Figure Skating

Spalding’s Athletic Library – “How to Become a Skater” (1904)

Welcome to the second episode of Meet Alexandra’s Skating History Collection!

I purchased this book at my first paper show in Allentown, PA in the summer of 2013. It is from Spalding’s Athletic Library and is called How to Become a Skater: Figure and Speed Skating. It was published by American Sports Publishing Co. in New York in 1904. As would be expected, the book contains some advertisements for Spalding products, including several brands of boots and blades, which were at this time still completely separate pieces attached with leather straps.

"Spalding Skating Shoes"
“Spalding Skating Shoes”
"Peck & Snyder's Ice Skates"
“Peck & Snyder’s Ice Skates”

However, the majority of the book offers tips and lessons on figure and speed skating. Subjects include “How to Train for Racing”,Ā  “How to Cut Figures”, and “Rules, Etc., for a Figure Skating Contest”. It also includes photos of figure and speed skating champions from so long ago that I don’t even recognize their names.The second guy does look vaguely familiar, though.

"Louis Rubenstein. The 'Father of Skating' in Canada."
“Louis Rubenstein. The ‘Father of Skating’ in Canada.”
"August Nelson, Champion Western Fancy Skater." This guy looks vaguely familiar, but I can't figure out where I've seen his picture before.
“August Nelson, Champion Western Fancy Skater.”
"George W. Kirner of the St. Nicholas Rink, New York City. One of America's Greatest Figure Skaters."
“George W. Kirner of the St. Nicholas Rink, New York City. One of America’s Greatest Figure Skaters.”
"Improper position in the spread eagle--The head is turned downward" Looks like some things never change.
“Improper position in the spread eagle–The head is turned downward” Looks like some things never change.

The old-time skates and skaters are fun to look at, but what really fascinates me is the diagrams of the figures. I am too young to have done school figures, but my coaches always tell me I should have been born in the figures era. That’s because I’m obsessed with always knowing exactly where on the ice every single one of my steps needs to be and with making sure they are in the absolute same place each and every time. That’s why I love ice dance, and I guess that’s why I would have been good at figures as well. I have played around with figures on many occasions, so I am familiar with the most common ones, but there are patterns shown here I didn’t even know were possible.

These look nearly impossible, but I can't wait to try them out!
These look nearly impossible, but I can’t wait to try them!
They have got to be kidding me!
You have got to be kidding me!
Looks like fun. :-)
Looks like fun. šŸ™‚

I have been meaning to try these out ever since I bought the book, but I’m afraid to handle the fragile pages too much. Now that I have finally taken some pictures of the diagrams, I think we all know what I’ll be doing at practice tomorrow. šŸ˜‰

My next big trick?
My next big trick?

Something tells me the author of this article wouldn’t even recognize the sport as it exists today.

photo (3)
How ’bout those newfangled quadruple flying turns?

2 thoughts on “Spalding’s Athletic Library – “How to Become a Skater” (1904)

  1. Oh my goodness, I’m laughing so hard at the “ball of twine” figure. I’d love to see that be done! Actually, pretty much any figure on that page.

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