I suspect that 2020 is a year that all of us will be happy to see the tail end of. The COVID-19 pandemic and other world events have changed all our lives, perhaps more than we even realize. This year, face masks and social distancing have become our "new normal" and anxiety is a beast we are all facing collectively.
Our White Christmases haven't been like "the ones we used to know". Instead of gathering around tables with friends and family near and far, many of us are connecting with loved ones via FaceTime and sending presents via Canada Post.
Figure skating has suffered setback after setback this year, but if there's one thing we can be certain of - it's that our sport will ultimately survive. It has survived two World Wars and a devastating plane crash. It has survived the elimination of school figures and a transformative judging system change. It has survived the deaths of irreplaceable coaches and rink closures... and it will survive this too.
As we look forward to a brighter future, I wanted to take some time to look back. Over the last twelve months, Skate Guard blog has shared over one hundred fascinating stories from figure skating's rich and colourful history. I wanted to end the year by sharing ten of my favourite pieces from 2020 that you may have missed.
Happy New Year to all of you... wishing you health, happiness and hope in 2021. Life will absolutely not get better instantly "when the ball drops", but it will get better in time.
10. THE 1960 WORLD FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS
The 2020 World Championships in Montreal were cancelled at the eleventh hour this past March, just five days after the World Health Organization confirmed the existence of a global pandemic. That same week, I published my piece on the 1960 World Championships in Vancouver, which was supposed to go up during Worlds in Montreal. This year was the sixtieth anniversary of those Championships - the first Worlds ever to be held in Western Canada.
9. WHAT DID THEY DO IN '62?
As news broke of the cancellation of the 2020 World Championships in March, the skating world struggled to understand what the event's demise meant for the 2020/2021 season. Little did we know at the time that we'd be seeing more event cancellations this autumn! In an attempt to make sense of the confusion, I looked back at how entries for ISU Championships were decided in 1962, the year after the World Championships were cancelled because of the Sabena Crash.
In January, I had the privilege of sharing the story of Dénes 'Dinko' Pataky, a medallist at both the European and World Championships prior to World War II. His incredible life story of bravery, survival and skating is absolutely worth revisiting.
5. COCKTAILS IN CHICAGO: THE COLLEGE INN AND TERRACE GARDEN ICE SHOWS
The Great War and prohibition played backdrop to the golden age of the hotel ice show in Chicago. This May blog looked back at the stories and skaters that shaped the story of a Windy City spectacle.
4. THE HISTORY AND EVOLUTION OF SIDE-BY-SIDE JUMPS
From the first sober singles to Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford's trademark side-by-side triple Lutzes, this May blog explored how side-by-side jumps evolved and became a benchmark in pairs skating.
3. PREMIER DANSEUR: THE ALFRED MÉGROZ STORY
Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France
Decades before John Curry brought ballet to figure skating's forefront, one trailblazing Swiss skater formed a troupe of classical ice dancers. This September blog examined the story of Alfred Mégroz.
2. THOSE THAT STAYED: THE FATES OF FIGURE SKATING'S 'ENEMY ALIENS'
Photo courtesy National Archives, Kew - War Cabinet Memoranda
During World War II, anti-German sentiments in Great Britain led to the expulsion and internment of thousands of German-speaking civilians in Great Britain. This June blog explored the fates of several figure skaters affected by these actions.
1. FIGURE SKATING IN THE EDWARDIAN ERA
Skate Guard's third full-length feature, released this December, is a deep dive into figure skating at the turn of the century. Featuring biographies, results, pictures and forgotten histories, this piece offers a clear glimpse of the pulse and progress of the sport during a transformative time in 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 Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest 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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.
One thing that 2020 hasn't taken away from me is my curiosity. I'm always on the hunt for fascinating new tales from skating history to share with all of you. Nine times out of ten, my wild goose chases result in a "finished product." However, for a myriad of reasons, some photographs or blurbs in old newspapers I come across just don't pan out. Today, I'm sharing five impossible Skate Guard blogs that never made it off the drawing board this year.
