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Roller skating and roller blading might seem like a new hobby — especially as many people in the past year looked for pandemic-friendly outdoor activities.
Some stores even reported low stock of skates and blades when quarantine started, as lots of people discovered a new way to get out of the house and explore trails.
But believe it or not, roller skating has been around for centuries. Let’s take a look at the times this hobby was a popular pastime throughout history.
The 1700s and 1800s
The first known skates were created in the 1760s. They had a single line of wheels like we see on roller blades today. Over the next 100 years, different kinds of skates used this wheel alignment, but these versions were hard to use and they didn’t have any brakes, according to JSTOR Daily, an online magazine.
But in 1863, one inventor changed everything when he invented a four-wheeled skate with two pairs of wheels set side by side, also known as a quad skate, according to the National Museum of Roller Skating.
That same inventor, James L. Plimpton, later established the first public skating rink in the United States, according to The New York Times. The hobby experienced its first boom in the 1880s as more companies began producing roller skates in the U.S.
Skating continued to gain popularity as more roller rinks opened across the country over the next several decades.
From the 1970s to today
Nowadays when people think of roller skating, they might think of the disco roller rinks from the 1970s, but they might not know skating to disco music started in Black and LGBTQ communities.
According to JSTOR Daily, roller skating has long been tied to Black American social movements, such as the push for civil rights. It’s also been tied to women in the LGBTQ community and the popular sport roller derby.
Finally in 2020, roller skates once again experienced a renaissance as videos of skaters grew popular on Instagram, TikTok and other social media platforms. The New York Times even called the summer of 2020 the “summer of roller skates.”
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