Don't Mess With The Golden Glider

Aside from my affection for train travel, Sheldon Cooper and I likely wouldn't have a lot to chat about. I don't know a thing about theoretical physics and I've never read a comic book in my life. Just not my thing. That said, when I found out about the subject of today's blog, I simply couldn't resist sharing.

First appearing in D.C. Comics' "Flash" back in June of 1977, The Golden Glider was a fictional character created by Cary Bates and Irv Novick... and long before Tonya Harding gained notoriety as skating's 'bad girl', this comic book character was skating's super villain. Although I don't read comics, I've watched some of the earlier Batman movies (Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman - you just can't not!) so I totally get the premise of these comic book characters having an alter ego. You know, like the Canadian Heritage Moment commercial with the quote referring to Superman: "by day he's a mild mannered reporter, glasses, you know, secret identity". 

The Golden Glider was the alter ego of the character Lisa Snart, an Olympic figure skater who was helped during her skating career by her lover and secret coach The Top, who was (you guessed it) another rival to The Flash character. The Top gets killed, so the skater vowed revenge and she transformed into this big, bad villain who wore an orange skating costume, a mask and skates which create their own ice flow, allowing her to skate on air. She even had diamonds and jewels that she used as hypnotic devices and explosives. I'm sorry, but Tonya had nothing on this girl. Well, maybe the triple axel, but a baton against skating on air with explosives? The 1994 U.S. Championships could have easily gone very differently.

Killed off in the comic book's May 1996 comic book #113, the character would later be magically revived in a D.C. Comics 2011 revamp called "The New 52". The popularity of The Golden Glider even spawned another skating comic villain named Ice Kate who appeared in a 2003 comic book series aimed at younger teenagers called "Teen Titans Go!" Actress Peyton List even portrayed Lisa Snart (The Golden Glider) on the 2014 TV series "The Flash" on the American television network CW, which was renewed for a second season in 2015.

I've got to be honest here and say I was quite shocked to learn that a figure skating comic book character has been in existence since the seventies and I'd never heard of it, especially considering the surge in popularity of films based on comic books in recent years. That said, in a way I can't really be that surprised. Skating has crossed over in one way or another into almost every aspect of entertainment at one time or another - why not comics too? All I do know is this. If I were a technical controller, I'd be extra careful who I gave that edge call too. After all, they might have a mean streak like Lisa Snart.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

The I.P.S.A. World And British Open Professional Championships

Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine

The first professional figure skating competitions in Great Britain were the Open Professional Championship Of Great Britain In The International Style, organized by the National Skating Association and first held in 1931. The first winners were Howard Nicholson, Melitta Brunner and Sadie Cambridge and Albert Enders. Singles competitors performed both school figures and free skating, and there was no prize money at all, which may surprise you. These were professionals competing for a title out of pure love for the sport!

Sadie Cambridge and Albert Enders

In April 1933, an ice dance competition open to both amateurs and professionals was held at the Westminster Ice Rink in London. Married couple Eva Keats of Great Britain and Erik van der Weyden of Belgium took home the gold. Two months later, a competition for professional ice dancers only was held at the Queen's Ice Club in London. Perhaps controversially dancing with a woman other than his wife, van der Weyden and Elsie Heathcote won this particular competition.

Things got much more organized in 1936. The British Ice Teachers Association was founded that year as the Ice Teachers Guild. It was one of the first coaching associations formed in the world and played an important role in organizing competitions for professionals both pre-World War II and after, under the name the Imperial Professional Skaters Association. That year, before Great Britain even had an amateur ice dance competition, a professional competition for ice dancers called the British Pro Waltz Championships was won by Lesley Turner and Robert Dench. Skaters like Hope Braine, Nate Walley, Pamela Prior, Joan Dix and pairs team Sadie Cambridge and Albert Enders took home titles in singles and pairs skating during this period. In April 1937 at the Harringay Ice Arena, Pamela Prior was the only entrant in the women's event but was still expected to achieve specific scores in both compulsory figures and free skating to earn the crown. She was only seventeen years old.

Mostly show skaters competed in these events from early on but many bigger names like Cecilia Colledge and Swiss brothers Jacques and Arnold Gerschwiler dipped their foot in the water. Also competing were Herbert Alward, Marilyn Hoskins, Ronnie Baker, Len Liggett and Pamela Murray and Muriel Roberts and Walter Gregory, the inventors of the Rhumba compulsory dance. Often, the Championships were held in conjunction with other events organized by the National Skating Association, such as amateur junior competitions.

These events came to a halt during World War II. Some rinks remained open, others were taken over, damaged or closed and the ones that were opened served double duty as bomb shelters with gas masks in the cloakrooms. By 1946, the Professional Championships had returned.

Moira June MacDonald, Open Professional Champion in 1949, 1951 and 1953

In her formidable textbook of ice dance history, Lynn Copley-Graves explained how the free dance, part of a May 1949 proposal by Reginald Wilkie and Bill Hickok to the International Skating Union, got its trial start in professional and not amateur competition: "Great Britain held a yearly Open Professional Ice Dance Championship. On December 9, 1949, two professional couples tried out the new ISU rules in England, the first reported use of the rules in a major competition. The free dancing of Gladys Hogg and Bernard Spencer won both acclaim and the title. Gladys and Bern, already two of the finest British dance trainers of the era, set a standard for what free dancing could be." Finishing second behind Hogg and Spencer but also noteworthy in their contribution to skating history by performing one of the first two ISU free dances in the world were another British couple, Violet Thomson and Kenneth Vickers.

George Miller preparing for the Open Professional Championships in 1957. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

In 1956, the National Skating Association relinquished control of the Open Professional Championships to the Imperial Professional Skating Association of Great Britain, and a Championship Committee consisting of Roy Callaway, Joan Hawkins, Don Crosthwaite and Peggy Tomlins set to work revamping the event. The 1957 Championships marked the first time that skaters would compete for prize money - a total purse of five hundred pounds. T.D. Richardson noted that there was initially a lot out doubt as to whether or not the event would work out under the organization of I.P.S.A., and when there were few international entries in 1957, there were "a lot of 'I told you so's'."

Photo courtesy "Winter Sports" magazine

The judging system was revamped, with six judges (five in dance) and marks given on a 10.0 scales. The total points, not ordinals, decided the winners, and each judge presided over one aspect of the skater's performance. In singles skating, there was a judge apiece for spins, jumps, steps, general performance, musical interpretation and artistic conception. In pairs, judges looked at spins, jumps and lifts, steps, performance, musical interpretation and artistic conception. In compulsory dances, they assessed correct edges, correct pattern style, correctness of footwork, rhythm and timing and interpretation of music, and in the free dance contents and difficulty, rhythm and timing, unison and co-ordination and musical interpretation. The competition were then titled at the World's and British Professional Championships. "Skating World" magazine noted, "Should a British competitor place first in any event, then he or she would become both British and World Champion. The highest placed British skater would take the national title in any event, regardless of World placings."

