If ladies would learn the Art of Skating with facility, and avoid the disagreeable exposure, to say nothing of the bruises attendant upon the efforts to learn upon the ice, buy a pair of my PARLOR SKATES, and practice upon them at home, where you will be free from discomfort and exposure, and in one month’s time you can go upon the ice a fair skater and enjoy it.
– 1860 advertisement for Shaler’s Patent Floor Skates, Depot 446 Broadway, N.Y, USA
The evolution of roller skates is similar to that of the bicycle. Just as penny farthings gave way to safety bicycles after 1886, inline skates became obsolete with the invention of the quad skate in 1863.
Bear in mind that up to the nineteenth century independent riding was confined to horseback and only the bicycle and the roller skate provided the novelty of personal wheeled propulsion.
Ice skates were popular but only seasonally or at rinks. There was therefore great potential if someone could invent a wheeled skate to simulate the moves of ice skates. Various methods of attaching wheels to ice skates were tried out, noticeably in the early seventeenth century. The invention of practical wheeled skates is credited to the Belgian Joseph Merlin in the 1760s.
The year 1819 was a turning point for both bicycles and roller skates. Patents were awarded to Johnson for the hobby horse and Petibled for a three-wheeled inline roller skate.
A new style of skate with two axles was patented in 1863. Again mirroring the bicycle’s evolution – the Safety Bicycle replacing the Ordinary and popularising the hobby as a result – this new skate was much safer than inlines. Skating took off. And the four-wheeled quad skate became the dominant style.
1819 PETIBLED SKATE
The Petitbled, the first roller skate patented, was an inline design, patented in Paris, France. 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. The ride was rough, with wheels slipping on hard surfaces. Stopping and turning were nearly impossible.
1823 TYERS ‘ROLITO’ SKATE
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 central wheels were larger than the wheels on either end of the frame to allow a skater to manoeuvre by shifting his weight, but the Rolito could not follow a curved path like inline skates today.
1828 AUGUST LOHNER
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.
1828 ‘CINGAR’ PATINS par M. GARCIN
In France, Jean Garcin patented 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.
1840: 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.
1849 LEGRAND SKATES
In 1849, Louis Legrange made innovative use of roller skates to simulate ice-skating in the French Opera ‘Le Prophete.’ Its popularity increased interest in roller skating.
1852 JOSEPH GIDMAN SKATE PATENT
The London Gazette of 7th January 1853 contains a Provisional Patent Protection No 1176 given to Joseph Gidman of Prescot, Lancs, house agent, for a ‘skate.’ Joseph Gidman was believed to be an solicitor’s clerk, so was he the inventor or merely the patentee?
1857: Public roller skating rinks opened in the Floral Hall and in the Strand of London.
1859 WOODWARD SKATE
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.
1860 SHALER PARLOR SKATES
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 resemble today’s inline frames. They offered a rubber or leather ring on the wheels to allow them to grip the skating surface. However, they were not popular.
1879 E.H BARNEY ANKLE SUPPORT PATENT
1860s: E.H Barney invented metal clamp attachments for skates; previously leather straps had held the shoe to the skate.
1863 JAMES PLIMPTON SKATE PATENT
James Plimpton totally redesigned the roller skate, turning it into what would become known as the quad skate. With two separate axles, the wheels were on pivots, so they could turn independently of the frame. They also had rubber cushions, so skaters could lean in the direction of their turns. This provided much greater control than previous skates and were much easier to use.
1866: The first Plimpton skates clamped onto the skater’s 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, his proficiency test medals were given out in twenty countries where Plimpton skates were used.
1867: Jean Garcin’s Cingar skate had a brief revival at the 1867 Exposition Universelle in Paris. But soon all inline roller skates became obsolete and Plimpton’s quad skates became the dominant style.
1876/1877 WILLIAM BOWN BALL BEARING PATENTS
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.
1877: 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.
1884: 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.
1892: Walter Nielson of New York patented 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.
1896 The Road Skate Co of London used the Ritter patent for their very successful style of ‘bicycle roller skates.’
1898: In 1898, Levant Richardson started the Richardson Ball Bearing and Skate Company, which provided skates to most professional skate racers of the time.
There were various ‘cross-overs’ between bicycles and skates. One such contraption was the 1896 ‘Ice-Bicycle’ illustrated above. Another was the Ritter, below…
1901 CHAIN-DRIVEN ROLLER SKATES
The Centaur Cycle Co was one of many bicycle manufacturers who either made their own skates or rebadged those bought in from trade suppliers.
FROM ROLLER SKATE TO SKATEBOARD:
The Art of Skating by Cyclos (1868) – http://www.antiqueiceskateclub.com/