A Year: Day to Day Men: 11th of August, Solar Year 2018

Smoke  in the Air

August 11, 1866 marks the opening of the first roller rink in the United States.

The four-wheeled turning roller skate, or quad skate, with four wheels set in two side-by-side pairs (front and rear), was first designed, in New York City by James Leonard Plimpton, a New York city furniture dealer, in an attempt to improve upon previous designs. Instead of being directly attached to the sole of the skate, the wheel assembly was fastened to a pivot with a rubber cushion. The pivoting action allowed the skater to skate a curve just by pressing his weight to one side or the other, most commonly by leaning to one side.

James Plimpton received a patent for the design in 1863. A modification of leather straps and metal side braces was added to the design in 1866. This addition to the quad skate allowed easier turns and maneuverability, and the quad skate came to dominate the industry for more than a century.

James Plimpton started the New York Roller Skating Association (NYRSA) and leased the The Atlantic House Hotel in Newport, converting the dining room into a skating area. On August 11th in 1866, the first roller rink opened to the public in the United States. The sport was not promoted for the masses but as an acceptable supervised activity for young ladies and gentlemen. To control the quality of his clientele, Plimpton did not sell his skates, but rented them. As rinks proliferated, James Plimpton toured them in the 1870s, giving lessons to new and current skaters for two dollars a week, which included the skate rental.

In America, roller skating was most popular first between 1935 and the early 1960s. When polyurethane wheels were created and disco music made its appearance, roller rinks were again the rage in the 1970s. Roller skating made a third resurgence with in-line outdoor roller skating, thanks to the improvement to the skates by Scott and Brennan Olson.

In 1979, seeing the potential for off-ice hockey training, the Olson brothers redesigned inline skates, made in the 1960s by the Chicago Roller Skate Company, using modern materials and attaching ice hockey boots. A few years later they began to heavily promote the skates and launched the company, Rollerblade, Incorporated. The Rollerblade skates became synonymous in the minds of many with “inline skates” and skating, so much so that many people came to call any form of skating “Rollerblading”.

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