A hugely important development for the competition came on May 31, 1958, when the BBC televised all four disciplines of the event held at Nottingham Ice Stadium, allowing television audiences in England their first glimpse at professional competition. With Alan Weeks and Max Robertson as commentators, this television coverage continued well into the sixties.

Carol and Michel, Rosina and Raymond Lockwood and Peri Horne and Basil Cudlipp-Green, pairs medallists in 1958. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

Though British skaters dominated the event in the sixties, the pendulum often swung in favour of international skaters as well. Italy's Anna Galmarini and Japan's Miwa Fukuhara managed to claim international titles that had eluded them as amateurs, while four time World Champions Eva Romanová and Pavel Roman of Czechoslovakia showed they were every bit as talented as pros when they took the title in 1965.

Betty Loach and Howard Richardson, Marjorie McCoy and Ian Phillips and Gillian Thorpe and John Phillips, ice dance medallists in 1966. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine.

In 1969, another pair of four time World Champions, Diane Towler-Green and Bernard Ford, won the event - now billed as the W.D. and H.O. Wills Professional Ice Skating Championships at Wembley - defeating Yvonne Suddick and Malcolm Cannon and Vivienne Dean and John Phillips for the win. Perhaps the most compelling winner that came out of this event was 1965 pairs winner Marianne Althammer of West Germany, who tours later would spend eighteen days in jail in Poland after getting into a fight with Warsaw police while touring with Holiday On Ice.

The men's podium in 1970: Michael Edmonds, Donald Jackson and Paul McGrath

In 1970, the event was again held at Wembley and with Towler and Ford not returning to defend their title, Yvonne Suddick teamed up Ian Phillips to take the ice dance crown. In the men's event, World Champion Donald Jackson of Canada managed to hold off some strong competition from American Paul McGrath for the win, receiving first place marks from every judge and the only three perfect marks of the entire competition. In my interview with Lorna Brown, who won her World Professional title in Jaca, she recalled finishing second in Wembley: "I then competed in the World Championships in Wembley the first time and came second to a European Champion who was also an Olympic and world bronze medallist by 0.2 and the pro marks were out of ten. I skated to 'On The Waterfront' and I remember the ice was liquid blue so I was in my element." By 1974, the competition moved to Jaca, Spain and rebranded itself as the Campeonatos del Mundo de Patinaje Artístico Professional sobre Hielo or in English, the World Professional Championships.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

The Canadian Professional Figure Skating Championships

With eighteen entries in the ladies event alone at the 1979 World Professional Championships in Jaca, Spain, the Figure Skating Coaches Association of Canada (which was then basically Canada's answer to the PSA), decided to organize the first of two competitions called the Canadian Professional Figure Skating Championships. We looked at the Candid Productions nineties event in the 2013 blog linked earlier, but today we're going to go old school.

It all began in 1980 when the Figure Skating Coaches Association of Canada booked the Scarborough Centennial Centre for a weekend in January to hold the very first Canadian Pro Championships as part of a selection process for the Jaca World Pro. Then-chairman Gordon Crossland told reporter Sidney Shapira that "we had to hold a national championship. We had so many girls who wanted to go to the worlds. We're the first country to hold a national championship." He was incorrect as England had actually held its own national professional competition many times previously, but Canada did beat the U.S. to the punch in this respect by a year. Competitors in singles and pairs performed both a technical program similar to the short program with required elements and an artistic program and interestingly, ice dancers performed traditional compulsory dances in addition to their artistic program. School figures were not included and judging was on a 10.0 scale. In the inaugural event, the medal winners were Weston's Ken Polk, Ste. Foy, Quebec's Raymond Naismith and Scarborough's Jack Frizelle in the men's event and Toronto's Carol Farmer Wright, Scarborough's Elizabeth Purtle and Toronto's Diane Hunt. All were offered spots at the Jaca event that April. The following year, medallists included Ron Shaver, Lynn Nightingale, Jamie Lynn Kitching-Santee and Judie Jeffcott and Keith Swindlehurst.

Jamie Lynn Kitching-Santee's jacket from the 1981 event, which her daughters use to skate in today!

When the Labatt's ProSkate series gained popularity, it complicated matters with regards to using the Canadian Pro event to decide on skaters for the Jaca World Pro. In fact, two time Canadian Champion Heather Kemkaran's win at the 1982 event at the North York Centennial Arena opened the door for OTHERS to compete in Jaca. Michael Cosgrove's March 22 article in The Globe And Mail explained that "usually, the winners would advance to the world professional championships in Jaca, Spain, in early April. But, because Kemkaran, pairs champions Shelly Winters and Keith Davis and dance champs Susan Carscallen and Marty Fulkerth are involved in the Labatts' ProSkate circuit, which starts a four-city Canadian tour in Montreal at the end of the month, none will be competing in Spain." With Kemkaran out, the representatives in Jaca that year among the ladies were silver medallist Carol-Ann Simon, bronze medallist Susan Wilson and fourth place finisher Shelly-Lynn Owen. In the men's event, British Columbia's Henri April edged Ottawa's Jean-Pierre Martin by a mere .15 for the gold.

Jamie Lynn Kitching-Santee. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library, from Toronto Star Photographic Archive. Reproduced for educational purposes under license permission.

The competition continued until March 1984, although no prize money was offered to skaters in the fifth and final edition of this incarnation of the Canadian Professional Championships held at Toronto's Varsity Arena. Men's medallists that year were Mitch Giffin, Jack Frizelle and John Knight. In the ladies event, Susan Smith became Canadian Professional Competition in what was her first competition since competing at the 1981 Eastern Divisionals in Ottawa. She bested Gia Guddat, future skating partner of Gary Beacom, and Suzanne Dionne for the title. Ice dance medallists were Karen Taylor and Robert Burk, Marie McNeil-Bowness and Hans Peter Ponikau and Lenore Kay and Danny Sorley. Although they didn't compete in the Toronto event, reigning World Champions Barbara Underhill and Paul Martini were added to the Jaca roster that year, where they won along with other well known Canadian skaters who did not qualify through the event like Brian Pockar, Candy Jones and Don Fraser and Daniel Beland. Even just reading about the confusing process of how skaters "got selected based on the results of the qualifying round" but other skaters were added or removed reminded me instantly of the equally confusing Challenge/Masters Cup problem at the U.S. Open that reached a head in 1997 when skaters who won the Challenge Cup like France's Axel Médéric were ultimately excluded from the Masters Cup round "due to their scores". Even open professional competitions appear to have had their own politics.