Berlin's Oskar Uhlig is remembered historically as the very first skater to win the European Championships. He claimed his first and only European title in Hamburg in January of 1891. Those Championships, which included both figure and speed skating competitions, were organized not by the ISU but by the German-Austrian Federation. Though speed skaters from six nations competed at this event, the seven figure skaters that participated all hailed from Germany or Austria. Oskar's score was over thirty points higher than the second place finisher, Herr Schmitson.
Following the 1891 European Championships, Oskar finished as runner-up at the 1892 German Championships to Vienna's Georg Zachariades. In 1893, he was elected as the Chairman of his home club, the Berliner Eislaufverein. He later served as the club's Vice-Chairman. Oskar acted as a judge of the men's events at the 1894 and 1909 European Championships and the women's event at the 1909 World Championships.
Aside from his contributions to the figure skating world, the historical record offers few clues as to who this mystery man was! Searches in the German and Austrian newspaper archives were far from fruitful but two possible clues are a Geni.com entry for one Otto Oskar Uhlig, born circa 1860 and an 1869 book of rankings of the Royal Saxon Army published in Dresden listing an Oskar Uhlig among its officers.
CHAOS IN KIRKCALDY
I came across this article in the January 20, 1940 of "The Fife Free Press". It describes a series of unprovoked attacks at ice rink in Kirkcaldy, Scotland not long after the start of World War II. There's definitely a story here, but I wasn't able to come up with enough other sources to fill in the blanks.
Dr. Frank Mills, Guy Saunders, William Bonnell, Gordon Trent, Herbert Sheen, John Ryder and H.W.D. Foster recreating "The Wizard Of Oz" in the 1931 Toronto Skating Club carnival. H.W.D. is the Tin Man. Photo courtesy Toronto Public Library.
While researching several pieces on skaters from Toronto in the roaring twenties, the name H.W.D. Foster kept on popping up. After I discovered that he medalled at the 1929 Canadian Championships in fours skating with the Smith sisters - Cecil and Maude - and Jack Eastwood, I became more curious about who this 'mystery man' was.
Sam Jarvis and H.W.D. Foster as Antony and Cleopatra in the 1926 Toronto Skating Club carnival. Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives.
It turns out that he represented Canada at an international competition in Lake Placid in 1926, where he won medals in the junior men's, pairs, Waltz and Tenstep events. His partner for the latter three was Maude. This would have been before she teamed up with Jack Eastwood. Although I was able to link him to a fabric company called Cutten & Foster and The United Empire Loyalist Association of Canada and find several photos of him both on and off the ice, my quest to learn more about H.W.D. was cut short pretty quickly... when I couldn't figure out what H.W.D. stood for. I might have solved that mystery in the summer of 2019, when I found a mention of the death of one Horace W.D. Foster, husband of Doris Catherine Neal, in the November 1965 issue of "Skating" magazine, but wasn't able to find out much more. BETTY SCHALOW
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Betty Schalow was the only daughter of Gustav and Mildred (Gross) Schalow. Her father was a German immigrant who worked as a repair mechanic for the telephone company. She started skating at the age of twelve at the St. Paul Figure Skating Club and in New York City in 1943 won the U.S. junior pairs title with Arthur Preusch. She also placed fifth in the novice women's event at those Championships.
Not long after, Betty moved to Oakland, California to attend Mills College with aspirations of becoming a medical technician. However, when Ice Follies came to San Francisco, she auditioned and was signed as a member of the famous Ice Folliettes chorus.
Betty Schalow with film stars Cesar Romero and Ann Miller. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.
Five foot three, one hundred and fourteen pound Betty began studying under Roy Shipstad and Evelyn Chandler and quickly moved up the Ice Follies ranks, skating pairs acts with Arthur Preusch, Hugh Hendrickson and Marshall Beard before landing the 'leading lady' role in 1952, as a replacement for Canadian Champion Norah McCarthy.
