Object Record

  • Email This Page
  • Send Feedback
Object Name Skate, Roller
Subject Hobbies & Recreation
Sports, Recreation & Leisure
Category 9: Recreational Artifacts
Sub-category Sports Equipment
Accession Number 1972.070.149 (a-b
Donor Anthony Taulbut
Description Strap on size adjustable roller skates - made of metal and leather
Provenance The first strap-on roller skates were invented by J.L. Plimpton from Massachusetts in 1863. Previously, roller skates were difficult to steer and stop, but Plimpton's new "rocking action" model allowed the wearer to turn, effectively revolutionizing the sport and sparking the beginning of a roller skating craze. Inexpensive and fun, roller skating was available to everyone even in times of depression, which certainly contributed to its popularity. Plimpton's style of skates featured a wood base with wheels and leather straps that would attach the skate to the bottom of the wearer’s shoe.
Meanwhile, also in Massachusetts, E.H. Barney was also working on improving the design of roller skates. Barney's chief contribution was the use of clamps that would attach the skate to the shoe, sometimes in combination with a leather strap. Skates that used clamps were more secure, as the leather straps were prone to wearing out and eventual breakage.
In the 1890s, a size adjustable skate was invented featuring sliding rear and front plates in order to adjust the size of the skate to fit the wearer. The skates pictured above are an example of these, and were commonly used until the 1960s.
Although the more familiar shoe skates (attached to a boot) were invented in the early 1900s, they were largely used only by professional skaters. For decades, the general public deemed them unsanitary for use at roller rinks, though we use them exclusively at roller rinks today!