Patented Roller Skates

Inventors obtain a patent (a special, written permission) to make and selll an idea. The patent protects the inventor’s rights and makes it illegal for anyone else to steal or copy his idea.

The history of the Patent on U.S. soil begins in Philadelphia in 1787, when the founding fathers of the United States of America provided for the U.S. Patent Office in the Constitution. Article I, Section 8 states: Congress shall have power To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

In April 1790,  President George Washington signed into the law the bill which laid the groundwork for the U.S. Patent Office. For over centuries the Patent Office has screened millions of inventions and has provided patents to protect the works of such geniuses as Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Alva Edison, and James Leonard Plimpton.

To receive a  patent, an invention is supposed ot meet the criteria of being new, workable, and useful. An examination of some of the million patents awarded in the history of the U.S. Patent Office suggests that occasionally the patent examiners have been, to say the least, lenient in their interpretation of the usefulness criterion.

On the left side wall you will notice a copy of the Reversible Wheel Rink Skate patent.

On the right side wall you can see how the NMRS started its patent collection. On January 1999, the National Museum of Roller Skating purchased a rare collection of English roller skating patents from a private collector in London. The patents were issued by the Office of the Commissioner of Patents in London and range in date from 1823 to 1910. They illustrate innovative designs for skates, wheels, clamps, brakes, rink improvements, and various skating apparatus.

Of the 455 patents the museum acquired, 226 are from 1876 during rink skating’s first boom in popularity. The oldest patent in this collection was granted to Robert John Tyers on April 22, 1823, for his invention, A Machine or Apparatus to be Attached to Boots, Shoes, or other Covering for the Feet, for the Purposes of Travelling for Pleasure, which Tyers called the “Volito'' skate. Several patents are for skates already in the museum’s collection, including the 1865 and 1878 parlor skates on display by American Inventor, Washington Parker Gregg.

Several people hold multiple patents such as George Clark who patented 7 designs for skates and wheels between 1876 and 1877, Charles Frederick Wood who patented 5 designs for skates and rink improvements in 1876, and Henry Smallwood Yoxall who patented 5 designs for skates between 1909 and 1910. English roller skating patents were granted to inventors from England, Holland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Hungary, France, and the United States.

On the main wall you will see a Gregg patent. The first parlor skate patented by Washington Parker Gregg, July 26, 1865. In the patent papers Gregg claims that roller skates “thus constructed, run with ease and rapidity, and do not injuriously sprain the feet nor weary the limbs,  and they will not easily tip backward or forward, and they impart from the first an unusual feeling of security to the skater in all possible movements. This skate is well adapted to hard sidewalks, large halls, gymnasiums, and skating schools, and in suitable places for traveling purposes.”

Here you will notice a Gibson skate. On November 23, 1869, A.J. Gibson patented his “Combined Roller Skate.” The design, according to the inventor, provided a simple and economical skate “having runners for winter use and rollers for summer.” The change was quickly made by means of two screw-bolts in the toe and heel of the foot plate. The rollers were able to pivot enabling the skater to perform curves. The extra raised wheels at the toe also allowed for easier changes in direction.

A skate patented by John Lemman May 24, 1870 is also on the shelf. In the patent papers, Lemman states that his invention consists of “ball-and-socket joints connecting the roller frames to the stock of the skate.” This enables the skate to turn “by rolling the sockets.” James Leonard Plimpton called the Lemman skate “one of the best disguises of my invention ever patented in America.” The Lemman skate is on the shelf below.

Another interesting skate on the shelf was patented by Cyrus W. Saladee on May 16, 1876. The frames were constructed so that two, three, or four wheels could be used. With the lateral movement of the toe and heel in opposite directions, the wheels adjust themselves to turn right or left. As the foot pressure is relieved a spring brings the wheels back into alignment.

On the second second shelf from the top you will see a roller skate patened by W.A. Leggo and F.C. Ireland on May 29, 1877. A pair of springs at either end rest against the axles, keeping the wheels parallel. When the skater leans to either side the springs bear against the axle turning them out of parallel thus enabling the skate to curve in either direction. The turning screw mechanism centrally located under the plate adjusts the heel cuff which clamps around the heel of the boot or shoe worn during skating.

This three wheel roller skate was patented by Robert Hutton on October 16, 1877. The single rear roller was designed to turn freely to the right or left and return to its normal position by a concealed spring. The rear wheel was also able to slide its entire axle from a position directly under the heel of the skater to about an inch further back.

On March 13, 1877, Louis H. Gano patented this unusual parlor skate. The wheels at the ends are set in curved posts which, according to the patent papers, “turn freely around, so that the wheels can follow the motion of the foot, like the casters do the motion of apiece of furniture.” The two larger wheels in the center are on a bracket which is free to rock slightly from side to side aiding in the skater’s ability to turn

On the bottom shelf rests a Gano skate. The improved parlor skate patented September 24, 1878 by Washington Parker Gregg, Boston, Mmassacussetts. This is the third edition of the original parlor skate from 1865. The second edition of the parlor skate was patented December 23, 1873. Gregg said that “This skate has a large middle wheel arranged on the outer side of the stock (plate), in combination with a smaller middle wheel arranged on the the inner side of the stock” supposedly to turn easier.

Edward Robinson patented this skate January 29, 1878. The skate was capable of being operated or rolled over rough or uneven surfaces. A curved metalplate underneath the wood plate acts as a spring with small rubber pads placed between to absorb shock. A moveable link behind the front wheel could be lowered to prevent the skater from rolling backwards when ascending a hill.

Thaddeus A. Neely, of Muncie, Indiana, patented this two-wheel roller skate June 20,  1882. This skate was “designed to have all the advantages of a four-wheeler, while avoiding much of the friction and wear.” The toe of the skate has a clamping device adjusted by screws on either side of the plate.

National Museum of Roller Skating Audio Tour - Museum Proper
  1. The First Roller Skates
  2. Patented Roller Skates
  3. The Father of the Modern Roller Skating
  4. Rinking
  5. The "Newest" Craze
  6. The Disco Era
  7. Pop Culture! Skating in Lines: Roller Skating and Comics
  8. Pop Culture! Orchestras, Organs, & Disco: Music in the Rink
  9. Pop Culture! Movies: Roller Skating Across the Silver Screen
  10. Competition: The History of Hockey on Wheels
  11. Competition - Speed Skating
  12. Competition - Dance Skating
  13. Competition - Figure Skating
  14. Competition - Derby
  15. C. W. Lowe's Tent Rink
  16. When Skating Goes to War
  17. Skating for Others
  18. Roller Skating Car Hops
  19. Jam Skating
  20. Extravaganza on Wheels: The Skating Vanities
  21. Vaudeville