Betty Schalow and Marshall Beard with the cast of Ice Follies
Betty's style of skating was described by reporters as a hybrid of Roy Shipstad and Evelyn Chandler's styles. World Champion Jacqueline du Bief noted, "The distinctive signs of her style are purity of line, speed, and the bite of the edges, as well as the blending of the movements." She became particularly known for her spread eagles and intricate footwork. Many of her performances were quite theatrical in nature. On the 1953 tour, she appeared as Venus, skating among the clouds in the "Symphony Of Stars". Betty was a fixture of the tour for well over a decade. An injured ankle and a broken leg didn't even deter her from appearing in the Ice Follies twentieth anniversary tour in 1956.
Left: Betty Schalow with Peter Lawford and Ava Gardner, Right: Betty Schalow with Bob Hope. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library
Betty married two of her tour mates from Ice Follies, Carlos Romero Jr. and Patrick Shanahan. Shanahan skated a comedy act on the tour with Bill Cameron. The couple's French poodle, Pierre, even appeared in the show for a time. Off the ice, Betty enjoyed reading, cooking and collecting antiques.
Although there are no shortage of pictures of Betty floating around (and even a short clip of her performing from the late Carl Moseley's collection) I was unable to find any information about her life post-skating, or even a birth date.
A MUNICH TRAGEDY ON ICE
This one's pretty short and (not so) sweet. When I came across this 1953 clipping, I just knew there was a story there. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find out who René Fensom was (presuming she was indeed British) or which ice show she was touring with... possibly one of Tom Arnold's Continental troupes? At least, as they say, she died doing what she loved.
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 Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest 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": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.
At the turn of the century, incremental reforms in industry and politics and new inventions and conveniences like the automobile, airplane, motion pictures and electricity transformed the lives of people all around the world.
Times were changing, but The Season in London in 1902 was so much more than the grand 'coming out' balls where high society debutantes were presented in hopes of finding a respectable suitor. It was a patriotic celebration the Victorians would have been proud of. It was a summer of formal teas and grand evening parties with claret, candles, charades and Chinese lanterns; a summer of fêtes with fortune-tellers, fireworks and flower shows. Merry-go-round's, horse races, Punch and Judy shows and stilt walkers filled the streets and the air was filled with the scents of horses, freshly cut grass and ice cream.
Souvenir card from King Edward VII's coronation
On August 9, 1902, the day of King Edward VII's coronation at Westminster Abbey, coachmen transported their masters by horse and carriage through a winding maze of streets decorated with bunting to a grand parade where church bells rang, Union Jacks waved and choruses of "God Save The King" broke out spontaneously.
Edward's accession to the throne after the death of his mother, the longest reigning British monarch, in 1901 marked the end of the Victorian era and ushered in a new golden age - the Edwardian era. Change was in the air, and it reverberated not only in England and its colonies, but all around the world - in the cafés of Cherbourg, the carpenter's shops of Charlottetown, the schoolrooms of San Francisco and the skating rinks of St. Moritz.
King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra of Denmark
During the tremendously popular King's relatively brief nine-year reign, 'figure-skating' (as the Victorians knew it) enjoyed something of metamorphosis around the world. It was no longer the same sport it was twenty-one years prior when the King, then the Prince Of Wales, first agreed to become a patron of England's National Skating Association, donating his first cheque for five guineas and giving his 'royal approval' by way of a letter to James Drake Digby from his Comptroller, Lieutenant-General Sir Dighton Probyn, VC.
Left: Paul Thiriat's impression of King Edward VII as a patron of sports, April 1905. Right: A depiction of King Edward VII (then the Prince Of Wales) on skates during the Victorian era. His wife, later Queen Alexandra sits in the background. Photo courtesy BIS Archive.
King Edward VII had seen the changes in skating first-hand, attending both the 1898 and 1902 World Championships and being "much impressed with the great skill displayed by the competitors." He regularly corresponded with Lord Minto, the Governor-General Of Canada who founded the Minto Skating Club, attended his coronation. His own son, later to become King George V, served as the President of the National Skating Association's short-lived Victorian era Metropolitan Branch and the King's name was later lent to an annual British speed skating competition. To say that His Majesty had an awareness of and affection for figure skating would not be an overstatement.
