THE skater who today speeds rapidly over the smooth surface of the ice probably has no idea that our ancestors many thousand years ago also knew the art of continuous moving on the ice by means of ones own power, and yet it is so; as the discoveries which are exposed in the Maerkischen Museum and in the Volker Museum in Berlin, and also in many foreign collections, testify to the practice of skating in the olden times.
BONE SKATE DUG UP IN MOORFIELDS, LONDON.
Skating can only be recognized from the moment when skates, or at least their blades or runners, were made of metal and so sharpened as to make it possible to strike off from the edge. The first skates of this kind were made in the fourteenth century. They were found amongst the Dutch and the Frisians, and from those peoples were introduced, first into Great Britain and afterwards into Scandinavia and Germany. The first improvements in skates were made in Holland, where the inhabitants had to travel long distances on the canals by the quickest and most agreeable method. The skate was developed first for racing, although the long flat curve, which is the fundamental principle of the modern racing skate, originated in Holland, where even to this day this kind of skating is called Hollaendern. Also the first practical method of fastening on came from the Netherlands. While in other countries, during many centuries, the old method of fastening by means of straps buckled crosswise predominated, a method impeding the circulation of the blood, the Dutch attached their long, low skates by means of straps, one passing over the front part of the foot and the other over the instep, thus giving the necessary rigidity, without pressing painfully upon the foot itself.
EARLY BLADE SKATE, XVIIth CENTURY
During the fourteenth and up to the middle of the nineteenth century the skate was comprised of a wooden sole to which was attached, in earlier days, a runner of bronze or iron, and in later days of steel. In the course of the last four centuries the shape of the wooden sole and also of the blade has changed, principally in the length and shape of the runner. The wooden sole was once covered with leather at the heel. However, it is not necessary to dwell upon these small modifications, as they are not really alterations in the form of the skate itself, but only minor improvements.
The oldest skate on earth may be the horse-bone, which Herr Geheimrat Friedel recently exhibited at a meeting of the Brandenburgia Union. This horse-bone dates from the oldest Bronze Age, and the polished flatness undoubtedly shows that it had been used at one time as a skate. In the middle of the last century, in lake-dwellings of the stone period, bones of that kind were found which must have been fastened to leather sandals. There are two kinds of these skate bones of the Stone Age; the first was not pierced, and one must suppose that the skater stood on the bone whilst he moved himself forward by the aid of a staff. Skates of the other kind were pierced by several holes and were fastened on to the foot and leg with straps.