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The Evolution of Skates
The first skates were made from the leg bones of large animals. Leather straps were slipped through holes that had been bored at each end of the bone. To this very day the word "skate" in Dutch is "schenkel" which means "leg bone". The oldest pair of skates known date back to 3000 B.C. They were found at the bottom of a lake in Switzerland.
By the 14th Century A.D. the Dutch were using wooden platform skates with flat iron bottoms or runners. The platform skates were attached to the shoe using leather straps. The skater had to use a spiked pole or staff for propulsion. The image at the top of the page is from a 16th Century engraving of a Dutch skater using wooden platform skates.
The Dutch added a narrow metal double edged blade to the wooden platform skates around 1500. This allowed them to abandon the pole and push off with one foot and glide on the other foot. This form of skating which we still use today is called the Dutch Roll.
E. V. Bushnell of Philadelphia, PA invented the first all steel clamp on skate in 1848. Jackson Haines, the flamboyant American skater, developed the two plate all metal blade shown here around 1865. By attaching the blade directly to his boots, Jackson Haines was able to dance, jump and spin his way into controversy and fame.
The toe pick or rake was added to the front of the Haines skate in the 1870's. This improvement made toe pick jumps possible. The skating world then had to wait over 40 years for another major improvement to be made to skates.
In 1914 John E. Strauss, a custom blade maker from St. Paul, MN, invented the first closed toe blade made from one piece of steel. This final major improvement to skates lightened and strengthened the skates, thereby making today's triple and quadruple jumps possible.
The World's Oldest Known Skating Image
In 1396 Lydwine (also Ludwina and Lidwina), a beautiful 16 year old girl, from Schiedam in Holland was visited by friends, who invited her to go skating. Legend says that Lydwine's friends insisted that she go skating even though she said she wasn't feeling well. Once they were on the ice Lydwine was knocked down. She broke 6 ribs and was bedridden for the rest of her life. After the accident Lydwine had visions and was given credit for performing many miracles. Lydwine was canonized in 1890 and was named the Patron Saint of Skating in 1944. This image of the fateful fall was made in 1498 by the Dutch artist, Johannes Brugman. This image provided courtesy of the SchaatsMuseum (Netherlands).
The Skating Craze of the 1850's & 1860's
When the British and Dutch colonized America, they brought their skates along. The early center of skating in America was in Philadelphia. The first skating club in the United States was founded there on December 21, 1849. In the 1850's and 1860's skating became a craze in Europe and America. 50,000 people a day would skate at New York's Central Park! Thousands of people from all walks of life were caught up in the craze. Rich, poor, children, drunks, even horses joined in the madness. This image of skating at Central Park is taken from a reprint of an 1862 Currier & Ives print.
The Early Development of Hockey
Although many countries claim credit for the beginnings of stick and ball games, British aristocracy and soldiers were the first to to combine field hockey with ice skates. British soldiers stationed in Canada brought the game called "shinty" with them. As many as 15 to 20 players would compete for each side. At first the game was played with a ball rather than the hockey puck of today. The first record of a puck being used instead of a ball was at Kingston Harbour, Ontario in 1860. It wasn't until the 1880's that rules (mostly borrowed from field hockey) were established. In 1885 the first league was formed in Kingston, Ontario. The Amateur Hockey Assocation was also formed in 1885. They established a rule limiting the number of players to seven per side to control the helter-skelter nature of the game. I don't think they succeeded! In 1892 the Canadian Governor General, Frederick Arthur, Lord Stanley of Preston, donated a cup to be given to the top Candian team after an annual playoff. Over 100 years later the National Hockey League still competes for the Stanley Cup!
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Images From 1860 - 1930
The early skate patent image dates back to 1860. The skate ad comes from the 1902 Sears & Roebuck catalog. The other images come from the 1880's through the 1920's.
I want to acknowledge and thank the following sources for the information and images used on my Ice Skating Clipart Galore - Skating History Images page:
The Clip Art Book by Gerard Quinn, Crescent Books, 1990. This book contains over 5000 illustrations in the public domain organized into major subject groups like Leisure & Sport.
The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Fifteenth Edition (1984), Macropaedia, Volume 9, "Ice Hockey", Page 161.
If you know of any ice skating images (excluding photographs) that are not on these Ice Skating Clipart Galore pages, please e-mail me the web address of the page with the images. If the images are not copyrighted, I'll add as many of them to these pages as I can. Thanks again for visiting. Check back often, as I will be adding more images on a regular basis.
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If you've been looking for a nice selection of ice skating accessories at good prices, you've come to the right place. My Ice Skating Accessories Galore pages feature blade and boot covers, gift wraps, beautiful jewelry, ornaments, scrunchies, skate bags, skate guards, skate polishes, skating gloves, skating pins, tights, Zamboni ® products and other nifty skating accessories! Best of all the selection is expanding rapidly!