IJlst, city of skate-makers

IJlst, stad van schaatsenmakers - schaatsboek
IJlst, stad van schaatsenmakers by Edsko Hekman. IJlst: Visser, 2002.

Today’s book report is on IJlst, stad van schaatsenmakers by Edsko Hekman. IJlst is a a city in Friesland where lots of skates were made in the nineteenth century. This short book (only 64 pages long) is about the 24 IJlst skate-makers. Several of these made skate-making a multi-generational family affair, passing their knowledge on to their children and grandchildren. The skates they made were the traditional type: long low metal blades with wooden footbeds.

The first was a blacksmith called Jacob Thomas Faber born in 1804. His family’s blacksmithing business is dates back to at least 1749. His sons Thomas Jacob and Cornelius Jacob continued the business into the twentieth century.

Other skate-making dynasties included the Nauta, Douma, and Planting families. The latter continued producing skates until 1980. But the biggest businesses were the Nooitgedagt and Frisia skate factories, founded by Jan Jarigs Nooitgedagt in 1865 and Klaas Eeltje de Vries (a former Nooitgedagt employee) and his son Willem in 1922, respectively. Neither was devoted solely to skate-making; other activities were necessary to pay the bills. Frisia lasted the longest, into the 1990s, but Hekman spends more time on Nooitgedagt.

The book concludes with a “nostalgic walking tour of IJlst skate-makers”: a map and directions for visiting 14 sites of skate-making activity.