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The Evolution of Inline Roller Skates

The Evolution of Inline Roller Skates - 20th Century Developments


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.


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


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


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


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.


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


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.


Modern inline skates begin to appear in the Netherlands.


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 November of 1953 and in “Popular Mechanics” in February of 1954. The magazine ads described them as quiet, fast and good for stops and turning.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


Scott and Brennan Olson estabish Ole's Innovative Sports which becomes 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. Life magazine published a photo of American skater Eric Heiden using these skates to train for the 1980 Olympics on a road in Wisconsin.

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
PO Box 6579
Lincoln, NE 68506

Or email:
Roller Skating Museum Curator

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