Levant Richardson first to put steel ball bearings into a skate, patent1884 and a whole new skating craze was born. Boxwood for wheels was imported from Persia and Turkey but wore out rapidly, with the increased demand prices rose from $30 to $120 a ton. The Muncie Plated Skate for presentation cost $6 the average skate was $4.
More bigger and better rinks were built and staffed with professional instructors, if you could do it on the dance floor you could do it on skates. Rinks included gallery seating so others could view the skating. The higher class rinks had attendents to fasten your skates on for you and full bands for your listening pleasure. Hockey and Polo were played by visiting teams and racing started about 1870. Donovan won a six day roller skating race in March 1884 at old Madison Square Garden in N.Y.C. skating 1,091 miles!
The advent of the bicycling boom of the 1890s put roller skating out of public enthusiasm, till 1902 when some great new rinks opened(7,000 at the Chicago Coliseum opening night) and the National Skating Associating introduced the "international" style back to rollerskating. Skating went big-time; some people were skating to work, some clubs had private rinks and speed skating was very in. One speed champion was named Harley Davidson.
In the early 1900s many skating associations were born and competitions and exhibitions flourished, including command performances for royality, many of whom also skated. Vaudeville theaters had comedy skating, skating on stilts, chair and barrel jumping and pair dancing!
Promotions were a major concern of rink operators and nothing was too far fetched. In Milwaukee $50 and a bedroom suite was claimed by Haddie Baldwin and W. McGrath for having the first wedding entirely on skates, thousands came to watch!
World War One put an end to the skating boom. It came back to life in the late 1920s and early 1930s with Skating Derbies being the main attraction. A field of 24 teams, one male and one female per, took turns skating over a six day race. Sleepers lay on cots in the middle of the rink in view of spectators. Sprints durring the long race were encouraged and gained smaller prizes. First prize was usually a $1000 and down to $250 for third.
The 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid with Sonja Henie winning hearts and prizes started another boom for skating. People were tired of being spectators and jumped in to participate, skating movies fueled the passion. Skating then as now was something anybody could do without a great investment of time or money even the Depression couldn't stop it this time.
Quietly in Europe figure skating on rollers had been growing, by the late 1930s it had achieved the same grace and percision, under the same rules, as ice skating. In 1938 it crossed the ocean to America and was a sensation! American operators had just the year before united and organized, they were ready and national competitions became hotly contested. Most rinks offered instruction from basic figures to advanced manuvers, everyone wanted to learn to skate better even if not aiming for a title. Rinks once again became the high class show place, each trying to out-do the competition with quality maple floors and all the latest equipment, even attendants to help you with your skates made a comeback.
A name every skater is familar with was sweeping the industry, Chicago Skates had been born. Interestingly they had tried to market an in-line skate as late as 1960 without success. In-line skates just could not compete when it came to fancy figures.
In the early 1940s, productions with champion skaters much like the ice capades, toured the country. The outbreak of World War Two had the opposite effect on skating this time. Many thousands of armed forces and war workers as well as the civilian defence were officially encouraged to skate as a means of achieving physical fittness.
One more page to bring you up to date.