oller-skating, recreational and competitive sport in which the participants use special shoes fitted with small wheels to move about on rinks or paved surfaces. Roller-skating sports include speed skating, hockey, figure skating, and dancing competitions similar to the ice-skating sports, as well as the vertical and street-style competitions common to so-called extreme sports.
Development Of The Roller Skate
The invention of roller skates has been traditionally credited to a Belgian, Joseph Merlin, in the 1760s, although there are many reports of wheels attached to ice skates and shoes in the early years of that century. Early models were derived from the ice skate and typically had an “in-line” arrangement of wheels (the wheels formed a single straight line along the bottom of the skate). In 1819 M. Petibled of Paris received the first patent for a roller skate. Like previous models, Petibled’s skate had an in-line wheel arrangement, using three wooden or metal wheels. The wheels were connected to a wooden block that in turn could be strapped to a boot. These early roller skates enjoyed limited popularity. The ride was rough, and stopping and turning were nearly impossible.
The first practical roller skate was designed in 1863 by James Plimpton of Medford, Massachusetts, who broke from the in-line construction and used two parallel pairs of wheels, one set near the heel of the boot and the other near the front. He attached the wheel pairs to the boot using springy carriages known as trucks. This construction was first known as the “rocking” skate (and is now known as a “quad”) because it allowed the skater to easily shift on the skates in order to smoothly navigate turns and perform other maneuvers. Thereafter the first great recreational roller-skating craze swept the United States and western Europe, where rinks were built in both small towns and large cities. At the turn of the 20th century, rinks constructed in the Chicago Coliseum and New York City’s Madison Square Garden attracted thousands of customers on their opening nights. The quad style of skate became the most popular skate for the next 80 years.