In 1985 and 1986, the Jaca World Professional Championships were not held. As a result, this qualifying competition was essentially redundant and ended unceremoniously. The Jaca event returned in full force in 1987 and Canadian skaters Daniel Beland, Shaun McGill, Julie Brault, Kelly Johnson, Jonathan Thomas, Micheline Sally and John Coyne all finished in the top three in their respective disciplines. Whether or not an open professional competition in Canada lasted long, it was a thing that indeed happened and I'd personally love to see happen again. I'm looking at you, Gary Beacom who killed it this year at Adult Nationals!

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Jackson Haines: The Definitive Biography

Photo courtesy KHM-Museumsverband, Theatermuseum Vienna. Used with permission.

"I always walk alone." - Jackson Haines, quoted in "Spuren auf dem Eise : die Entwicklung
des Eislaufes auf der Bahn des Wiener Eislauf-Vereines" (1881)

Ready to turn figure skating's history on its head? I sure am. For well over a century, authors, coaches, skating fans and skating historians alike have painted a largely inaccurate picture of American skating pioneer Jackson Haines and using primary sources, I think it's high time the record was set straight. Grab yourself a cocktail, settle in and enjoy perhaps the most challenging research that I've tackled to date on the blog.


Although no known birth records exist for Haines, a detailed article on Haines' career published on October 31, 1867 in the "Laibacher Zeitung" gives his birthdate as October 4, 1838, while a similarly descriptive article from the November 19, 1872 issue of the "Åbo Underrättelser" gives a birthdate of December 4, 1838. The 1860 New York State Census suggests that at twenty-one years of age, he resided in the E.D. 1, Ward 15 of New York City, which would infer his date of birth may have been later, in 1839 or 1840. 

Jackson Haines was the son of Alexander Frazee Haines and Elizabeth Terhune Earle. The article, "The Father Of Figure Skating" by Winfield A. Hird, published in both "Skating" magazine and the January 24, 1941 edition of the Amsterdam, N.Y. "Evening Recorder", offers first hand information gleaned from extensive genealogical research provided by Haines' niece Mrs. Mary Davis Haines Waldron and nephew Louis Flamming: "His mother was a descendant of the Westervelt family, early Dutch settlers of New Jersey. His father's family came from England in 1635 and settled on Long Island. His grandfather, Jackson Haines (for whom he was named) was a hat manufacturer of New York City, living at 34 Dye Street. His father, Alexander Haines, was employed by Park & Tilford. The family at one time was located at Cottage Row in New York City. Jackson was one of five children, having three sisters and one brother. The entire family was educated in select schools and by tutors, studying French, music and dancing." We can add from The New York Census records that his sister Sarah was older than he by a year and his brother Eugene, an organ builder, six years older. His other sisters, Hanah and Elizabeth, were younger. Although their seventy five hundred dollar brick home would have been considered quite luxurious for that time, the family took in boarders so a young Haines would have been exposed to diversity from his youth, living alongside a musician from Russia, a bookseller from Holland and a merchant from Belgium.

Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years"

Haines skated for fun on the ponds on the Beekman Estates but first learned formally how to skate at age nine at Mr. Disbrow's Skating Academy at The Winter Garden which predated The Skating Club Of New York. The January 9, 1919 edition of the Troy, New York "Daily Times" noted that 'Jersey John' Engler, another top skater of Haines' era, taught him "how to cut all sorts of fancy figures". Haines Waldron and Flamming explained that "Jackson Haines was of medium stature, had curly chestnut hair and blue eyes and was considered a dapper young man... Not only was Jackson an accomplished skater but his sister, Elizabeth, was also proficient. The entire family was interested in the theatre and as part of its early education it attended all that New York offered in the way of drama and music."

It has been suggested that at the age of ten, he was taken to Europe in the care of a relative, where he studied ballet, returning to America at the age of seventeen and working in an office until the lure of the ice forced him to quit.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine


Jackson Haines was engaged at the Winter Garden Theatre in New York and was actually very well received in an Albany park in 1862. Returning from Albany to New York City, he was recruited by renowned showman P.T. Barnum to roller skate at the Old Bowery Theatre for eighty nine nights alongside Carrie Augusta Moore (who we'll get to know more in an upcoming Skate Guard blog), performing in G.L. Fox's pantomime "Jack And The Beanstalk". Research by Paul deLoca that was included in Steven A. Riess' book "Sports in America from Colonial Times to the Twenty-First Century" noted that it was both skater's popularity on rollers that prompted "Australian promoter George Coppin to recruit [William] Fuller for a world tour of Asia, Australia and Europe from 1865 to 1869." It was also during this period that the talented Haines got married to Alma Bogart, the daughter of Judge Abram Bogart of New York City. The young couple had three children - Clara Louise, Abram and Eugene. Sadly, Clara Louise died in early childhood.

Haines only spent one winter in America devoting his time solely to skating. In late 1863 and early 1864, he toured the United States and Canada, performing in New York City, Buffalo, Chicago and Detroit in the States and in Montreal and Quebec City in Canada. He received his first medal as a skater from Chicago's Board Of Trade on January 30, 1864 and his second from the managers of Detroit's Old Skating Park on February 8, 1864. After performing in Montreal (in front of a three year old Louis Rubenstein) Haines travelled to Quebec City and was presented with a large gold medal by that city's skating club on March 18, 1864. Keeping in mind that with no governing body existing to 'rule the roost' at that time, any city could claim that the best skater in whatever they decided to call their competition was the American, Canadian or World Champion, Haines may very well have been named as 'the champion skater of America', but primary sources don't back up the traditional story of him winning a 'Championships Of America' in 1864 in Albany, New York City or Troy, New York, as varying biographies over the years have claimed.

Photo courtesy KHM-Museumsverband, Theatermuseum Vienna. Shared with permission.

After giving his last performance in Quebec on April 14, 1864, Haines returned to America. The June 16, 1864 edition of the "Sacramento Daily Union" noted that "Jackson Haines, the champion skater, has been engaged by the popular Boston Minstrels, Morris Brothers, Pell and Trowbridge." From pantomime actor to champion skater to minstrel show performer... that's quite a jump now, isn't it Historian Nigel Brown noted that "during the Civil War, he appears to have varied his accomplishments as opportune. Sometimes he was on stage in a juggling act, swinging Indian clubs, sometimes an exhibition-skater, a teacher of physical culture and finally a ballet master. But as the Civil War lingered on, such occupations were destined to suffer."


