The image above, and many other historical images like it, remind us that people have been ice skating for a very long time. We attended a talk on the history of ice skating at Old Sturbridge Village last weekend. The lecturer/interpreter had his own collection of antique ice skates on display for us to see and touch. Some interesting facts we learned were:
- Ice skating dates back to at least 3,200 B.C., with the oldest known skates being a pair made of bone and found at the bottom of a lake in Switzerland. They would not have been recreational, but merely for transportation purposes. The user most likely used them in conjunction with poles to propel himself along.
- There is only one known military battle that took place on ice skates. It took place in 1572 in Holland, and the Dutch soundly defeated the ill-equipped Spaniards.
This pair of skates dates to the early 1800's, and still has its original red paint. (They are similar in style and to the time period of the above artistic depiction.) I loved the lovely acorns affixed to the tips of the blades.
- Ice skating was one of the few sports in which women were encouraged to participate.
- Skating parties were a popular winter pastime in Victorian times, partly because it was one of the few circumstances in which men and women could participate side-by-side and touch (similar to dancing). It was socially acceptable for a woman to hold a man's arm, or he to slip his arm about her waist.
- Ice skating was even done at night! In order to see their way about the ice, skaters carried small skating lanterns (seen below...pardon the blurry photo). Wouldn't that be a beautiful sight?...gentlemen and ladies in their Victorian finery gliding across the ice, perhaps under a full moon, with so many bobbing lanterns dancing like fireflies in the night! It must have been absolutely enchanting!