The story of roller skating began in 1743, when people first travelled on surfaces with wheels on their shoes. In this case, they were actors in a London stage performance. Unfortunately, we do not know more about the event, but it is firmly entrenched in historic legend, and so may be true. In 1760, Jean-Joseph Merlin invented inline roller skates in Belgium, using pairs of tiny metal wheels.
The Story of Roller Skating Continues in France
After a brief appearance of roller skates in Paris in a ballet performance, one Monsieur Petitbled started selling inline roller skates in the French capital, in 1819. He could not find a way to skate in a straight line though. If he fell off, we hope he did not ‘bled’ too much. Robert John Tylers of London may have solved this problem, as each of his inline skates had five wheels in a line at the bottom of a boot.
The First Four Wheel Skates Arrive in NYC
James Leonard Plimpton took New York City by storm when he fitted two wheels on each side of his shoes. After this, he added a pivoting action so riders could curve by shifting their feet. Plimpton opened the first public roller-skating rink in 1863. The story of roller skating only really took off, though, when William Brown of England fitted new-fangled ball bearings to a pair of roller skates.
The Never Ending Story of Roller Skating Continues
By the 1880s, companies were mass-producing dual wheel roller skates in England. In the century that followed, innovations piled in, in the form of toe stops, and early kingbolt mechanisms allowing variable tension.
The revolutionary introduction of inline rollerblades was the most dramatic moment in the history of roller skating. Would you believe that inventor Scott Olson, came up with the idea, while watching people skating on ice with steel blades on their boots?