Several authors have suggested that there was no concrete proof that Haines first visited England when he decided to leave America and spread the 'skating gospel' overseas in Europe, but this simply isn't true. The August 27, 1864 edition of "The Baltimore Sun" noted Haines' plan to move to move to England and try to make a living performing in Europe and British newspaper accounts note that he made his first skating performance at Cremorne Gardens in London later that year. He left by way of Boston on August 17, 1864. The December 8, 1864 edition of "The London Evening Standard" placed him as performing in Weston's Music Hall in Holborn and the Birmingham Daily Gazette indicates that he entertained audiences at The Prince Of Wales Theatre in October of the next year. Several authors, both esteemed and dubious at best, have claimed that Haines' artistic style was met with great opposition in England. And you know what? Considering that the English Style at the time would have been the complete opposite to what Haines was doing on the ice, they were probably right. However, primary sources don't offer any true indication as to what the Britons really thought of Haines. We do know from Haines Waldron and Flamming that while in England, Haines sent for his sister Elizabeth and she joined him there as his skating partner, but after one year, she became homesick and returned to America. Wondering where Haines' wife and sons were in all of this? While in Europe, Haines' two sons were tragically drowned in the Hudson River while visiting their grandparents who had moved from New York City to Lansingburgh. His wife Alma, left behind in America, died in 1890.


An illustration of Jackson Haines performing in Germany in 1865. Photo courtesy Matthias Hampe.

Following his stint in England, Haines travelled to Germany, where he gave a series of performances in February of 1865. German skating historian Matthias Hampe noted, "He gave three exhibitions on the Tiergarten-Eisbahn and four exhibitions in the Victoria-Theatre. Ten thousand spectators came to every of his shows in the Tiergarten rink. The engraving by Hermann Scherenberg (1826-1897) shows Haines skating near by the Rousseau Island in Berlin."


From Germany to Mother Russia... The Marysville Daily Appeal, on August 17, 1865, informs us that "Jackson Haines, the American skater, is still in Russia. The Emperor has given him a diamond ring valued at 100 pounds and the Navy Club of Cronstadt have presented him with a gold and diamond medal. He is to visit Moscow soon, and from thence returns to London." The next evidence of where Haines actually popped up and wowed audiences comes from Scandinavia. We know that he came to Stockholm, Sweden in March 1866 and remained there until the beginning of 1867, performing roller skating shows at the Manege Theatre and the Great Theatre and ice shows during that winter in Stockholm. This evidence comes from the Swedish newspaper Söndags-Nisse, which notes that his roller skating shows began in June and continued through the summer. The January 29, 1867 issue of the newspaper "Jönköpingsbladet" confirms that his performances in the winter were not on rollers but instead on ice. A C.G. Hessler testified that "Jackson Haines' behaviour on the ice won't possess me sooner."


The January 17, 1868 edition of "Die Presse" recalls Haines' debut in Vienna, Austria, where he in fact did make quite an impression in late 1867. Skating at the Wiener Eislaufverein in sixteen degree weather, three thousand spectators gathered for Haines' performance. George Browne's book "Figure Skating" describes Haines' 1867 performance in Vienna thusly: "[He] shot in on a long outside roll (spiral) which took in the whole circumference of the area, and gradually narrowed down until he came to the centre, where he performed a pirouette and took off his hat to a Grand Duke who was present, continuing with a series of evolutions on both feet, something in the style of a Philadelphia twist or grape-vine; and when the band turned from the overture to the waltz-tune, he broke into a double cross-roll backwards... Haines' advent caused a great sensation, and I have no doubt that this was the beginning of the modern art in Vienna." He was indeed idolized by the Austria people for his graceful style, which became known as the Viennese Style and later the International Style. With numerous rinks (outdoor and later indoor) in Austria, many people who otherwise had no inclination or knowledge of the sport were inspired to take up the craft. Haines taught the Viennese to waltz on the frozen Danube to the music of Strauss.

Austria, as a result, has been a country who has had remarkable success in international competition. One hundred and seventeen world medals have been won by that country alone. Surely successful Austrian skaters like Willy Böckl, Trixi Schuba and Karl Schäfer wouldn't have had the foundation or opportunity to succeed had their predecessors not learned from Haines or someone who learned from him and helped develop the country's skating program. The October 30, 1987 edition of the "Montreal Gazette" aptly noted that "members of the Vienna Skating Club made notes of Haines' movements and incorporated them into a formal series of figure-eight practice movements which, since the ISU was formed in 1892, have formed the basis of all figure skating competitions." The reverence towards Haines as 'the king of skating' is noted in numerous Austrian sources, including the February 19, 1912 edition of "Wiener Sonn-und Montags-Zeitung". Josef Fellner, president of Austria's Skating Federation, echoed this sentiment by saying "the seed [that] Jackson Haines planted on Viennese ground bore rich fruit very soon, so that he, when he appeared again in Vienna in 1870, not enough words of praise and surprise at the level of art and arrived at the large number could find the good skater." The 1881 book "Spuren auf dem Eise : die Entwicklung des Eislaufes auf der Bahn des Wiener Eislauf-Vereines", written by Demeter Diamantidi, Carl von Korper, Max Wirth, both praised Haines highly and offered instructional information based on several of Haines' figures and dances on ice.

Photo courtesy Wiener Eislaufverein

Photo courtesy Illustreret Tidende, 1869

On March 11, 1869, Haines performed both solo performances to the overture from "Zamba" and Verdi's "Ernani" as well as duets with Leopoldine Adacker at the Maskinisten Bergsten i Teaterhuset in Sweden, according to the Swedish newspaper "Jönköpingsbladet" of the same date. It was around this time in Scandinavia that he developed a comic program depicting Lord Dundreary (a character from the British play "Our American Cousin"). This act became a trademark program for Haines that he used repeatedly in many of his shows over the coming years.

News of his skating talent travelled to his next stop, Finland, per the research of Finnish historian Kent Sjöblom: "Haines first appeared in Turku in July 1869 for three consecutive days and then went to Helsinki. In the capital he performed at the Nya Teatern (now the Swedish Theater...Rumors may have spread [of his skating prowess] from Stockholm, where Haines often stayed and acted and where he also gave lessons. According to some articles in domestic newspapers, he had been a choir of 'Skridskokungung' by Swedish king Karl XV, who was so impressed by the performances in Stockholm."

