest expression during the building and equipping of the narrow gauge Livny line from Verkhovye to Livny. Appointed a member of the Board in charge of building this line in 1870, under A.P. Bobrinsky, later Minister of Communications, C brought a number of his own inventions into use on the line, such as a special size coupling system, a new type of 1,650 kg goods wagon capable of carrying a load of 5,000 kg, special lubrication boxes, a new buffer system, special sleeping cars etc.

In the early 1870’s the Ministry of Communications decided, in view of the quickening development of the railways, to establish a special technical department, which would be in charge of building rolling stock for our railways. It would, naturally, have been hard to find a more suitable head for such a department than C, and he was offered the post. The offer coincided with the death of C’s father, who left him a fairly sizeable inheritance. He therefore did not take up the excellent offer, preferring to go abroad and set up a special company for developing his projects.

Living first in Vienna, then in Brussels, and then in Paris, C made a number of different inventions. The invention of a portable stove, which became known as the Choubersky stove, brought him wide publicity and vast profit. These stoves earned their inventor several hundred thousands every year. C built himself a large workshop in Paris, with a special section for inventions, and spent much time and money on various experiments, which sometimes cost him tens of thousands of francs. In general, money only existed for him insofar as it could be spent. Each year he spent up to 100,000 francs on advertising his inventions by way of articles, notices, pictures and verses in the illustrated papers.

He had three fine shops of his own in Paris, in which his inventions were sold, and shortly before his death he built a fourth on the Boulevard Montmartre, notable for its elegance and beauty. All the details, bronzes, fireplaces were designed by well-known artists and architects, including Gamier, architect of the new Paris Opera. The last of C’s inventions was the “armoire-lavabo”, which became widespread in Paris after his death. ‘Two features of the new invention were found particularly valuable: the small dimensions and the modest expenditure of water. During his last years, C for the most part concentrated on perfecting the most simple objects, after stating his belief that great inventions are usually of less benefit than the improvement of everyday objects.

C’s inventions brought him worldwide fame. He was particularly popular in Paris, so much so that in the panorama of his contemporaries, the “Histoire du Siecle” 1789-1889, put out in Paris for the International Exhibition of 1889, he was included in the list of contemporary Parisian celebrities. However neither popularity nor material comfort satisfied C, and he appeared’ unhappy with life often, especially in the last years of’ his life. This explains his suicide. C shot himself in Paris in November 1891. He was 57.


The evolution of roller skates is rather similar to that of the bicycle, and my bicycle collection includes two pairs of historic inline road skates that have the appearance of a miniature bicycle for each foot. Bear in mind that in the nineteenth century independent riding was confined to horseback and only the bicycle and the roller skate provided the novelty of propulsion under the direct control of the rider or skater.

In 1819 the first inline skate was patented, and inlines remained until 1863, when skates with two axles were developed. These quad skates allowed more control and their popularity spread quickly in North America and Europe. The four-wheeled quad skate quickly dominated the skate manufacturing industry. Some companies continued to design skates using wheels in a line , but they were not taken seriously.


The Petitbled, the first roller skate patented, was an inline. This patent was issued in Paris, France, in 1819. M. Petitbled’s invention had three inline wheels which were either wood, metal or ivory. He thought his inline skate would allow a skater to simulate ice skating moves, but the wheel construction did not allow it, and the wheels kept slipping on hard surfaces.


Robert John Tyers, a London ice skater, patented a skate called the Rolito with five wheels in a single row on the bottom of a boot. The center wheels were larger than the wheels on either end of the frame to allow a skater to maneuver by shifting his weight, but the Rolito could not follow a curved path like inline skates today.


Another roller skate patent was issued in Austria in 1828 to August Lohner, a Viennese clock maker. Until then, all designs had been for inline skates, but this version was like a tricycle, with two wheels in back and one in front. He also added a ratchet to prevent the skate from rolling backward.

In France, Jean Garcin got a patent for the “Cingar.” The name was created by reversing the syllables of his last name. The Cingar was an inline skate with three wheels. Garcin opened a skating rink rink, taught skating and even wrote a book called Le Vrai Patineur (“The True Skater”). Garcin had to close his rink because of the number of skating injuries to patrons.


Monsieur and Madame Dumas, professional dancers, led a performance of fancy roller skating at Paris’s Port Saint Martin Theatre in 1840.

The Corse Halle Tavern, near Berlin, featured barmaids who served the patrons on roller skates. This was needed due to the large size of beer halls in Germany at this time.


The first successful use of a skate with wheels in a line was recorded in 1849 by Louis Legrange, who built them to simulate ice skating in the French Opera, “Le Prophete”.


