Linus Woolverton's Ice-Skates
This month’s featured artefact is a pair of ice-skates, c.1860.
History: These ice-skates were handmade of wood, steel, and leather. The wood is reinforced at the heel and toe with heavy brass plates to support the body’s weight. The initials “L.W.”, which are carved into the underside of the wood, represent Linus Woolverton (1846–1914).
In Canada, ice-skating as a sport was introduced by British garrison officers in the 1840s (though ice-skating as a means of transportation is far, far older). It was immediately popular and quickly gained a strong following. It was thought especially appropriate for girls and women, and thus became an important social pastime.
Canada led the world in the development of early skating rinks, and the first outdoor commercial rink in the country was opened in Montréal in 1850. The first covered rink was built in Québec City in 1852. The early rinks were built with natural ice; large sheds provided shelter from the wind and snow. The most famous of these early rinks was the Victoria Skating Rink in Montréal, built in 1862, at the time the largest in the world. Ice-skates made entirely of iron were introduced in the 17th century, and it wasn’t until the 1850s that steel ice-skates—fastened with screws and clamps to the wearer’s shoes (as seen here)—were popularized. Eventually, the 20th century replaced this style with a skate wherein the blade was permanently attached to the boot.
–The Canadian Encyclopedia