Roller skates got their start with quite a bang, making their first public appearance at a masquerade party in the 1760s. Inventor John Joseph Merlin wore his newfangled wheeled shoes to an event at Carlisle House in London, where he promptly smashed into mirror, hurting himself and the invention’s reputation for decades to come.

In 1818, roller skates made a more triumphant debut as part of a ballet staged in Berlin. Titled “Der Maler oder die Wintervergn Ugungen” (The Artist or Winter Pleasures), the show featured ice-skating scenes, which were replaced with roller skating so they could be performed on an indoor stage. The following year, the first recorded patent for a roller skate was given to Monsieur Petibledin in France. Petibledin’s skates were made to attach on the bottom of a normal shoe, with a wooden sole mounted over a single “inline” row of wood, copper, or ivory wheels.

The modern roller skate wasn't born until 1863, when James Leonard Plimpton created the device he called a quad-skate. Plimpton’s wooden wheels were mounted on a rubber cushion that allowed them to pivot slightly when the wearer leaned left or right. In the building that housed his furniture business, Plimpton installed a floor for roller skating and invited customers to rent his skates and test them out; he also helped establish the New York Roller Skating Association (NYRSA) to popularize the activity as a recreational sport.

Around the same time, E.H. Barney created a metal clamp-on design that worked for both ice and roller skates, and could be tightened using a screw. A version with adjustable length appeared in the 1890s, allowing users with different-size feet to share the same skates—this style became common with kids up through the 1960s.

In the following decades, Plimpton’s design was updated with ball-bearing wheels for smoother movement as roller rinks and roller-polo leagues popped up in cities across the United States. Eventually, standard skates included a tall boot that laced up over the ankle, providing extra support and movement control. Charlie Chaplin starred in the first film about roller skating in 1916, called simply “The Rink.”

During the 1930s, the term roller derby became common for speed skating and long-distance competitions with multiple events. By the end of the decade, promoter Leo Seltzer began altering standard roller-derby rules to make it more of a contact sport, and by the 1950s, the National Roller Derby League included six teams nationwide.
Skate designs were again updated with the development of sturdier plastics and the introduction of toe stops in the 1950s and '60s. Along with the spread of car-centric drive-in restaurants, the skating carhop became a common sight in suburban America.

The disco era reignited the roller-skating trend as adults took to the dance floors in polyurethane skates, and films like “Rollerball” and “Xanadu” featured the fashionable sport. In the 1980s, Scott and Brennan Olson founded the Rollerblade company, which promoted inline skates as the new frontier—like Kleenex, the word Rollerbade is now so accepted, it is often used generically.

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Wheelmen

The Wheelmen

This elegant tribute to turn-of-the-century bicycling includes memorabilia, photographs, and an index of 3140 bicyc… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Most watched eBay auctions    

Powerslide Ps Nordic Roller Black And Red Skis Size 7.5 / Eu 40 Inline SkatesLuigino "sting" Inline Skates Size 9 With Pilot P-51 Speed Frames Fast! RollerMission Axiom T8 Roller Hockey Skates Us Size 8eeRockville All-terrain Inline Roller Skates W/bag, Hand Brakes Size 10 W/ 6"tireK2 F.i.t Boa Men's Inline Skates Sz Us11/eur44.5 W/hyper In Hyoctane Wheels 84mmRiedell Roller Skates Size 8 Women Good Condition Must LookLuigino Kid's Mini Challenge Adjustable Y13-2 Inline Speed Skates 3x110mm WheelsSuper Roller Skates Size Euro 40 Us Men 7.5 Women 9 & Landroller Wheels & BrakeVanilla Speed Skates Size 12Men's Sz 7 Black Sure-grip Carrera 105b #2 Speed Skates Riedell Leather Boot Guc8 Vintage Mercury Wheel Co. Fast Tight Fo Mac Brown Roller Skate Frye HarperPacer Gtx 500 Roller Skates Size 5 "very Good Condition"Men's Riedell Quest Skates Size 9Tour Thor 909 Inline Skates Sz 11Riddell Carrera Youth Sz 5 Speed Roller Skates BlackMen's Bauer Xr Premier Inline Skates Size 6 (shoe Size 7.5)Ladies Riedell R3 Speed Roller Skates Size 6 In White/pinkRoller Blades Size 8Nike Womens Rollerblades Roller Skates Us 8.5Roller Derby Laser Boys Quad Speed Skates Size 6 Green And BlackMen's Heelys Roller Skate Shoes Sz 10.5Rollerblades, Blaberunner Size 10 Lightweight Adjustable Kid Roller Skates Girls Pink & White. K2 Athena Women's Roller Blades Sz 7Chicago Roller Skates Size 11 White Faux Leather Pfs Progressive Fit System Inline Skates Roller Blades Fitness 3 Womens Size 8Cobra Roller Skates Woman's Size 9Vintage Retro Red White Blue Roller Derby Skates Original Size 4Pacer Mach Gtx500 Men`s Black Quad Speed Roller Derby Skates P217b Size 8 Nice Bauer RollerbladesRiedell Model 17 White Size 8m ( Tot) Vintage Red White And Blue Stars An Stripes Roller Skate Metal CaseRoller Star Roller Skates Youth Size 1Women's Size 7.5 Inline Blades Speed SkatesWomen's Rollerblade Spark 80 Alu Inline Roller Skates Blue Size W8 Sg5Mens Rollerblades Size 13Nike Air N-dorfin Elite Size 9 Woman's Rollerblades Men's Size 8 Chicago Classic Indoor/ Outdoor Roller Skates Black