Roller Skating: A Brief History
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Roller Skating: A Brief History

October 22, 2019


A roller rink packs a pretty potent dose of
nostalgia. Maybe that’s because, for generations, it’s
where kids have felt the freedom of their first unsupervised Friday night… or the flutter of their first fledgeling crush. But the first person to roller skate at all
was its inventor: a Belgian named John Joseph Merlin. When he debuted his invention in 1760 by attempting
to cruise into a dinner party, Merlin’s skates–which were hard to steer and stop–sent him flying across the room straight into a full-length mirror. In 1863, American inventor James Plimpton
set out to make turning smoother and easier with a four-wheel “quad” skate, affixed with rocking trucks and independent axles. Now that skates were easier to handle, roller
rinks experienced the first of many booms. By the turn of the 20th century, rinks had
popped up everywhere, from the smallest of small towns to Madison Square Garden. Baby boomers cruised through the 50s… disco-dancers
strutted their stuff in the 70s… and rollerbladers put a new spin on things in the 90s. These days, roller rinks are popular destinations
for birthday partiers or people looking for some retro entertainment: places where you
can stay in a present that feels like the past. After all, it’s hard to be distracted by
a glowing screen or the buzz of a text message when you’re blissfully gliding around the
rink.

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