During King Edward VII's reign, the Continental Style skating became so widely accepted it was simply called the International Style. The Salchow jump, the namesake of the man who dominated the sport, was first introduced. The sport made its first appearance in the Olympic Games and women and pairs made their official debuts in ISU Championships. As figure skating underwent its metamorphosis from a pastime to a sport, three long-forgotten rinks, nestled in the heart of London, were at the heart of it all. THE BIG THREE
"Some Prince's members skate,
Their prowess over-rating;
Some, taught by Dent,
On tests are bent;
Some in the waltz
Find sweet content;
All are entranced with skating."
- Algernon Grosvenor, 1905
The National Skating Palace, the ice rink at Niagara Hall and Prince's Skating Club played host to some of the most historic moments in figure skating during the Edwardian era. While the famous outdoor skating resorts in Davos and St. Moritz and Vienna's Wiener Eislaufverein were the arguably the 'cradle' of modern figure skating civilization, this unlikely trio of indoor artificial rinks in London were the places where the sport's power brokers rubbed elbows with members of high society, whose social 'in's' allowed the sport to advance in ways never thought possible.
The National Skating Palace
Colour lithograph circa 1895, courtesy the Victoria and Albert Museum. Donated by Noel D. Sheffield.
"The ring of steel strikes on the ear, and advancing to the balcony rail we look down on the great rink below, where (if it be the fashionable hour) a crowd of men and women disport themselves 'on thousand skates a thousand different ways.'" - “The English Illustrated Magazine”, January 1904
In 1871, circus impresario Frederick Charles Hengler purchased a lot of land at 7 Argyll Street, Regent Street West, London, near the Oxford Circus tube station. The lot had previously housed The Corinthian Bazaar and Argyll House, which was once home to the Dukes of Argyll and the Earl Aberdeen. Hengler's Grand Cirque was opened on the property.
Photo courtesy Parnell Square Cultural Quarter
With its acrobats, equestrian acts, clowns and equilibrists, Hengler's Grand Cirque was a popular attraction well after its namesake's death in 1887. In 1895, Hengler's sons sold the property to a restauranteur. After less than a year the land was sold again, this time to the National Skating Palace Ltd. A plan was put into motion to develop a
lavish ice rink on the property that would put some of the earlier
London ice rinks to shame.
On January 11, 1896, the National Skating Palace opened its doors under the superintendence of the National Skating Association's Secretary, James Drake Digby. It was a vision of Victorian opulence, open from eleven in the morning until eleven at night, with eleven thousand feet of artificial ice, electric lights and a representation of the Aurora Borealis painted on the ceiling. There was a circular gallery, lounge, tea room and observation balcony and dressing rooms, "combined with a warm and genial atmosphere and luxury in all its appointments." The colour scheme was terracotta and pale blue and the ante-room was decorated with flowers and potted palms.
World Champion Henning Grenander, whom Digby engaged to give exhibitions at the Palace remarked, "Everything is simply beautiful, and what surprises me most is that the place is warm. This is the first time I have seen anything so splendid; and fancy walking down on Brussels carpets to skate!" In April 1896, Herr Grenander gave an exhibition at the National Skating Palace that so impressed the powers that be at the National Skating Association that he was awarded a special gold medal and Honorary Life Membership for his "services to skating".
Although refrigeration standards at the National Skating Palace were far from ideal by modern standards, they were certainly a step-up from the cow hair and sulfur concoctions at the earliest Victorian rinks in England's capital city. The rink was viewed with great
affection by most of its clientele. "A Lady's Letter From London", dated February 3, 1896 and published in "The Sydney Mail" on March 21, 1896 noted, "The ice is simply perfect and the whole arrangement of the place, the prettiness of the scene, and the comfort prepared for those who go only to look on made it popular at once. The charges - 5s admission in the afternoon and 3s in the evening - keep out the unruly crowd and learners, and some really fine skating can always be seen there."
