History of Roller Skate

Gregor Mersick
Written by
Last update:

Where did roller skates originate?

The original roller skates were actually roller skates that had wheels in them that were made out of wood or heavy plastic. These skates were slow and they were not any safer than ice skates, but they were a lot more fun. These types of skates were popular around the 1920’s.

The first kind of roller skates actually made with roller skate wheels were made in 1879. These roller skates were originally made for ice skates on the bottom and then wheels on the top of the ice skate.

The invention of these multi-purpose roller skates came about in 1899. It took almost fifty years for the wheeled shoes to make their way into the mainstream and to become a popular mode of transportation. While the popularity of roller skates as transportation rapidly declined, roller skate parties and derby’s are still regular scene in the United States.

Although the popularity of roller skating declined through the 1970’s there was a roller skate revival in the late 1970’s. In the early 1990’s, roller skating started to become popular once again.

Who invented roller skates?

Credit for creating the modern roller skate is usually given to Rachel Kolb. In 1863, the then-teenager visited New York City with her businessman father. While there, she observed the ice-skating trend and thought that the principle could be changed to repurpose ice skates to road use.

Rachel Kolb got some metal with a wooden blade attached to it, and she made a prototype skates which was made of iron and wood. The initial design didn’t have any foot strap, and the remover for it was too heavy. After a few more designs and prototypes, Rachel Kolb finalized the design and on 3rd August 1863, she patented the first roller skate.

When were roller skates invented?

If there was a museum that could answer this question it would surely be the U.S. National Museum of Roller Skating, located in Waldwick, NJ and founded by Olympian Sara Hughes. It is the largest roller skating collection in the world. It is estimated that more than 50 million Americans skated in 1915 and by the late 1920s more than three million were roller skating. In the 1950’s roller skating was at its peak and eventually went into a decline although it is finally in a revival phase.

The roller skate was invented by John Joseph Merlin who was born in France in 1735. His father was English and his mother was French and was an inventor of many items including the first kite with a tail. He constructed a set of wooden rollers in 1760, which was operated by a treadle. These rollers were worn with straps (similar to the figure skates we wear today) attached to the skates and were kept on by laces. One can bet that Merlin’s inventions did not please his father who apparently was a strict disciplinarian. In 1769, when he was 34, after his father died, he went to England. Was it necessary to leave France at that time? Was he fleeing the French Revolution or was it simply coincidence? An end of a chapter is written at this point in his life.


As far as I can find, I cannot find a clear source which puts the exact date on when the first pair of roller skates was invented. Having said that, it looks like the earliest date that I can find is the 1843 patent for the roller skate, designed by Canadian inventor John Joseph Merlin.

From this point, I can see that people have been interested in roller skating ever since the skates were invented. This is also when roller skates started their career as a sport, as people (athletes and non-athletes alike), began to partake in the sport during the 19th and 20th century.

This time period is when the sport of roller skating was actually popular, and also when skating became a competitive sport. Over the years, the major sporting events – World Championships of Roller Skating – became the main event for roller skisers around the world and were even televised by ESPN.

Nowadays, the sport of roller skating has gained popularity once again, but I believe this time it is mainly due to the fact that it is considered a form of recreation or a casual pastime rather than as a legitimate sport. This is partly due to the large number of roller rinks that have popped up lately – some as large as malls – around the world.