The October 17, 1869 edition of "The Era" noted his return to England and the following May, "Blekingsposten" noted that Haines would return due to Sweden by popular demand. After returning to Vienna in 1870 and debuting his "Jackson Haines Schlitt-Schuh" mazurka, Haines visited Hungary the following year and was exceptionally well received there as well. The Hungarian newspaper "Tiszavidék" in January 1871 enthusiastically wrote of Haines' 'korcsolya polka mazurka'.


From Austria and Hungary, Haines made yet another trip to Scandinavia. Archives of the nineteenth century Finnish newspaper "Åbo Underrättelser" prove that Haines performed his polka-mazurka and ice ballet (with live orchestral accompaniment) for at very least three weeks in April 1872 in Finland. The October 9, 1872 edition of Swedish newspaper "Wermlands läns tidning" advertises the same "Stort Potpourri" show he performed earlier that year in Finland in conjunction with a performance of "En Episod fran Revolutionen 1789" at the Christinehamns Teater. The June 6, 1873 issue of "Bergens Adressecontoirs Efterretninger" in Norway notes that Haines offered a 'Nyt Program' for members of working class society to learn the art of skating.

While in Norway in 1873, Haines met Axel Paulsen, whom he encouraged to adapt his 'Axel' jump to figure skates. Axel had a toe-pick welded on a pair of his skates and did just that. This meeting would prove incredibly important years later, when British skate maker Henry Boswell would take this adaptation from Paulsen's skates (that came from Haines) back to England and start adding toe picks to British skates. Remaining in Scandinavia, Haines performed his comedic ice ballet "NEJ!" in Finland in 1875, with a full cast of charismatic skaters in lavish costumes.


Photo courtesy Wiener Eislaufverein

Returning to the Continent, it was during this time period that Haines worked with Leopold Frey and Franz Belazzi... and Belazzi joined Haines on the ice for some same-sex ice dancing, which we explored in a Skate Guard blog earlier this month. I personally find it quite intriguing that Haines, a graceful skater who left his wife and children behind in America, obviously found great freedom on both stage on ice in Europe, performing in women's dress and on the ice with a male partner. You can (like I did) make of that what you will.


Woodcut of Haines performing in St. Petersburg

Haines returned to Russia, performing in St. Petersburg, the home of the Kirov Ballet, which was founded in 1738. After performing in a celebration of the Balagani at the Winter Festival, he planned a return to America. 

Legend has claimed that Haines planned his return to America, but travelling by sled en route to Stockholm, he was overtaken by a severe snowstorm, contracted pneumonia and later died in Finland. He was buried in the small village of Gamla-Karleby. His tombstone lists his date of death as June 23, 1875. This date is backed up by over a dozen Finnish newspaper articles in the days following his death. These articles all noted that he died on the morning of Midsummer's Eve and had been so ill with 'inflammation of the lungs' in the days leading up to his death that doctors confirmed that he would be "unable to return to his former profession". 

The inscription of Haines' tombstone, translated to English, reads: "For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." A July 1, 1875 article in the Finnish newspaper "Suomalainen Wiralline Lehti" stated that when he was dying, "Haines asked to come to Stockholm. That's where he wanted to live, that's where he wanted to die."


Perhaps, perhaps not. He won medals in both Canada and the United States, however in the 1881 book "Spuren auf dem Eise : die Entwicklung des Eislaufes auf der Bahn des Wiener Eislauf-Vereines", written by Haines' disciples, claimed that Haines was "denied by all the Americans who only find beauty in the practical." An article from the March 2, 1866 edition of the "Marysville Daily Appeal" gives the impression that Haines was celebrated but just wasn't the best skater out there. After praising 'skatorial queen' Carrie Augusta Moore, the writer said, "if your ideas on the subject are only those acquired by your boyhood experience, it may have been on the Mohawk or the Erie Canal, why then you know nothing about modern skating. The best skaters in America, or in the world, are the Meagher brothers, now performing in various parks here, with great profit to themselves and pleasure to our people. Beside these the celebrated Jackson Haines is a bungler." Absolutely nothing in historical evidence even remotely suggests that an unruly mob of skating fans with pitchforks and torches ever stood rinkside or drove Haines 'outta town'. If anything, most American newspapers from his era were nothing but complimentary.

The earliest known criticism of Jackson Haines came from Massachusetts headmaster and skating aficionado George Henry Browne, well after Haines' death. Late NSA historian Dennis Bird recalled that in one of two letters from 1891 and 1901 to George Herbert Fowler, Browne recalled, "None of our skaters seems to care much about him. He was a Bowery boy of low extraction and pretty common tastes."


I think it's important to point out that while Haines' disciples praise him highly in "Spuren auf dem Eise : die Entwicklung des Eislaufes auf der Bahn des Wiener Eislauf-Vereines", the contributions of fellow Americans Callie Curtis and E.T. Goodrich to Viennese skating are also noted with regard.

In the January 7, 1912 edition of "The New York Herald", James A. Cruikshank wrote, "While Jackson Haines received scant recognition from the social leaders of his day, the present revival of the new international style of skating has the advantage of exponents and advocates of the highest social prominence, here and abroad. Then, too, Haines was a professional, while those who are at the front of this new movement have the additional prestige of amateurs, giving their services as a labor of love." He made a very valid point. Haines' appreciation in America didn't take the decades and decades some historians suggest. His rounded toe, two stanchion skates were already popular in America by 1910 and in 1918 at the Crystal Carnival Ice Rink on Broadway and 95th Street in New York City, the Jackson Haines Skating Club was formed. For many years in England, the winners of the BITA World Professional Championships were awarded a 'Jackson Haines Cup'. Haines was of course, later in the century, inducted into both the U.S. and World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame.

Franz Calistus' recollection of Jackson Haines' performances

The winner of the bronze medal at the 1906 World Figure Skating Championships (the first official World Championships to include a ladies event) was aristocrat Lili Kronberger of Austria. Inspired by Haines, she brought her own orchestra to the 1911 World Championships, insisting that she "felt the music and interpreted it", rather than have it play a supporting role in the background. Said Kronberger, "it is necessary to first hear the music internally and then interpret". Over the years, Haines' courageous and artistic journey has either consciously or subconsciously affected many other revolutionaries of the sport. Without free skating being created and popularized, it never would have been again transformed by artistic geniuses like John Curry, Toller Cranston, Robin Cousins, Janet Lynn, Torvill and Dean and their contemporaries of today. Robin Cousins once said "you cannot differentiate between the sport and the art because the idea is to make the sport like an art". I'm sure Jackson Haines was smiling somewhere when Robin said that, wearing a fur hat and pälsbrämad jacket with medals on his chest, performing a gorgeous arabesque spiral and perfectly centered
spin in his finery.