The steep admission fees charged at the National Skating Palace (over thirty pounds in today's money) were in place to attract 'only the best sort of people' and keep 'the commoners' out. According to "Society" magazine, a reception held there by Lady Jeune boasted "everybody who was anybody... actors and actresses, novelists and journalists, soldiers and millionaires were all represented by personable individuals."
By March of 1897, the rink had presented several lavish ice carnivals, an exhibition by Mabel Davidson and the National Skating Association had chosen the rink as its official headquarters. In 1898, the National Skating Palace played host to the World Figure Skating Championships, which was attended by members of the Royal Family.
Etching of skaters at the National Skating Palace from "The Illustrated London News"
Lady Randolph Churchill, who learned to skate in Canada, took to the ice at the National Skating Palace in the summer of 1896 with none other than George Meagher. The August 14, 1896 issue of "The Warragol Guardian" raved, "Her graceful movements and artistic style were the admiration of all present."
One of the most interesting tales regarding The National Skating Palace pertains to George Herbert Fowler, a distinguished member of The Skating Club and the National Skating Association. Fowler designed a pair of bone skates after an ancient pair exhibited in the Guildhall Museum and tested them out on the ice. In his 1959 book "Ice-Skating: A History", figure skating historian Nigel Brown recalled, "Although he found that a stroke could not be taken off the side of the skate, it could be made off the toe, which was sufficiently strong to bite the hard ice of The National Skating Palace, and would of course bite and grip more readily the softer outdoor ice. Mr. Fowler's experiment is significant in that it demonstrates the possibility of these primitive bone runners having been used centuries ago as skates proper."
Although decorum and dignity reigned supreme at The National Skating Palace, the rink wasn't without its scandals. In 1898, when an accountant named Charles Baker took over the management of the rink, he invited his best friend Milton Goode and his wife for a private skating party when the rink was closed one evening. The January 8, 1898 issue of "The Chronicle" reported, "One evening Mr. Goode overhead Baker - as he expressively put it - 'canoodling with the missus.' Thereupon he prohibited his wife visiting the rink and broke off the intimacy with his quondam friend. The lady, however, vehemently protested against the severance, and it was discovered that she had frequently slipped out of the house at night and gone to the rink, where she was much in the society of Baker in his private room." Long story short, Baker left for Australia and Goode was granted a divorce.
The March 7, 1903 issue of "The Western Mail" further recalled, "Every afternoon this delightful lounge is crowded with both active performers on skates and friendly and admiring onlookers. To the latter section I belong myself, and I find it most pleasant to sit in the grand tier sipping tea or chocolate, and, leaning over the velvet balcony to gaze upon the active portion of the community below as they flit and fly and swing and twist and twirl upon the ice, for real ice it is, and many times during the afternoon employees in livery enter the ring to sweep up whole barrows-full of white icy dust and carry it away. A delicious stringed band discourses sweet waltz tunes and other exhilarating music, to the sound of which the skaters are urged to further effort. A bell rings, and the amateurs and beginners in the art stand aside, and the staff of teachers (in dark uniforms with tan leggings) and the experts amongst the pupils come into the rink and perform the most dexterous and wonderful manoeuvres all over the enclosure. I noticed a stoutly-built fair gentleman - I was informed he had come across the Atlantic with Buffalo Bill's Troupe - skating like a Cupid on wheels. He flew across the vast circle on one foot like an arrow from a bow, his other leg high in the air behind him. He then twirled around with a little skip, hop, and a jump, and was circling round on both feet with knees bent apart. He took many fair ladies in turns around the circle, waltzing and talking and smiling and skipping all at one time, it seemed. Some of the ladies skated very well, and exceedingly graceful they appeared, bending and swinging and gliding about in the firm and strong grasp of that gray American, who seemed as if he must have learned to walk with skates on his feet. The ladies' costumes were very pretty. All of them wore short skirts, very much gored on the hips, short boleros, and round toreador hats of fur or velvet. One lady - I think she must have been a professional, she was such an expert - wore a deep red velvet costume and red toque, trimmed with dark fur. One pretty young girl wore grey corduroy. trimmed with grey fox, with muff and toque to match; like a beautiful grey undulating seagull he looked, swaying and curvetting over the ice. A very cold wind blows up from the ice as the swiftly-moving forms flit and fly past and around, and hot water pipes warm the grand tier of seats. Canadians always seem to me to skate better than most people; I suppose they have more practice than most. The National Skating Palace is quite a pleasant club."
