Q. It’s time to get out my old two-by-two roller skates. When were they invented?
A. During the sport’s first century, all roller skates were what we now call in-line skates, with the wheels in a straight line. According to “The History of Roller Skating,” by James Turner with Michael Zaidman (published by the National Museum of Roller Skating in Lincoln, Neb.), the first person known to have invented a roller skate was John Joseph Merlin, in London in the 1760s. His early public debut, at a fancy masquerade, may evoke sympathy from anyone learning how to steer or stop with in-line skates:
“As his costume, he donned his roller skates and a violin and began to skate around the party playing the instrument,” Mr. Turner wrote. “Although well known as an inventor and musician, Joseph Merlin was not a good skater. He couldn’t control his speed or command his skates to go in the desired direction, and wildly crash-landed into a huge and expensive mirror (£500 value), smashed it to bits, severely wounded himself, broke his violin and sent roller skating technique back to the drawing board.”
The first modern two-by-two roller skates were patented in 1863 by James L. Plimpton, a New York City furniture dealer. Instead of being attached directly to the sole of the skate, the wheel assembly was fastened to a pivot and had a rubber cushion, which allowed the skater to curve by shifting his weight. A modification in 1866 added leather straps and metal side braces. “At last a roller skater could move around the floor as if he were on ice,” Mr. Turner wrote.
Mr. Plimpton was a shrewd businessman. After testing the skates on the floor of his furniture store, he founded the New York Roller Skating Association, promoting the sport not for the masses, but as an acceptable supervised activity for young ladies and gentlemen. To control the quality of his clientele, he did not sell his skates, but rented them. In the summer of 1866, the roller skating association leased the Atlantic House, a resort hotel in Newport, R.I., and converted the dining room into the first roller rink open to the public in the United States. As rinks proliferated, Plimpton toured them in the 1870s, giving lessons for $2 a week, including skate rental. He became wealthy on his invention, but had to spend much money on lawyers to fight as many as 300 patent infringement cases.
Q. On the 41st Street wall of the southern half of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, in the gloomy underpass, there is a huge mural of an undersea scene, with dolphins and whales, stretching for several hundred feet and partly obscured by road barriers and industrial equipment. Why was it painted there, and what are the plans for it, if any?
A. Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, responded by email: “The painter’s name is Robert Wyland, a renowned marine artist who goes by the name Wyland. He painted 100 wall murals of marine life throughout the world. The 41st Street whale mural was his 40th mural painted.”
The mural (above), titled “Inner City Whales,” is 460 feet long and 22 feet high. It was dedicated on July 5, 1993.
“The Port Authority’s intent is to keep the mural intact,” Mr. Coleman said.
The machinery in the underpass involves the terminal’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system and work being done by terminal retail tenants, he said.
Wyland, an environmentalist, made it his mission to find buildings that he could use as giant canvases so that he could properly paint whales full size. He created large-scale art events for the Vancouver and Beijing Olympics, including his 100th whale-wall mural, “Hands Across the Ocean,” a nearly mile-long series of canvases painted for the Olympic Cultural Festival in Beijing with children from more than 100 Olympic countries.
Credits to: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/26/nyregion/the-history-of-roller-skates.html