In 1937, Irving Brokaw recalled, "Some forty years ago a pair of skates and a leather pocket book bearing the inscription 'Jackson Haines' were bought in Gamla-Karelby at auction by a famous sportsman... The inhabitants of that quaint village, ever since death have kept his grace covered with fresh flowers even to this day."


One important factor to consider with regards to Haines were the quality of his skates as compared to many of his contemporaries. The Southeast Missourian, on March 7, 1966, noted that in 1850 "when crucible steel was brought to ice in Philadelphia, [it] was rare then and was used sparingly where it was needed most, for example in tools, knives and surgical instruments. At least one skate of that year still exists - the drill holes and saw marks testifying to laborious handicraft." These skates were expensive, selling for fifty dollars at the time and Haines, coming from a family of some means, would have been one of few that could afford the cream of the crop. Haines probably owned an early pair of these Philadelphia skates but it was the alterations in length to the skate's platform and introduction of two small plates which screwed into special boots that gave Haines the edge. In making these adjustments, he eliminated the need for straps and for special shoe-heel sockets which accommodated the studs in the conventional skates of that area. His two stanchion, all metal blades with the toe pick variation of the old Dutch toe made toe-pick jumps possible and would have changed the way figures were skated entirely, adding a world of possibilities.

Legend goes that the 'Jackson Haines spin' (described by sources during his time as a one-foot ringlet spin on the left foot) took its inventor nine years to perfect, but again - you ready for it? - primary sources don't confirm this! We do know from William H. Bishop and Marvin R. Clark, contemporaries of Haines who would have seen him skate, that the 'Jackson Haines spin' which Haines invented was not a typical sit spin as we'd think of it today. In their 1868 book "The Skater's Textbook", they describe it thusly: "The world-renowned skater's great specialty is doing a 'one-foot spin' and, while revolving, stooping so low that his balance leg must necessarily be perfectly horizontal to clear the ice, then rising gradually and finishing the spin upon his toe." So basically, upright, sit, upright and then up on the toe pick. Think about skaters of the twenties and thirties and the kinds of spins they were performing at the time. The Jackson Haines spin in its true form was definitely something we definitely saw from competitive skaters back then. Now? Not so much.

Haines also built on a figure developed by a New York City contemporary, E.B. Cook, known as 'pivot circling'. Irving Brokaw described that Cook "made a great deal in the way of substituting one
toe in the ice in the place of the other, the succeeding toe taking the place of the other by coming exactly into the same spot located by the outgoing toe. He made many substitutions of one toe for the other in this way, and some very peculiar ones from what he called the 'Intoto' position. Moreover, besides circling the pivot, he made the performing foot skate a succession of linked angles around in a ring. Also, taking a pivot, he made the other foot go far away on an edge (almost to half length) and make a connected set of pivots, forming a star." Brokaw notes that this was also a specialty of Haines also, but that Haines surrounded his pivot figures with a circle. The result, curiously, produced a pentagram my ancestor Anna Maria Conrad might have quite impressed with.

Poem courtesy "Skating" magazine

As for Haines' style itself, Irving Brokaw wrote in "The Art Of Skating" that he "had less enthusiasm than his contemporaries (the New York Skating Club and the Philadelphia Skating Club and the Canadian skaters) for the invention of one-foot, continuous figures, many of them made in small, kicked circles. His temperament affected artistic display and correct body positions (after the manner of the Russian dancers, now so much in popular favour), too, but in long, graceful curves or in dance strokes and steps." In 1913, George Browne clarified that "since Jackson Haines left before rocking-turns were invented and died five years before a bracket was ever skated, or at least described, he obviously could not have been much of a performer of modern American 'stunts'."

As far as I'm concerned, the real story versus all of the legend out there reveals a man who was wholly committed to enacting change and had a great passion and verve for performing. His travels alone back and forth from country to country are testaments to this indefatigable determination to prove to audiences just what skating could be. Haines showed that skating had more potential for creativity than rigid figures traced around an orange on the ice in a top hat and tails; more than speed skating races on frozen canals. With his same-sex ice dancing, female dress and elaborate ice ballets, he broke down barriers and reminded us that skating doesn't have to be as linear as a quad/triple combination on one end of the rink, a triple Axel on the other and a haircutter spin in the center. I can only hope, in demystifying his story and separating fact from fiction, that people can finally have a clearer picture of his true role in the sport's rich and colourful history.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Murphy's Law: Team Hong Kong At The 1987 World Championships

Training in a tiny rink of 30 X 70 feet with a broken Zamboni, thirty year old Chi-Man Wong, seventeen year old Edith Poon, twenty three old Shuk-ching Ngai and nineteen year old Cheuk-fai Lai were an unlikely foursome of entries for the 1987 World Figure Skating Championships.

In her 1994 book "Figure Skating: A Celebration", Beverley Smith wrote, "A group of Hong Kong skaters at the 1987 world championship in Cincinnati, Ohio, had no coaches at all. Chi-Man Wong, at thirty, had been almost entirely self-taught until two years before the event, skating in Hong Kong's only ice rink... Edith Poon, Hong Kong's best female competitor, practiced the wrong compulsory figure until she was set straight the week before the competition. Hong Kong's ice dancers withdrew after they arrived with music for their free-dance that was only two minutes, fifteen seconds in length, when it was supposed to be four minutes. And the music for their original dance had the incorrect rhythm."

That poor ice dance team that Smith wrote of, Cheung Lai-yuk and Chan Chiu-keung, couldn't catch a break when Lai-yuk, on her first visit to North America, became quite ill after eating Western food. The fun for the Hong Kong skaters didn't end there. Edith Poon, a roller skater with only three months of training on the ice, floundered in the short program. Ngai and Lai, the pairs entry, were so out of their league in their short program to "Romeo And Juliet" that one judge gave the duo a 0.2 for technical merit. Their highest mark was one 2.7 for presentation. Most of their technical merit marks were around 0.8; their presentation marks around 1.8. 

In the March 11, 1987 edition of "The Pittsburgh Press", the coach of the pair, Kathy Kitchner (an Australian who was teaching skating in Hong Kong) cited the incredibly small rink and deplorable ice conditions as reasons that her pair fared so poorly, saying "that she believed someone ran the Zamboni into a wall, which is why ice is smoothed by dumping buckets of water onto the surface each night." Keeping in mind that throughout skating's history, some of the world's best have competed on the Olympic and World stage on cut up ice, in downpours and blizzards and flooded ice in exactly the same manner, although the ice and training conditions would have certainly not been IDEAL for the Hong Kong skaters in 1987, I think it's pretty evident that subpar coaching and poor translations of ISU rulebooks played equal roles in this disastrous showing. In the March 10, 1987 edition of "The Ottawa Citizen", Kitchner acknowledged, "When I came six months ago, they were teaching themselves. I'm here to support them, but I don't feel they are ready for this."

