Women speed skater, Chicago, Illinois,
|Speed Skating at the
National Museum of Roller Skating
perhaps thousands of young men skated well at the turn of the century,
only some excelled at speed skating. These men often turned
professional as a way to earn a comfortable living in a sport they
loved. The economic gains for turning professional were lucrative with
purses up to $2,000 per championship. Young skaters often joined
professional touring troupes. These troupes toured the United States
giving exhibitions and racing against local challengers. Races varied
in length from sprints to marathons.
Professional speed skating
reigned as one of the most popular spectator sports in the United
States during the first two decades of the twentieth century. The
public swarmed to see the professional tours and competitions.
Attendance often reached well above 14,000. Sporting pages of all
metropolitan dailies carried accounts of meets, as well as information
The Professional Speed Roller Skating Races held at
the Jai Alai Rink in St. Louis from January 15 to February 17, 1911
were marred by heated rivalries between the skaters that threatened the
sport. The skaters were divided into two factions headed by Harley
Davidson of Minnesota and Rodney Peters of St. Louis. During the first
part of the meet letters of complaint about fellow competitors were
received from both camps. In addition, Davidson and his group felt that
the officials were giving unfair support to Peter's group from St.
Louis. In frustration, Davidson pulled out of the races before the
third week. In reaction to this behavior, several rink managers who
were present to book races left without booking any professional races
for the following year.
As many of the professional skaters
retired to focus on rink management or exhibition skating in the 1920s,
the sport of professional speed roller skating declined. By the end of
the 1930s, professional racing lost its popularity to amateur skating
competitions and the new sport of roller derby.
Colston, Martin, Cioni, Kinney and Clarkson get ready to go at the 1916
Professional Racing Tour. (82.25.39)
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