English J. Gidman applied for a patent for roller skates equipped with ball bearings. He had to wait 30 years to see them in use on skates.


Public roller skating rinks opened in the Floral Hall and in the Strand of London.


The Woodward skate was invented in London in 1859 with four vulcanized rubber wheels on each frame for better traction than iron wheels on a wooden floor. Like the Rolito, these skates had middle wheels that were bigger than the end wheels to make it easier to turn, but this did not fix maneuvering problems. This skate was used by Jackson Haines, the founder of modern figure skating, for exhibitions.


Reuben Shaler, an inventor from Madison, Connecticut, developed a skate designed to solve the maneuverability problem. Shaler patented a Parlor Skate, the first roller skate patent issued by the U.S. Patent Office. This skate had four wheels attached by pins to a hanger which resembled today’s inline frames. They offered a rubber or leather ring on the wheels to allow them to grip the skating surface. These inline skates never caught on.


When James Plimpton invented quad skates, they provided greater control than the inline models and were much easier to use. Plimpton put one pair of wheels in front and another in back. He put the wheels on pivots, so they could turn independently of the frame and inserted rubber cushions, so skaters could lean in the direction of their turns.


The first Plimpton skates clamped on to the shoe, but improved designs, used straps with buckles instead. Plimpton installed a skating floor in his furniture business in New York, leased skates to customers, founded the New York’s Roller Skating Association, introduced skating proficiency tests, operated roller rinks in the Northeast, and traveled to give lessons. Four years later, the proficiency test medals were being given out in 20 countries where Plimpton skates were used.


Jean Garcin’s Cingar skate had a brief revival at the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris. But, eventually all inline roller skates became obsolete after Plimpton’s “quad” skate became popular.


William Bown patented a design for roller skates wheels in Birmingham, England. Bown’s design made an effort to keep the two bearing surfaces of an axle, fixed and moving, apart.


Bown worked closely with Joseph Henry Hughes, who patented the elements of an adjustable ball or roller bearing system similar to the system used in today’s skate and skateboard wheels.


Levant M. Richardson secured a patent to use steel ball bearings in skate wheels to reduce friction, and allow skaters to increase speed with minimum effort. The invention of pin ball-bearing wheels allowed skates to roll with ease and made skating shoes weigh less.


Walter Nielson of New York got the patent for a “Combined Ice and Roller Skate.” His 14-wheel skates had a patent inscription that suggested that “a pad of rubber, leather, or like material should be placed … so that when the skater desires to stop, it is only necessary to press the pad … against the floor or ground.” This suggestion for stopping pads was ahead of its time.


In 1898, Levant Richardson started the Richardson Ball Bearing and Skate Company, which provided skates to most professional skate racers of the time.


Andrew Peck and Irving Snyder started the Peck & Snyder Sporting Goods company in 1866, located at 124-128 Nassau Street in New York. They found early success with their invention of the first rubber-soled and canvas tennis shoe, as well as patented their design for a two wheeled inline skate in 1900.

In order to promote baseball to a worldwide audience, Irving Snyder joined Chicago sporting goods owner and ex-baseball pitcher A.G. Spalding on a world tour in 1888. According to biographer Mark Lamster in his book “Spalding’s World Tour,” Irving had a secondary motive for the trip. He wanted to find an international buyer for thirty thousand pairs of roller-skates. They went to Australia, Egypt, England, France, Hawaii, Italy, and New Zealand. Several prominent baseball players of the time accompanied them. Snyder and Spalding’s trip was designed to introduce baseball to a global market. Six years after their return from the world tour, A.G. Spalding expanded his Chicago based sporting goods store by purchasing Peck & Snyder Sporting Goods. Spalding was a major bicycle retailer, supplying bicycles to the American military in the 1890s and marketing the famous Christy saddle.

To read more about A.G. Spalding PLEASE CLICK HERE


While researching the early history of bicycles, I was tempted to go further back in time and examine other means of individual wheeled propulsion: roller skates appeared to develop along similar lines to bicycles, and the two early pairs of you see in this website are particularly bicycle-like.

But ice skates have a much more ancient history. As a result of this interest, I obtained this pair of ice skates that are most likely around 200 years old. I’ve written to the Antique Ice Skate Club and, once I’ve found out more about them, I’ll expand on this page so you can discover more about this fascinating subject too. In the meanwhile, here are some extracts from an 1868 book on the subject, The Art of Skating -



50 Lakeside Bldg, Chicago, Ill




The Art of Skating by Cyclos (1868) – http://www.antiqueiceskateclub.com/