Skaters History on Ice and Roller Skating

The cover of Skaters History. From my collection.

I first met this book at the 2018 World Figure Championship when Eddie Shipstad, Jr., showed me a copy he found among his uncle Roy’s things. It’s a little book published by the author, Julian T. Fitzgerald, in 1916.

After the competition, I came home and looked for a copy of my own. It turns out it’s pretty rare: OCLC Worldcat only lists two libraries that have copies. I also didn’t find a scan or used copy in the usual online places. But, I did discover that the National Museum of Roller Skating reprinted it in 2011! It’s $15 in the online gift shop. This edition is enlarged by 25% for readability and includes a new forward by George Pickard.

The book starts with administrative documents from various skating governing bodies, but mainly consists of short biographies of roller and ice skaters and rink managers, with pictures of many. The order appears random and is not explained. Some of the interesting skaters profiled are Edward C. Hill, inventor of the ball of twine (53), John F. Davidson, “The World’s Greatest Stilt, Acrobatic and Trick Skater” (62), Harry G. Schroeder, pictured on his motorcycle-based ice-clearing machine (88), Fred J. Robson, “Former Canadian Champion,” who is pictured wearing so many medals he ran out of space on his shirt and had to hang them from his pants (117).

The pictures of ice skaters show some of the women and men wearing white boots. This is interesting because Sonja Henie is often credited with popularizing (and something with innovating) white boots among female skaters. When the book was published, she was only four years old. These pictures show that she wasn’t really responsible for this fashion trend.

In the middle of the book (pages 96-108), there’s a section called “Figure Skating Program for Ice and Rollers and How to Learn It” by Allen I. Blanchard. It covers the usual basic figures and turns, plus moves that are less common today, like grapevines and crosscuts. It ends with a list of “Hints to Skaters,” starting with the advice to

Never look down at your skates as it gives you an ungainly appearance; look about thirty feet ahead

Skaters History on Ice and Roller Skating, 108

This is still good advice today—as long as you’re not trying to trace a figure.

The book ends with a list of records in speed skating and events that are no longer held: hurdle jumping, barrel jumping, high and long jumps, and backward and one-foot skating. The barrel jumping record was set by Edmund Lamy, who jumped 12 barrels in a row in 1913. He also set the record for the longest jump on skates, 25 ft 7 in, on the same day.

Overall, it’s a nice book that people interested in skaters from the turn of the last century will enjoy. Its strengths are in the wide variety of people included—rink managers as well as skaters, and show skaters and innovators as well as competitors—and the pictures and lists of records.


Julian T. Fitzgerald, 1916. Skaters History on Ice and Roller Skating. Chicago: Julian T. Fitzgerald. Reprinted in 2011 by the National Museum of Roller Skating, Lincoln, NE.

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