30 Interesting Vintage Photos of Roller Skating Girls From the Mid-20th Century

The first patented roller skate was introduced in 1760 by Belgian inventor John Joseph Merlin. His roller skate wasn’t much more than an ice skate with wheels where the blade goes. They were hard to steer and hard to stop because they didn’t have brakes and as such were not very popular.

In 1863, James Plimpton from Massachusetts invented the “rocking” skate and used a four-wheel configuration for stability, and independent axles that turned by pressing to one side of the skate or the other when the skater wants to create an edge. This was a vast improvement on the Merlin design that was easier to use and drove the huge popularity roller skating, dubbed “rinkomania” in the 1860s and 1870s, which spread to Europe and around the world, and continued through the 1930s. The Plimpton skate is still used today.

Vogue 1970
Roller skating, 1930s
Rockabilly roller girl posing
Wendy Parker skating at Wellington Pier, ca. 1950
Members of the Great Yarmouth roller skating club at Wellington Pier, ca. 1950
Marilyn Monroe roller skating in 1952
Roller skating girls, ca. 1950s
Marie Prevost on roller skates
A gorgeous Vogue card featuring a photograph of a girl skating with her luggage. Photography by Jean-Francois Jonvelle, 1972.
Roller skating in Manhattan, 1933
Roller skating girl, 1966
Gloria Nord, headliner of the Skating Vanities skating show of the 1940s
A waitress on roller skates skillfully delivers a tray full of food to hungry customers in the 1940s.
Pin-up roller girl, ca. 1950s
Natalie Wood skating in the 1970s
Roller skating, 1970s
Stylish girl on roller skates, ca. 1900s
Co-eds at the University of Chicago go to school on skates, 1930
Emma Willard School girls, NY, 1950s
Betty Grable on roller skates, ca.1937
The Lesson, Central Park, New York, 1936
Roller skating girls having fun, ca. 1940s
Adrienne Dore
Debbie Reynolds on skates, ca. 1950s
Roller skate friends, 1944
Becky Howe roller skating with a sling at the Venice Pavillion in 1978
Roller skating friends, England, 1926
Roller girl, ca. 1930s-40s
Betty Grable on skates
Fashion photo by Herman Landshoff, Junior Bazaar, 1946

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