History’s coolest fads: No 2 – Roller skating


If you think roller skating is a relatively modern fad, you’d be very, very wrong. In fact, the first recorded use of roller skates took place during a London theater performance way back in 1743. Seventeen years later the Belgian inventor John Joseph Merlin got in on the act and created a primitive inline skate with small metal wheels. From there on, the only way was up with each new version improving on the last. By 1857, roller skating was so popular that two public rinks were opened in London, one on The Strand and another at Floral Hall.


Young Swedish gentleman on The Edvard Petrini’s pedaled roller skates, circa 1910

On the other side of the pond, roller skating only really took off in the 1930s, but reached its pinnacle of popularity in the 1970s, when polyurethane wheels were created and “Disco” oriented roller rinks were all the rage. It’s from this era, 1978 to be precise, that the Venice Beach skaters above were showcasing their speedy magic.

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