Roller Skating History of the United States

National Association Skate Museum

These days, you simply go to the skating center, put wheels on your feet and you're ready for fun. But in the "olden days" it wasn't quite so easy.

A Belgian inventor named Joseph Merlin introduced the first patented roller skate in 1760. What an introduction! He wore his new skates to a party in London, where he crashed into a very expensive mirror. He wasn't very interested in skating after this experience. However, other inventors produced some roller skate models, most with in-line wheels to imitate and ice skating blade.

In 1863, James Plimpton, a businessman from Massachusetts invented a roller skate that could turn. It was called a "rocking" skate--the first one that really let people skate curves and turn. Plimpton opened a skating club in New York where gentlemen enjoyed showing off for the ladies by doing fancy figures, steps and turns.

Within 20 years, roller skating had become a popular pastime for men and women. Roller skating contests began to increase. Indoors, wealthy gentlemen in Newport, Rhode Island, played "roller polo," a hockey game. Others held contests in dance and figure skating. Outdoors, men and women were racing in speed contests. The more the public saw of skating, the more they wanted to try it themselves. Roller skating was soon enjoying its first boom.

Just before World War II, in 1937, a group of skating rink owners (one from Massachusetts: Fred Freeman) formed an association to promote roller skating and establish good business practices for skating rinks. The association is now almost 50 years old: The Roller Skating Rink Operators Association (RSROA).

The Skateland building owner, George Pyche, has been a Vice President of that association. George was Chairman of the New England Chapter of the RSROA for about 10 years and was Chairman of the Northeast Region Chapter of the RSROA for a few years. Mary Pyche was Vice President of the New England Chapter of the RSROA for one year and Secretary for 12 years. Mary was also Secretary of the Northeast Region Chapter.

The RSROA group is now known as the Roller Skating Association (RSA). Under the guidance of the RSROA, roller skating enjoyed steady growth through the 1940s, '50s and '60s. It became known as a family activity that was good for everyone, an identity that it still has today.

In the 1970s, there was a big improvement in roller skating. Skating floors became easier to care for because of plastic coatings. Plastic skate wheels for smoother, easier, safer skating became the standard. And, the music and lighting at skating centers was modernized. When skaters discovered how easy it was to skate outdoors with the new wheels, another big skating boom was on the way (sneaker skates and skateboards). By 1977, everyone was suddenly skating to disco music.

Five years later, but more than 100 years after Plimpton's invention, the RSROA helped establish National Roller Skating Week, so everyone could celebrate and fun and fitness of today's roller skating.

George and Mary Pyche, in 19??, while officers of the New England Chapter of the RSROA, received the proclaimation from Governor Sargeant of Massachusetts for "Roller Skating Week in Massachusetts"--(second week of September???).

Roller skating is easy, inexpensive entertainment, so people of all ages make it a habit to meet friends, make new ones, play games and enjoy the music at their nearest skating center.

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