Not everyone thought the National Skating Palace was entirely pleasant though. In "The Badminton Magazine Of Sports And Pastimes" in 1904, Edgar Syers
complained, "It was a depressing place, being underground, and
nearly always dependent on artificial illumination; the building was
too heavy for a rink, and there was often a thick fog on the ice
surface, the skaters then feeling as if they were at the bottom of a
A cake-walk before the King at The National Skating Palace's 1904 Union Jack Club Fête
The main factor in the demise of The National Skating Palace wasn't the fog. It was the competition it faced. The Niagara Hall Ice Rink offered similar prices until its closure in 1902, and Prince's Skating Club in Knightsbridge, a members-only affair, rose to prominence as the go-to place for serious skaters during the same period. In fact, the National Skating Palace's decision to cater to hockey teams in its later years drove all but the most casual pleasure skaters to Prince's - or roller rinks - in droves.
Skaters at The National Skating Palace's 1904 Union Jack Club Fête
By 1904, the National Skating Palace was unable to compete with Prince's. The building was demolished and rebuilt behind a pillared façade as the London Palladium, a lavish metropolitan theatre and variety venue. Ice shows were later staged at The Coliseum, which the Hengler family also owned.
The Ice Rink at Niagara Hall
London is mad on skating just now. The real ice rink at Niagara Hall
is the afternoon rendezvous of the sweetness and light of society,
and there could scarcely be a more agreeable way of spending a couple
of hours than it affords. You remember Niagara? The platform in the
centre is now removed, and the whole of the immense arena is covered,
by scientific means, with the most perfect ice that is possible to
imagine. As it is only some three inches thick, and there is no water
beneath it, the safety of the whole thing is a pleasant element.” -
'Susie', writing in the “Feminine Affairs” column of “To-Day: A
Weekly Magazine Journal”, 1895
If your footman happened to take your carriage along York Street near St. James's Park Station in London during the Victorian era, you couldn't miss Niagara Hall. It was a sprawling building with a neo-classical façade that was only within a stone's throw of the Houses of Parliament at Westminster.
Niagara Hall was the brainchild of architect Robert Emeriti Tyler and actually consisted of two halls - one circular and the other rectangular - which were both surrounded by galleries. It opened in 1881 as the Westminster Panorama, showcasing an artistic representation of the Battle of Waterloo. Several more panoramas captured the imaginations of the cyclorama's visitors in the years that followed. In 1893, a popular panorama of Niagara Falls had white paint added and was renamed "Niagara In Winter". On January 7, 1895, this empire panorama became the backdrop of what Ernest Jones later described as London's first "proper" ice rink.
Advertisement for the De La Vergne ice-making system used at Niagara Hall
How did the ice rink come to be? A wooden plank floor that formed the ceiling of a cold-storage space below was covered with thirty thousand feet of coils and pipes, with valves controlling the flow of anhydrous ammonia and calcium chloride brine for the three-inch thick ice surface, which was cooled by three twelve ton De La Vergne compressors. The rink was circular and one hundred and twelve feet in diameter.
The managing director of Niagara Hall was fine art dealer Joseph Fishburn, who also managed the Doré Gallery. Its other directors included the Earl of Essex and Hwfa. Williams, who was later prominent in the court of Edward VII. Sir William M. Call was charged with organizing the rink's decorations. The cost of constructing the rink was estimated at over forty-two thousand pounds.
