Little Bits of History

Rolling Along

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 22, 2014
Robert John Tyers patent for roller skates

Robert John Tyers patent for roller skates

April 22, 1823: Robert John Tyers patents roller skates. He was a fruit seller from Piccadilly, London and called his invention Volitos. They were an “apparatus to be attached to boots … for the purpose of travelling or pleasure.” They used a series of five small wheels arranged in a single line and the developer demonstrated their use at the tennis court in Windmill Street. The first use of something akin to skates was in 1760 by Joseph Merlin in Belgium (perhaps). The paired four small boxwood wheeled skates were patented in 1863 by James L. Plimpton of New York. This became a far more popular style, at least for a time.

The early roller skates simply took the idea of ice skates and instead of having a blade to slide across the ice, used an arrangement of wheels to slide across a smooth surface. They were difficult to use as they did not steer well and stopping was a problem since they had no brakes. The improvement of a new type of wheel placement was shown when Plimpton arranged the wheels like those seen on a carriage which provided stability. Each pair of wheels was placed on its own axel and gave the wearer far more control with steering. The popularity of skating increased dramatically and this type of skate is still used today.

What started out as a game eventually became a competitive sport. Speed skating, racing on skates, and figure skating evolved. Roller Derby is a contact sport played on roller skates and developed in the 1930s. Roller hockey was developed in the 1990s and the game played with a ball rather than a puck became so successful that it made a brief appearance in the 1992 Olympics. By the end of the millennium, a study by The National Sporting Goods Association showed that 2.5 million people had played roller hockey. Roller skating itself was considered as an Olympic sport, but has not yet been included.

Roller Skating Rinks opened and allowed people a place to skate with a known flat surface. They formed their own association in 1937 as the craze for skating spread. They still offer classes to the public and help to educate the public on the benefits of skating. During the 1980s there was a disco dance craze that allowed skaters to bust a move to the tunes of the day. The health benefits of skating are put forth at the Roller Skating Association’s web page and include a total body workout which burns 350 calories per hour if covering 6 miles and 600 calories if skating at 10 mph. Inline skates (trade name Rollerblade) were first available commercially in 1987 and changed the whole game of skating.

Talent without discipline is like an octopus on roller skates. There’s plenty of movement, but you never know if it’s going to be forward, backwards, or sideways. – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I’d ice-skated before, because I’m Canadian and that’s what you do as a kid, but I’d never, ever been on quad skates. – Ellen Page

The Orioles’ Dick Hall comes off the mound like a drunk kangaroo on roller skates. – Joe Garagiola

I laugh at absurdity hardest, then stories, then observations, then bearded men on roller skates. – T. J. Miller

Also on this day: One Ringy-Dingy – In 2000, the UK updates the phone system.
Earth Day – In 1970, Earth Day was first celebrated.
Oklahoma Land Run – In 1889, land in Oklahoma was parceled out in a land run.
Remember the Alamo – In 1836, Santa Anna was captured.

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