If you’ve ever visited our Tallahassee skating rink, you know how fun roller skating can be. This activity is definitely a classic, but did you know that the history of roller skating actually goes all the way back to the 18th century? Check out some historical facts about roller skating, where they began, and where they are now!
A Brief History of Roller Skates
- 1743 – Rudimentary roller skates are used to mimic ice skating in a London stage production.
- 1760 – Inventor John Joseph Merlin shows off his new invention, roller “skaites,” at a ball in the town of Huy, Belgium by rolling into the ballroom while playing the violin. Unfortunately, his design of 2 wheels in line does not allow for turning or braking, and Merlin crashes right into a large mirror.
- 1840s – Roller skates are used to simulate ice skating on stage for Meyerbeer’s Opera Le Prophete.
- 1863 – James Plimpton of Massachusetts invents a four wheeled version of the roller skate for added stability, with independent axles that allow the skater to turn instead of just going in a straight line. This development makes roller skating – or as some writers called it, “rinkomania” – widely accessible and popular for the first time. As the sport grows in popularity, it spreads to Europe and eventually all over the world.
- 1970s – The roller disco craze revives interest in roller skating with a new generation, becoming an iconic part of 1970s disco culture.
- 1987 – Rollerblades hit the scene, revamping the original inline configuration of the earliest roller skates with features that make them infinitely more practical (and fun) than the disastrous early versions. Rollerblades kick off a boom of inline skating, providing a novel departure from the quad skates people were used to.
- Mid 1990s – Inline skates enjoy a heyday of popularity thanks to roller hockey and aggressive inline skating.
- Early 2000s – Roller derby is back, baby! Roller girls all over the country form leagues and re-launch the sport, which had fallen out of fashion during the 1950s. The film Whip It brings roller derby to an even wider audience.
- Today – Roller skates have come a long way, and there are now skates to fit any interest and style, from jam skates and roller derby skates to artistic skates and speed skates.