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The Evolution of Inline Roller Skates

The Evolution of Inline Roller Skates - 20th Century Developments

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The Evolution of Inline Roller Skates

Christian Siffert's Jet Skate

© National Museum of Roller Skating

The end of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth century marked the appearance of cycles-skates with structures similar to modern skates online. They were invented in response to a need to skate on all types of surfaces and were the first step in the development of all-terrain skates using rubber wheels or tires. Later in the century, modern inlines emerged.

1900

The Peck & Snyder Company patents an inline skate with two wheels in 1900.

1902

Over 7,000 people attended opening night at the Coliseum public skating rink in Chicago.

1905

John Jay Young of New York City creates and patents an adjustable length, clamp-on inline skate.

1910

The Roller Hockey Skate Company designs a three-wheeled inline skate with a leather shoe and the rear wheel raised to allow the skater to pivot on the center wheel. This inline was made for roller hockey by the Roller Hockey Skate Company of New York City in 1910 with boots from the Brooks Athletic Shoe Company.

1930s

The Best-Ever Built Skate Company manufactures an inline skate with three wheels positioned close to the ground.

The original patents for Jet inline skates for ice cross-training were filed in the 1930s. An advertisement for them was published in a 1948 issue of Popular Mechanics.

1938

Christian Siffert, of Deerfield, Illinois, patents a design for an inexpensive inline skate, which could not only be used on sidewalks but also convert to sharp-edged wheels, on ice. The Jet Skate, the ad claims, is the "only skate with brakes to stop quick." This claim was probably false, since at that time several brakes had been invented and patented for roller skates. The Jet Skate brake looked a lot like today's heel brakes and were designed to be used the same way. Brakes have always been a design problem for skate manufacturers.

1941

Modern inline skates begin to appear in the Netherlands.

1953

The first U.S. patent for modern inline skates, created to behave like ice runners with individually sprung and cushioned wheels, was granted under patent number US 2644692 in July, 1953 to Ernest Kahlert of Santa Ana, CA. They appeared in the April 1950 issue of "Popular Mechanics" and in the April 1954 issue of "Popular Science."

An inline skate with 2 round, artificial rubber wheels and no brake was developed by Rocker Skate Company in Burbank, California. It was advertised in “Popular Science” in the November 1953 issue and in “Popular Mechanics” in the February 1954 issue. The ads described them as "quiet, fast and good for stops and turning."

1960

The Chicago Skate Company tries to market an inline skate similar to today's equipment, but it was shaky, uncomfortable and the brakes were not dependable.

A USSR inline skate was made in 1960 with 4 wheels and a toe stop. It appeared to have solid construction and is similar some of the current inline figure skates with wheel-shaped, front-mounted toe stops.

1962

A heavy looking inline skate called the "Euba-Swingo" was manufactured by the Euba company in Germany. This skate was available permanently mounted to a boot or as a clamp-on skate. Euba-Swingo skates were rockered, had a front mounted toe-stop and were used for dry-land figure skating training.

Inline skates also made an appearance in the Russian movie Королева бензоколонки (1962) at about 9m23s into the film. 

1964

An advertisment in a magazine shows BiSkates, another inline skate intended as an alternative for ice training.

1966

The Chicago Roller Skate Company manufactures their inline skate with a boot. The inline skate which influenced Scott Olson was a 1966 Chicago Roller Skate Company skate. These skates featured four wheels in a line with the front and back wheel extending beyond the boot like an ice skate blade, and they played an important part in the development of inline skating.

In Germany, Friedrich Mayer obtained a patent for his inline skate. No one was interested at the time, because of the popularity of quad roller skates, featuring two wheels per axle, a canvas shoe and a stopper in the front.

In England, the Tri-Skate developed, a skate with three wheels, high leather shoes and a stopper in front, and according to Dutch articles on this topic, as many as 100,000 pairs of inline skates (not necessarily all Tri-Skates) were sold in Holland and neighboring countries. This happened before the development of RollerBlade and should be considered a great success. The details of Tri-Skate origins are uncertain. The design is either American or Dutch, the frames were made in England by Yaxon (a toy producer) and the figure boots were made in Italy. This means that the skates were sold in those countries, too.

1972

In 1972, Mountain Dew attempted to sell Mettoy's "Skeeler" in Canada. This three-wheeled inline skate was developed for Russian hockey players and speed skaters. The Skeelers, another name for skating or skater, were early versions of today’s inline skates and were produced in adult and children's sizes. Celebrities who tried them as publicity stunts included dancer Lionel Blair and runner Derek Ibbotson, who had set a world record for the mile in 1957.

1978

Speedys, a product of SKF, were an inline skate that featured soft boots, a frame and four wheels. Unfortunately, the late 70s market was not ready for inline sports and the production was discontinued.

1979

Scott and Brennan Olson, brothers and hockey players from Minneapolis, Minnesota, find a pair of Chicago inline roller skates and begin redesigning them using modern materials. They add polyurethane wheels, attach the frames to ice hockey boots, and add a rubber toe-brake to the new design. The modifications were intended for ice hockey training when ice is not available. After over 200 years of trial and error, inline skating is ready to emerge.

1980

Scott and Brennan Olson estabish Ole's Innovative Sports which became Rollerblade, Inc. after selling inline skates with no brake at all to the hockey players who were the early adopters. The Olson brothers introduced a new skating phenomenon that has never been equaled in roller sports history. The proper term to use when describing this skating is inline roller skating or inline skating, but Rollerblade made such an impact that the name has become synonymous with the sport in spite of the fact that Rollerblade is an inline skate manufacturer.

The modern style of inline speed skates was developed as an ice skate substitute and used by a Russian athlete training on dry land for his Olympic long track speed skating events. A photo of American skater Eric Heiden using Olson's skates to train for the 1980 Olympics on a road in Wisconsin was published in Life magazine.
 

The National Museum of Roller Skating is your About.com guide's resource for many of the historical facts in this article. You can contact the museum by writing to:

The National Museum of Roller Skating
4730 South Street
Lincoln, NE 68506

Or email:
Roller Skating Museum Curator

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