Joseph Merlin (85.62.2)
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National Museum of Roller Skating
John Joseph Merlin
- John Merlin was born September 17, 1735 in
- He was the first recorded person to invent a
roller skate, doing so in the 1760s in London, England.
- Merlin wore a pair of his new skates to a
masquerade party at Carlisle-House in London. Though he was a
well-known inventor, he was not a good skater. He could not control his
speed or direction and crashed into a large mirror, severely injuring
himself and possibly setting back the sport of roller skating for years.
Skate 1819 (97.91.2)
- He was the first to patent a roller skate,
doing so in 1819, while in Paris, France.
- The Petitbled skate was an in-line skate with a
wood sole, leather straps and three wheels made of wood, metal, or
ivory. These skates only went forward, even turning corners was a major
James Leonard Plimpton
of modern roller skating
From the first recorded use of roller skates on a London stage in 1743
through the next 120 years, all roller skates were in-line skates.
However, the design of these in-line skates did not allow the skater to
turn or stop efficiently.
James L. Plimpton, frustrated by the roller skates available, invented
a new type of roller skate that would revolutionize the sport.
In January 1863, Plimpton patented a four-wheeled roller skate that was
capable of turning. The mechanism had a pivoting action dampened by a
rubber cushion which permitted the roller skater to curve by leaning in
the desired direction of travel. Plimpton built a roller skating floor
in the office of his New York City furniture business and leased out
his skates. He founded the New York Roller Skating Association (NYRSA)
to promote the sport.
In the summer of 1866, the NYRSA leased the fashionable resort hotel,
the Atlantic House, in Newport, Rhode Island, and converted the dining
room into a skating area. This was the first roller skating rink open
to the public in the United States.
- Invented the four-wheeled skate (also called
quad skate), 1863
- Opened the first public roller skating rink in
- Invented the class instructional system for
teaching roller skating.
- Invented the awarding of proficiency medals.
- Credited with the popularity of roller skating
as a recreational sport.
Roller Skating Facts
- First official roller hockey game called roller
polo was played in 1878 at the Denmark Rink in London, England.
- The National Roller Polo League was formed in
Dayton, Ohio, in 1882.
- Roller hockey debuted at the National
Championships in 1961.
- Roller hockey was an exhibition sport in the
Summer Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, in 1992.
- Transcontinental Roller Derby formed by Leo A.
Seltzer in 1935.
- First official U.S. Amateur Speed Skating
Championship races held April 2-4, 1937 at the Arena Gardens rink in
- First Dance Championship held at the Mineola
Rink, Mineola, NY, in 1939.
- First Figures Championship held at the Arena
Gardens rink in Detroit, Michigan, in 1939.
- Roller skaters were included in the 1978 Sports
Act and have participated in the Pan Am Games since 1979.
- The Skating Vanities, a professional roller
skating show, performed across the U.S., Europe, and South America from
- National Museum of Roller Skating founded on
October 27, 1980, to collect, preserve, research, and interpret
artifacts, documents, and published materials relating to roller
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