MCNY Blog: New York Stories

Iconic photos of a changing city, and commentary on our Collections & Exhibitions from the crew at MCNY.org

Ice Skating

Nobody is certain when humans first began ice skating, but it is believed that they did so at least a few thousand years ago. The first skates were sharp pieces of animal bone affixed to shoes, intended for the practical purpose of moving across ice at greater speeds. In 1250 the modern ice skate was born, when the Dutch replaced animal bones with iron blades.

New Yorkers have long enjoyed the pleasure of gliding across frozen lakes during wintertime, but it wasn’t until 1858 that the first official ice rink opened, at the southern end of Central Park.[1] The skating pond opened before Central Park was completed. The lake, connected to the city’s water system, was drained to a level to ensure that it would freeze.

Charles Parsons (1821-1910). Currier & Ives. Central-Park, Winter. 1862. Museum of the City of New York. 58.300.91

Charles Parsons (1821-1910). Currier & Ives. Central-Park, Winter. 1862. Museum of the City of New York. 58.300.91

Washington Pond in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, at Fifth Avenue and Third Street, opened soon thereafter.

Lithograph issued by G. E. Jones. Carnival of the Washington Skating Club, Brooklyn. February 10th, 1862. Museum of the City of New York. 47.89

Lithograph issued by G. E. Jones. Carnival of the Washington Skating Club, Brooklyn. February 10th, 1862. Museum of the City of New York. 47.89

As ice skating became more popular, New York City’s upper class began opening private skating clubs. The New York Skating Club,shown below, opened in 1863.

Photographer unknown. New York Skating Club. ca. 1895. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.13391

Photographer unknown. New York Skating Club. ca. 1895. Museum of the City of New York. X2010.11.13391

 

The Fifth Avenue Pond, between Fifth and Madison Avenues, from 57th to 59th Streets, hosted competitions that emphasized skill and agility.

Admission ticket to Fifth Avenue Skating Pond. 1863. Museum of the City of New York. 30.159.20

Admission ticket to Fifth Avenue Skating Pond. 1863. Museum of the City of New York. 30.159.20

 

Ice skating even became a popular theme in advertising in the late 19th century.

398-400 Fulton Street, Brooklyn.

Sackett & Wilhelms Litho. & Prt. Co. A.D. Matthews & Sons Dry Goods. 1884. Museum of the City of New York. F2012.99.256

When the skating pond at Central Park opened, it was segregated by sex. In 1860, a woman skated in the men’s section; ten years later, gender segregation at ice skating rinks ended. Women’s presence on ice skating rinks is believed to have paved the way for their participation in other sports.

People preparing to ice skate on a frozen lake at McComb's Dam.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) Skating, McCombs Dam, Jerome Ave. 1904. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.14471

.

People on a frozen lake at Van Cortlandt Park.

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.) Skating, Van Cortlandt Park. 1898. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.14422

 

93.1.1.14453

Byron Company (New York, N.Y.). Skating, Central Park. 1894. Museum of the City of New York. 93.1.1.14453

For more information about ice skating in New York City,  visit: http://www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/iceskating

1. Kenneth T. Jackson. The Encyclopedia of New York City (Yale University Press, 2010), Ice skating.

About Lauren Robinson

Digital Projects Cataloger

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This entry was posted on December 22, 2015 by in Digital Project, Manuscripts and Ephemera, Photo Archive, Print Collection and tagged , .

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