History of Roller Skate

Footwear was originally made to protect feet from harmful objects on the ground. As centuries passed, it had evolved into a fashion necessity because of the stylish designs introduced to the masses.

Ultimately, footwear became something more than just simple protection and fashion statement. Who would have thought it could have wheels for recreation purposes?

As we immerse ourselves in the history of roller skate, let’s find out how the inventor thought about attaching wheels to shoes.

Where did roller skates originate?

The first-ever roller skates became a pure fashion statement in London. London housed lavish parties left and right, encouraging the elites to wear costumes and other eye-catching outfits. To be more specific, the history of roller skate started in a luxurious masquerade party.

However, the first functional roller skates existed approximately one century later. It was invented in New York City, a popular business hub ever since.

Who invented roller skates?

John Joseph Merlin invented the first roller skates in London. While wearing a masquerade costume, he was skating around the guests and playing his violin at the same time. Unfortunately, he lost control, resulting in an embarrassing spectacle — a shattered £500 mirror, a broken violin, and a wounded John Merlin.

Meanwhile, the better pair of roller skates was patented thanks to James L. Plimpton. He was a good furniture dealer, inventor, and businessman. He allowed people to rent the skates.

When were roller skates invented?

The history of roller skate began in the 18th century, specifically the 1760s. Sadly, Merlin lacked knowledge on how to control his skates’ speed and direction.

Good thing that Plimpton successfully patented a good design in 1863. Rather than fastening the wheels right into the skate’s sole, he securely attached them with an effective pivot and cushioned them with rubber. This made it easier for skaters to control the direction by leaning their upper body.

By 1866, Plimpton managed to attach more features like metal braces and leather straps. He helped skaters glide better on floors. No wonder he sold the top roller skates of his time.


The history of roller skate perfectly captures the highs and lows of inventing such a complex type of footwear. The first-ever pair was invented by John Joseph Merlin in 18th century London. But, the design that inspired modern roller skates was created by a New York businessman named James L. Plimpton in 1863.