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Roller Skating Craze: Topics in Chronicling America

Roller skating was revived as a popular sport in 1905 with the opening of new rinks. This guide provides access to materials related to the “Roller Skating Craze” in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

"Costumes for the all-absorbing craze." November 25, 1906. Los Angeles Herald (Los Angeles, CA), Image 35. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

The roller skating craze claims 106 young lives in New York City in a ten-month period in 1912. "Pay[ing] the price for the venturesome pleasure," adventurous kids coast down hills while gaining speed and crash, at times into heavy trucks and automobiles. The fad began in 1905 and spread across the country, contributing to the health and influencing the fashion of Americans despite its dangers. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

April 1905 Cities in New England and New Jersey open roller skating rinks, reviving a sport that was last popular two decades prior.
November 1905 Roller skating is favored over dancing and other forms of amusement. Health benefits are also linked to the craze.
1906 The craze works its way into rural areas of the western United States. More roller skating rinks open in major cities along the Pacific coast and Hawaii.
November 1906 Newspapers begin running stories covering fashions related to the craze.
January 1907 Washingtonians embrace the craze (now in the form of steel and ball bearing skates) both in rinks and on asphalt.
November 1912 106 children in the Greater New York area are reported to have died in the first ten months of 1912 due to the roller skating craze.