Articles of History: Ice Skates

Ice skating in Central Park at the turn of the century

Ice skating  is one of the oldest forms of winter time amusement. Along with such activities as sledding, making snowmen, skiing or taking a walk in the snowy woods, ice skating was one of the ways our ancestors could get out of doors to get some exercise and still have a good time. All you needed was a solid frozen lake, pond or river and you were set for some great fun. I wonder how many of you have enjoyed this old-fashioned pastime?

Ice skating is really a very old way of transportation from one place to another in the snow and ice of wintertime. It seems to have been enjoyed mainly by the Dutch before it was introduced into the rest of Europe and England. At the turn of the century, it became very popular among the Victorians as a fashionable sport. People would organize skating parties and races and there was all manner of unusual inventions made to help people learn to skate. Young ladies of the time period still clad in their long skirts and bundled in their long winter coats and scarves would take to the ice and practice carving messages, figure eights or their initials into the ice.

The first early ice skates were made of bits of thin wood or bone attached to a regular shoe. At the turn of the 19th century, ice skates were simple thin wooden platforms with metal attached that one would lace or buckle onto ones own shoe. It was not until only a little later in the century that an actual ice skating boot or shoe as we think of it today was introduced. Ice skates then were generally made of leather or soft cloth.

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