Despite the fact that Wong, Poon and Ngai and Lai all placed a distant last in their respective disciplines, the skaters from Hong Kong in 1987 weren't mocked. Instead, they were embraced by the crowd at the Riverfront Coliseum that March. The encouraging crowd gave them all loud ovations, littered the ice with flowers for the new kids on the block and American pairs coach Pieter Kollen took the struggling team of Ngai and Lai under his wing in practice, stating that "the fun of sports is more than the competition; it's the sportsmanship involved."  

Rather than go home and hide under the bed, skaters from Hong Kong went home and tried to rebuild... literally. Choosing to refrain from competing at the World Championships again until 1994, in the interim they built two more rinks (both in shopping malls) that were a third of the size of an Olympic rink. Still not quite grasping that rink size would absolutely play a difference when adapting programs to international competition, Hong Kong's pairs entry, Poon Hoi-san and Cheung Wai-tung, again finished last at the 1994 World Championships in Chiba, Japan. Although skaters representing Hong Kong, including Ronald Lam (who was fourteenth at the 2015 World Championships) have enjoyed more promising results over the years since then, a skater or team from the country has yet to win a medal at a major international competition. Although progress is sometimes slow and steady with competitors from ANY developing skating country, I think we can all learn a lesson from the people of Cincinnati and the skaters from Hong Kong in 1987. Pointing and laughing only serves one purpose: being a jerk.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Figure Skating: The Devil's Sport

In decades and centuries past, religious leaders have long used their positions of influence to condemn everything from rock and roll music to dancing as "the work of the devil". What many may not know is that once upon a time figure skating was the fire and brimstone flavour of the month.

I want to share with you an editorial called "Skating To Perdition" from the February 21, 1885 edition of The Lutheran Witness that expresses this very arcane point: "The skating rink craze has become epidemic in this country, and is spreading in every direction in spite of all righteous opposition. If it were one of the silly, harmless crazes that sometimes affect empty heads and light heels, it might be left to run its natural course, like a case of the cold. But it is a demoralizing evil, injuring the health, corrupting the morals, and ruining of the souls of some of the infatuated devotees of the rink. The denunciations of our correspondents in this issue are not a whit too strong. Even secular papers, like the 'New York Tribune' and the 'Sun', have been moved to protest against the skating rink as an evil. Another journal says it should be suppressed by law as a nuisance, and still another declares it to be worse than the ordinary theater. The pastor of a Methodist church in Binghamton, N.Y., stated in his pulpit recently that he knew of fourteen girls who had been ruined by these sinks of iniquity. He knew of many men who could not pay their honest debts because of money expended at the rinks. He knew of contracts for the purchase of homes that had been given up for the same reason. He knew of many families which had been broken up by the scandals started in these places. 'The Highway Of Holiness' charges that the habitues of the rinks gamble in a small way for almost everything; the exercise is often overexertion; accidents occur, in the form of broken arms, etc.; 'there is a doubtless a chase present to see the ladies fall, and the gentlemen fall over them,' and it is an expensive amusement. 'The Christian Advocate' says that these rinks have led to a great increase of extravagance; many of them have side-shows attached; there are opportunities for indiscretions, the first steps towards vice; there is no parental supervision; legitimate business of various kinds is interfered with, and the craze is a direct antagonist of religious effort. 'The Lowell Sun' charges some rinks to be the result of the most immoral class of the community, prostitutes and libertines, both married and unmarried... 'We believe,' says the Sun, it is in its effects the most immoral licensed institution that we have; that it is the cause of more and more immorality... The theaters are a Sunday School compared to it.' These are strong words; but we believe they are fully warranted by the facts. The rinks of Cleveland can furnish additional illustrations. No true Christian, or anybody else who has a conscientious regard for his honor, character and influence, [should] frequent the place of evil where thoughtless youths are ensured their destruction. Away with the rink!"

1884 clipping from "The New York Times" regarding arrests in New York state for skating on Sundays

This kind of mentality even extended well into the twentieth century. In February 1978, a reporter for "La Voz Eterna" magazine wrote, "Roller skating or ice skating at a rink where music is played is not a place for a Christian, whether it is a school class party or otherwise. One may try to justify the music by saying: music is played to drown out the loud noise of the skates, but this is not so. This is the voice of the devil speaking. The music here, too, gets under the feet and in the body. Before one is even aware of it, one is listening to the music and unconsciously moving with the music."

Not to be disrespectful to anyone's religious beliefs (I'm a live and let live kinda guy) but I was actually laughing my ass off as I transcribed these quotes. The reality is though that even today, there are actually people in this world who believe that homosexuality is a choice and/or a sin, that we have a right to dictate what people do with their own bodies... You know what I mean and which political and religious groups and figures I'm referring to. And you know what, bless their pointy heads. They probably don't know any better. But as much as we may all share a laugh and an eye roll at this archaic way of thinking, maybe we can take from all of this that ways of thinking change over the years. What seemed logical to some over a century ago will seem silly a century later.

Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine

I do know this though... if we're all going to a fiery hell because we love figure skating, at least we will be Lutzing and looping in great company.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Ice Gayety: The Skating Tour That Never Was

When we think about figure skating shows and tours during the sport/art's first 'golden era', the names that come to mind instantly are probably Ice Follies, Ice Capades, Sonja Henie's tours and of course Holiday On Ice. But were those the only gigs in town, as it were? Hardly. Would-be competitors were cropping up around the world and in 1946, some serious money was invested into a skating tour originating in Florida called Ice Gayety.

The producer of the tour was named James Edgar and Ice Gayety wasn't his first venture into the professional skating business. In 1940, Edgar produced the Royal Ice Palace Revue which toured the U.S. and Canada with the circus company Beckmann and Gerety Carnival. It was a short lived affair though, as Edgar enlisted in the army in January of the following year, serving in Europe for eighteen months before being medically discharged with the rank of major in November of 1944. In no time, Edgar was back to the drawing board with his mind set on his piece of the skating entertainment pie.

