The Evolution of the Roller Skate: 1820-Present, 175 Years of Inline
Skating: pictured (clockwise from bottom): the French Petitbled from
1819, an 1860 inline of unknown manufacture, a model from 1994 produced
by Rollerblade, Inc., and a 1930s clamp-on inline from the
Best-Ever-Built Skate Company.
Rollerblade skate, Chicago Skate Co.
Modern racing inline skate.
|The history of inline skating at
National Museum of Roller Skating
The first known skates were created in the 1760s and possessed a single
line of wheels. For the next century skate wheels followed this
alignment. In 1819, in Paris, M. Petitbled patented the first roller
skate, again utilizing three wheels in a row. During the next 40 years,
all skates had an in-line set of wheels, varying in number (some had as
many as six or a few as two) and in their design. These skates,
however, lacked the ability to turn easily.
In 1863, James Plimpton revolutionized the roller skate by inventing a
skate with four wheels, two pairs set side by side, also known as a
quad skate. Because this skate allowed for greater control and ease of
skating, the four-wheeled skate quickly came to dominate the industry.
Though largely renounced in favor of the more popular quad skate,
several companies continued to design skates using an inline set of
The Peck & Snyder Company patented an inline skate with two
wheels in 1900. In 1905, John Jay Young in New York City patented an
adjustable length clamp-on inline skate. In 1910, the Roller Hockey
Skate Company designed a three wheel inline skate with a leather shoe,
and in the 1930s the Best-Ever Built Skate Company manufactured an
inline with three wheels close to the ground.
The inline skate Scott Olson saw which influenced his idea for
Rollerblade skates was a 1966 Chicago Roller Skate Company skate.
Possessing four wheels in a row, with the front and back wheel
extending beyond the boot, the skate resembled the blade of an ice
skate. The Olson brothers adopted and adapted this design, and with it
caused a popular reaction to roller skating nearly unparalleled in the
sport's history. The correct term to use when describing skating is
inline roller skating or inline skating, not "rollerblading."
Rollerblade is an inline skate manufacturer, not an activity.
All Rollerblades are inline roller skates, but not all inline roller
skates are Rollerblades. It is unfortunate that the name Rollerblade
has become equated in the public's mind with inline roller skating ,
for such an equation not only neglects the many other manufacturers, it
also blurs the history of roller skating and the history of inline
roller skates in particular. However, if you decide to use Rollerblade
brand skates, then you will be Rollerblading, otherwise, the accurate
term is inline skating.
Inline Skating Timeline
- 1819: The Petitbled, the first roller skate
patented, an inline.
- 1863: James Plimpton invents the quad skate and
roller skate manufacturers nearly abandon inlines.
- 1905: John Jay Young creates an inline
adjustable roller skate.
- 1966: Chicago Roller Skate Company manufactures
their inline boot skate.
- 1980: Scott and Brennan Olson found
- 1986: Rollerblade, Inc., begins to market
skates as fitness equipment.
- 1988: Rollerblade produced first aggressive
inline skate, Rollerblade Lightning TRS.
- 1991: INLINE magazine, catering to aggressive
skaters is launched.
- 1992: USA Roller Skating's speed skating
competition divides into quad and Inline divisions.
- 1995: Aggressive Inline added to X-Games;
- 1996: USA Roller Skating holds a
separate division for inline artistic skating competitions for the
- 1997: Inline skates and skating
accessories become a billion dollar international industry, with nearly
26 million Americans participating.
- 1999: Inline hockey held at the Pan
American Games in Canada.