Roller Skates

Inducted 1999

The first roller skates had a big problem: they were impossible to turn. In 1863, however, New York businessman James Plimpton developed skates with four wheels that turned easily. Skating took off in all directions. Numerous companies developed clamp-on skates to fit on almost any pair of shoes. By the late 1870s, most towns boasted skating rinks with hard wooden floors. For a small admission price, men, women, and children raced, played games, and even danced on skates. In the early 20th century, massive skating rinks that accommodated thousands of visitors at a time opened in Chicago and New York. In the 1950s, the baby boom generation made roller skating a popular suburban pastime. Twenty years later, disco music fueled the second great wave of roller-skating mania, as thousands of roller-discos opened across the country. In 1979, skates themselves underwent a hallmark design transformation. Scott Olsen, a hockey player by trade, lined up the skate wheels under a hard boot and called it a Rollerblade. An intense demonstration and promotional campaign transformed skating overnight, as the new, fast, agile, and comfortable skates quickly dominated the industry.