Roller skates have come a long way, baby! From an 18th century party trick gone awry to a beloved American pastime, roller skates have changed quite a bit through the years. Check out some facts about the evolution of roller skates, and visit us at Wheels Skating Center to pick out your own set of wheels at our skating pro shop!
1760: Started from the bottom, now we’re crashing into a mirror.
Roller skates have not always been a smooth ride. The first pair of “skaites” was created by noted tinkerer and inventor Joseph Merlin, whose design basically substituted the blade of an ice skate for two wheels in line, making them the first ever inline skates. Unfortunately, Merlin’s design didn’t go too much farther than that, and he learned the hard way that he should have included some sort of braking mechanism.
1819: Roll with the changes.
In 1819, French inventor Monsieur Petibledin filed a patent for a skate with a wood sole and up to four rollers of copper, wood, or ivory arranged in a straight line. Unfortunately, much like the earlier iterations of roller skates, they were quite hard to use, as they could only roll straight forward and back.
1863: At last, quad skates have come along.
Roller skates got a major upgrade in 1863, when inventor James Plimpton had the idea to create a pair of skates with two parallel sets of wheels – two in the front, and two in the back. And thus the quad skate was born! Quad skates are what most people learn to skate on, and are what you’ll get if you rent skates at our Odenton skating rink. Plimpton’s design not only revolutionized the placement of roller skate wheels, but also introduced rubber springs, making them the first land skate (as opposed to ice skates) that could travel on a curve.
Late 1800s On: Getting better all the time.
Roller skates continued to improve over the years, with new developments like ball bearings which allowed wheels to roll smoother and faster, and new materials (especially plastics) making skates much more lightweight. In the 1980s, the Olson brothers even revisited the in-line design of the original roller skates, updating them with modern materials and brakes.
Over the years, roller skate manufacturers have continued to innovate and improve on skates, giving us the huge variety of roller skates that we have today, from roller derby and jam skates to speed skates and artistic skates. Next time you’re looking for fun things to do in Odenton, come skate with us at Wheels!