Under the umbrella of his company Ice Skating Enterprises, Inc. Edgar chose the warm weather locale of Sarasota as the starting point for his skating spectacular. He commissioned a one hundred and ten foot flame-proof round top tent from the U.S. Tent and Awning Company that would seat three thousand, a mobile refrigeration plant from the Chicago Buildice Company to make the ice and hired the New York agent Harry Hirsch to book skaters and supervise the production of the show. Edgar hired people to do lighting, wardrobe and sell tickets. All he really needed was a choreographer and he found one in a Chicago skating coach and Ice Capades and Ice Follies skater named Anne Haroldson (Leitch), who was convinced to take time away from coaching in the windy city to come down south to put together this big show. Chorus skaters were hired (mainly from New York) and rehearsals were initially scheduled to start on February 8, 1946 in anticipation of a March 1 opening date. An early February article in Billboard magazine stated Edgar even "rented a house to accommodate the line girls." In total, an estimated one hundred thousand dollars (no paltry sum nowadays let alone then!) was poured into Ice Gayety.

It all went down the drain in TWENTY FOUR HOURS! On February 9, 1946, Edgar announced plans to abandon the effort. In a Billboard magazine article, Edgar said "the show had been postponed indefinitely because the skating rink, comprised of 20 plates, weighing 1750 pounds apiece, was found to be too heavy for easy movement on the schedule contemplated. Ice Gayety was scheduled to open here March 1-2 and then go on tour under canvas. Vaughn Richardson, general agent, had booked the show thru April 14 in Florida spots, with many choice downtown locations listed. Edgar's decision was reached in time to stop most of the skating performers before they left New York City for rehearsals in Sarasota. Two girls arrived from Chicago and another was halted en route at Denver. Edgar said other plans were being studied for use of the portable equipment. All preparations for the show were well advanced. The big top had been flame-proofed and erected for rehearsals. Cookhouse for workingmen was in operation and work was started on the seats. Costumes were completed. Billing had been printed and the billing crew was ready to begin."

Can you even imagine? Short of a bank heist, even the most enthusiastic of high stakes gamblers in Vegas would have a hard time throwing away that much money in such a short span. Rather than sit utterly defeated by the failure of Ice Gayety, Edgar ultimately soldiered on and turned his attention away from skating. He for a time owned the Sparks Circus, which began as a wagon show in the last decade of the nineteenth century, and took the show on tour in 1946 and 1947 by railroad. Financial concerns, no doubt as a result of the Ice Gayety flop, apparently continued to haunt him though as an August 23, 1947 article in Billboard stated that "Edgar owed James A. Haley a sum of money, but this he is reliably reported to have laid on the barrel head when the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus was playing Detroit three weeks ago."  

In the winter of 1947, Edgar terminated his relationship with the Sparks Circus and although Ice Gayety never made it off the ground, he DID make two very important contributions to circus history: establishing the final circus to be an under-canvas railroad show and placing Venice, Florida on the map as a popular circus venue. He passed away on June 7, 1957 at age forty seven in South Vend, Indiana while traveling with his wife Anne to visit his son William at Culver Military Academy. Looking back, we can only wonder what Ice Gayety could have been if only things had gone a little differently. 

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":

Is That All There Is To A Circus?

"And when I was twelve years old, my daddy took me to the circus,
The greatest show on earth
There were clowns and elephants, dancing bears
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads
As I sat there watching
I had the feeling that something was missing
I don't know what
When it was over I said to myself,
Is that all there is to the circus?"

- from Peggy Lee's "Is That All There Is?" written by Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber

If there's one thing that studying figure skating has taught me, it is to be prepared for the unexpected. Given that I "grew up" in the sport in the mid to late nineties when skating so saturated the entertainment market that tank ice shows could be found everywhere from casinos to tourist attractions like Sea World and Busch Gardens, the concept of skating having connections with the circus didn't really phase me that much. What DID surprise me was exactly how far back that connection went.

Australian born illusionist Harry Cameron was born in 1881 and made quite a name for himself as The Great Carmo, touring with circuses and variety shows in Australia, France and the U.S. before planning a trip to Great Britain to develop a troupe and circus there. He almost didn't make it. The Big Apple Circus' "Circopedia" explains "The Great Carmo - as he was henceforth to be known - and his girl-assistants were ready to return to England, and they tried to book passages on the Cunard liner Lusitania, which was sailing from New York on May 1, 1915. Although cabin accommodations were available, there was no space in the hold for Carmo's huge amount of stage and magic props, and he had to wait for a later ship. It was a lucky strike: This was to be Lusitania’s last voyage; she was torpedoed by a German U-Boat off the coast of Ireland on May 7, an event that led the United States to declare war on Germany." Pretty incredible stuff. Cameron opened The Great Carmo Circus in Balmoral Gardens in Belfast, Northern Ireland in the summer of 1928. His show featured a horse trainer named Emmerich Ankner, a Japanese juggler known as Togo, Conrad's Bears, an elephant named Baby June and twelve lions. Menageries (which we visited in The Tower Of London blog) were also important parts of circuses at the time and Carmo's Circus featured a menagerie of animals as well. He took the circus on tour and by the following summer was in Gatford, London with aerial artists, acrobats, Belgian clowns, a perch-pole act and figure skaters added to his growing line-up.

The skating act was The Jainczik Skating Ballet On Real Ice and opened in July of 1929. A hanging card designed by Leon Crossley advertising the skating circus act informed that the Jainczik Ballet was held on the Football Ground at Northdown for "a short summer season" and that shows were held twice daily at 3 PM and 8 PM on "real ice". Alfred Jainczik was a German figure and roller skater who four years after performing with The Great Carmo Circus patented an improvement to roller skates. Sadly, The Great Carmo Circus floundered with tent and weather problems and in late March of 1930, the big tent burned to the ground and several animals were badly burned during the catastrophe. He attempted to keep his circus going at of all places a SKATING rink in West Bromwich but the financial loss he suffered caused The Great Carmo Circus to close its doors. The following year, Cameron opened Carmo's Colossal Circus at The Hippodrome but by then, he'd replaced the ice skating ballet with a roller skating duo called The St. Moritz Skaters. We do know that Alfred Jainczik left England aboard the Normandie liner in 1937 bound for New York, advantageously getting out of Europe before World War II broke out. He then toured with the Ringling Bros. Circus in the U.S. for a time.

Other circuses also staged ice skating shows but none were perhaps as popular as Moira Orfei and Walter Nones' Italian Circo Sul Ghiacco (Circus On Ice) show which opened in 1969. It included a circus ring and skating show in one venue and was known for its use of elaborate sets, props and costumes. After separating Orfei's show from the Circus On Ice show in 1976, the actress Orfei at one time was involved in the ownership of Holiday On Ice. 

Today, ice acrobats, skating bears, fire and hula hoop acts remain some of the most sought after novelties for both traditional and non-traditional skating and variety shows and without the unconventional pioneering efforts of people like The Great Carmo, Alfred Jainczik and Moira Orfei, the unseeming might have easily remained relegated to 'the impossible'.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":