Ice skates and their history (3)


Between 1650 and 1850
the development seems to have
come to a standstill. Not much is known about this period, but the ice skates that were used by the end of the 19th century are very much alike those used at the end of the 17th century.

In the middle of this period, in 1773 to be precise, J. le Franq van Berkhey wrote a scientific book about the Dutch society of that time in which the subject was mentioned and that often has been cited by later authors. But unfortunately he aired the opinion that "it is not likely that these national gliding shoes will easily be forgotten as long as the Dutch sky undergoes the change from summer to winter and the region is inhabited by people with some intelligence and opinion". So, though he gave some attention to the subject of ice-skating he did not find it necessary to say something about the attributes which are indispensable to perform the activity. This seem to confirm the opinion that the appearances of ice skates were just a datum.

Dutch ice skates by 1850
The first useful systematic description of Dutch ice skates is found in a booklet written in 1848 by a certain A.v.D., whose initials unfortunately have not been expanded upon at this time. This booklet contains an appendix with drawings of which the appropriate ones are showed in the picture underneath.

The author writes that he has more than fifty different ice skates in front of him but that all can be summarised by the four drawn up in this figure. These skates are drawn to scale and therefore they can be compared well. From top to bottom he names them as follows:

fig.1: Holland ice skate of the Linschoten model;
fig.2: Friesland ice skate of the Warga model;
fig.3: Holland ice skate of the Bergambacht model;
fig.4: English ice skate.

From these drawings some interesting conclusions may be drawn:

  1. Around 1850 in the Netherlands two types of ice skates exist: Holland ice skates with naked curled prows and Friesland ice skates with runner blades that are fully supported by wood.
  2. The Bergambacht ice skate is in all aspects a more sturdy skate than the Linschoten one: shorter runner blade, taller blade and curl and heavier platform.
  3. The English ice skate is of a compact design and has an even taller runner blade than the Bergambacht ice skate. Also the English ice skate has a longitudinal gutter.
  4. The Holland ice skate with a wholly wood covered neck did not yet exist.
  5. All ice skates except the Friesland one have figure eight modelled platforms.

New Holland model round 1890
Forty years later, in 1888, the secretary of the in 1882 founded Dutch Ice Skating Union, mr. J. van Buttingha Wichers, wrote a book in which he described Dutch ice skating through the ages and the ice skates used at that time. Though he did not mention this explicitly it becomes clear that in Holland between 1848 and 1888 a new kind of ice skates has been developed: ice skates with fully supported runner blades that run farther backward than the 'common' Friesland ones. It seems that the Friesland model was imitated more or less by the Holland blacksmiths but with the addition of an extended runner blade. Also the platforms were made heavier and the ice skates as a whole look more compact and sturdy. In the last decade of the 19th century the blacksmiths in the province of Friesland adopted the Holland innovation and began making Friesland ice skates with extended runner blades as well.
 

Traditional Friesland ice skates

New model Holland ice skates

 



 

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