Roller Skating: A History Lesson

Since school is in full swing and many of our frequent skaters are learning new things every day, we thought we’d add a little something of our own to the learning pool! How about a little history lesson, on skating?

roller skatesMany people don’t know that the first skate ever ‘invented’ was actually more comparable to the modern-day in-line skate. Since most ‘vintage’ skates have wheels in the quad position, like those we rent here at Sparkles Hiram, people generally assume that was the style of the original pair of skates.  Belgium born Joseph Merlin was an accomplished violinist and violin maker living in London, England in 1769. Along with his musical talents, Merlin had a knack for going above and beyond to entertain his audience. One performance in particular did just that, but not in the way Marlin had in mind. In an attempt to really WOW the crowd at a masquerade party, Joseph had plans to play the violin while skating around on his newly invented pair of skates, complete with metal wheels. But instead of wow-ing the crowd with his multi-tasking skills, he wow-ed them by accidentally skating into and breaking an expensive mirror. Needless to say his audience was less than impressed at his ground-breaking invention.

Thankfully, and almost 60 years later, Monsieur Petitbled of France invented and patented a brand new roller skate design. His were made with three in-line wheels, in either wood, metal, or deluxe ivory. Although Petitbled made a better case than Merlin, the general public was still unimpressed.

Fast forward to 1823 to Englishman John Tyers who called his roller skate the “Volito”. It consisted of 5 wheels, as opposed to Petitbled’s three. Still in-line, Tyers made the center of the five wheels larger than the rest, which required skaters to tilt forward or backwards to push off from any surface. The Volito was also the first skate to feature a breaking system, made of a metal stops at the toe and heel. These TOO sparked little interest but ice skaters of the time were able to prove that roller skates worked much like ice skates. Experts on the ice could perform most of the same moves on Tyers’ Volito that they previously could only do on ice skates.

Stay tuned next week for part 2 of our roller skating history lesson… when SUCCESS occurs!


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