Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Anonymous gift, 1944
Not on view
Ice skating, a well established winter pastime in northern Europe for centuries, became a craze in the United States in the 1850s and 1860s. This pair of ice skates from early in that period is as visually delightful as they are functional. The wooden foot bed is carved in an attractively slender and deeply waisted shape, and the whimsical blade is terminated by an amusing acorn tip. Basic skate design changed little in the 400-some years since the Dutch had introduced sharpened metal blades, which allowed the skater to push off with the foot instead of using long poles, as in skiing. The long curling blade is a detail which is seen since at least 1700. This is a later example of the style, as the long hooked shape proved to be an impediment for figure skating and other ice sports that were developing at the time, and had disappeared by 1900. The wooden foot bed was also being superseded, as more durable all-metal skates had been introduced by a Philadelphia inventor in 1848.