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Author Topic: Scientific American mention of skating in 1866  (Read 712 times)

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Offline Bill_S

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Scientific American mention of skating in 1866
« on: November 27, 2016, 11:21:36 AM »
I recently received my December 2016 copy of Scientific American and there’s a reference to ice skating from back in 1866. It is found in the end-pages that briefly review select stories from 50, 100, and 150 years ago.

Here’s the mention:

1866 - Ice Skates for Fun
“That skating has become a fashionable exercise, is evident form the following statements as to the materials consumed during the present year, on one skate factory at Worcester, Mass.: two tons of brass, 5,000 gross of screws; 50,000 brass thimbles, 1,000 pounds of German silver, nearly six tons of rosewood, and ten tons of steel, worked up by 35 men and women into 25,000 pairs of skates.”

Besides being the longest run-on sentence I’ve read outside of undergraduate papers, I find the mention of rosewood curious. I suspect that most skates in 1866 were strap-on affairs. A brief Google search for old skating pictures hints that might have been the case.

I thought this was fun to come across in a science magazine. Doing research into the skates of the time shows skating is no longer as popular as it once was.
Bill Schneider

Offline riley876

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Re: Scientific American mention of skating in 1866
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2016, 01:29:45 PM »
I think strap-ons made sense back then.  i.e. when you skated it involved trekking through the bitter cold to your nearest frozen lake or river.   The last thing you'd want to do is have to take your (walking) boots off once you got there.   Or even worse, have to put them back on after a couple of hours skating, especially if they'd gotten a bit wet in your trek out there.

Personally I was amused to find references to the use of inline skates as an off-ice training tool, in an 1880 book.   So they were indeed an '80s fad after all!

Offline Bill_S

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Re: Scientific American mention of skating in 1866
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2016, 01:48:43 PM »
In my brief poking around the internet to find what ice skates looked like, I did find an illustration of inlines from back then. I saw the reference to them being used as training aids.

The wheels were very small in diameter, and I suspect they were made of a hard material. That could be a recipe for frequent falls if pebbles were encountered.
Bill Schneider

Offline riley876

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Re: Scientific American mention of skating in 1866
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2016, 01:58:11 PM »
I suspect the wheels might have been wood, at least those designed for indoors use.    Before the 1960's indoors (and speed skating) roller skate wheels were often wood, and they got by fine (though apparently talc powder was often added to floors to increase grip).   Though metal wheels existed too,  but I doubt any rink owner would have let them on their floor.   

I saw one video of a bunch of nazi(!) soldiers playing inline hockey on what looked like asphalt.  I imagine wooden wheels would work acceptably on asphalt given how "cheese grater"ish asphalt is...

But yeah.  The phrase "stops on a dime" comes to mind.  i.e. instant stop should you hit a loose dime (or a penny, or a hairclip, or ....)

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Re: Scientific American mention of skating in 1866
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2016, 02:07:41 PM »
Riley,

I'm old enough to have skated on wooden-wheeled roller skates. In the early 60s I had a skateboard with very hard wheels too. Stop on a dime indeed!

When compliant wheels came along, everyone could use them. Even my mother...



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Offline Query

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Offline Bill_S

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Re: Scientific American mention of skating in 1866
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2016, 07:23:57 AM »
Here is a reproduction from the Library of Congress showing skating in 1885, which is significantly later than the SciAm story's date. In the larger version (not included here), there appears to be a combination of strap-on skates and dedicated skating boots. However, it's not a photo, so who knows how accurate the artist was about rendering such commonplace (for back then) details.



I have an older illustration from 1866, but don 't have the freedom to post it because of copyright issues. In it, most skaters appear to be using strap-on skates. That time period would be immediately following the Civil War too.

From reproductions like these, it's hard to deny that skating was much more popular back then. But you have to realize that they didn't have radio, TV, or the Internet to compete for recreational time.
Bill Schneider

Offline tstop4me

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Re: Scientific American mention of skating in 1866
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2016, 02:36:16 PM »
Not sure you can make any conclusions about the popularity of figure skating from the density of people in the scene.  Remember, we're talking about pre-refrigeration days.  So skating was available for only limited periods of time, depending on the weather.  It wouldn't be surprising that when conditions were just right (cold enough for the pond, lake, or river to freeze hard and smooth, but no heavy snow cover), a lot of people would want to take advantage of the limited opportunity.

To put it another way, would you gauge the current popularity of figure skating by snapping a photo of a Sat public session in Jan?

Offline Bill_S

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Re: Scientific American mention of skating in 1866
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2016, 03:35:07 PM »
As you suggest, one data point does not make a trend.

It's fun to speculate, though.

I must say that scenes similar to that are something that I remember from my early days skating outdoors. In the 1960s, I lived a few minutes walk from a lake, and would often skate there. On the best weekends (no snow, clean ice) there might be up to 75 people skating. It was a real social event. Bonfire nights were the best.
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Re: Scientific American mention of skating in 1866
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2016, 06:00:37 PM »
According to

  http://inventors.about.com/od/famousinventions/fl/The-History-of-Ice-Skates.htm

Quote
In 1865, Jackson Haines, a famous American skater, developed the two-plate, all-metal blade. The blade was attached directly to Haines' boots. He soon became famous for his new dance moves, jumps and spins. Haines added the first toe pick to skates in the 1870s, making toe-pick jumps possible for figure skaters.

Here is a picture

  http://www.ebay.com/itm/Jackson-Haines-1840-1875-American-ballet-dancer-figure-skater-ice-skates-/291942742678?hash=item43f924ba96:g:akgAAOSwHMJYKewi

But it might be from as late as 1875.


Offline Bill_S

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Re: Scientific American mention of skating in 1866
« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2016, 07:44:16 PM »
Good finds.

I also found some early skating reproductions on eBay. If I were so inclined, I might pick up some and frame them.

But I've got more than enough art to cover walls right now.
Bill Schneider