The history of the roller skate begins in the early 1700s with an over-enthusiastic Dutchman. Unable to bear the wait each year for good ice on which to skate he nailed some large wooden spools to strips of wood and attached them to his shoes, and was often seen bumping along the roads of old Holland.
Joseph Merlin born in Belgium on 9-17-1735 was an inventor of musical instruments. He made history in London in 1760 with his roller skate as a contemporary account states: "One of his ingenious novelties was a pair of skates contrived to run on small metallic wheels. Supplied with a pair of these and a violin, he mixed in the motley group of one of the celebrated Mrs. Corneily's masquerades at Carlisle-House, Soho Square; when, not having provided the means of retarding his velocity, or commanding its direction, he impelled himself against a mirror of more than five hundred pounds' value, dashed it to atoms, broke his instrument to pieces, and wounded himself most severely."
That unfortunate occurrence seems to have put a damper on skating as the next record does not show up till 1790. Vanlede, a Parisian medal-cutter, invented a wheeled skate which he called the Patin-a'-terre, which means literally a "ground skate." It soon became known in Germany as Erdschlittschuh, also meaning "ground skate."
In 1818 roller skates were used on stage in Berlin to represent ice skating in the production Der Maler oder die Wintervergnugungen.
The streets of Paris had skaters in 1819 and on November 12, M. Petitbled was granted the first patent. However the skate did not live up to claims of equal maneuverability with ice skates, being about impossible to go any way but straight forward. It was an inline skate with wood sole and fitted with two to four rollers of uniform size in copper, wood, or ivory.
Robert John Tyers, a fruit merchant of Piccadilly, London patented a "volito" on April 22, 1823. Five wheels inline of unequal size, the middle being the largest, the skater never being on more than two wheels at a time could turn by bending foreward or backward. There were hooks in front and back for brakes. An exhibition was given in Haymarket, London but the notion did not catch on, although skates were used at Bordeaux in a ballet.
On November 19, 1825, a Viennese watchmaker named Lohner obtained an Austrian patent for his mechanical wheeled skate. Again on a wood plate but this time with one wheel in front and two coupled behind, with a ratchet device to prevent sliding backward. July16,1828, J. Garcin applied for a French patent for his "Cingar" a skate with three inline wheels the center one larger, it did not catch on either.
Some mention of skates appears from time to time, like the Frenchman who to win a bet skated across the gardens of the Tuileries, and the Ravel Family acrobats used similar skates.