Etchings of skaters at Niagara Hall, 1896 (top) and 1899 (bottom)
Niagara Hall was equipped with a café, restaurant, smoking and reading rooms, cloakrooms for putting on skates and a circular balcony, where the touch of an electric button caused the seats to be illuminated by coloured incandescent lamps. The balcony was heated and separated from the ice by a three-foot high iron rail, capped with wood and draped in a blanket. One of England's first 'ping pong' schools was operated in the gallery by the son of a lawn tennis expert.
During the heyday of the rink, Montagu Sneade Monier-Williams remarked, "The management is excellent, and the ice perfection itself for figure-skating. The surface provided is as good as that of the best out-of-door ice, and, being freshly frozen every morning, is always in good condition... The ventilation being quite excellent, the atmosphere of the hall is in no way injurious to health, good heating arrangements keeping the air dry and warm." Amusingly, an advertisement in "Pick-Me-Up" proclaimed that Niagara Hall had "all of the advantages of ice-skating, without the subsequent disadvantages of drowning."
Etchings of a fancy dress carnival at Niagara Hall
The ice skating rink at Niagara Hall's entrance fee was three shillings per person for skating in the morning or evening or five shillings for afternoon sessions, all handsome sums when one would likely attend two to three times a week. Private skating carnivals (paid for by well-to-do financiers) were all the rage. Supper was usually served while those daring enough took to the ice. One such soirée in January of 1896 packed the rink from eleven o'clock at night until four in the morning! At a costume carnival in 1897, costume prizes went to a group of Geishas, an organ grinder and monkey, a chimney sweep and a female matador.
An ice carnival held at Niagara Hall in 1899 in support of Boer War charities. The woman at the fore is carrying a donation box that says "pay, pay, pay".
London had a great frost in 1895 which froze all of the waters in the city solid enough for skating, but when the Great Frost broke, high society flocked back to the Niagara. The column "Our London Letter", which appeared in the March 2, 1895 issue of "The Queenslander" noted, "Last week everyone seemed skating mad... Skating parties here have quite 'caught on', the charge for admission being sufficiently high to keep the place select. There is a promenade from which one can watch the skaters and chat with friends; rooms where tea can be obtained, and best of all, a fair piece of ice for skating on."
Left: John Singer Sargent portrait of Lady Helen Vincent. Photo courtesy Birmingham Museum Of Art. Right: Daisy, Princess Of Pless. Photo courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum.
The management of Niagara Hall hired several 'skating professors' to provide lessons to those who didn't know how to skate or wished to better their skills on the ice. Two such men were Walter William Brewer and Horace S. Lewis, who both later coached at the Glaciariums in Australia. The
credentials of those 'professors' were viewed upon by 'legitimate'
skaters with some suspicion. In 1904, Edgar Syers expressed, "It cannot
be said that these were efficient teachers; in form each was a law
unto himself; their skating was entirely meretricious, being in
reality of the most elementary character. Occasionally these
professors would give shows, and then their breasts would be
profusely gay with medals which one may suppose were the offerings of
enthusiastic admirers' rather than the hard-won emblems of victory,
for the wearers were quite unknown among international skaters."
The opening scene of the second act of"The Price Of Peace" which played at the Drury Lane Theatre in the autumn, which was set at a skating carnival at the Niagara Rink. Photo courtesy Victoria & Albert Museum.
A skating club rather unimaginatively named The Niagara Club was formed in 1895. The club's chief objects were running the rink on Sundays and organizing a bandy team. A Hungarian band hired to play for the club's figure skating sessions and only 'the best sort' were permitted to join. Those with affiliations to the club included the son of the late Lord Chief Justice - the Hon. Gilbert Coleridge, Lady Francis Hope, Lord Cardross, Countess Cairns, Daisy, Princess of Pless, the Hon. Mrs. Grosvenor, Lady Norreys and Lady Fee Sturt. Others who frequented the rink were Lady Randolph Churchill, Lady Helen Vincent, Prince Dimitry Soltykoff, Lord Alwyn Compton, Prince Victor Duleep 'Tulip' Singh and the Duchess of Wellington and her husband the Duke, known in social circles as 'Spurgeon' due to his corpulence. One of the skaters at Niagara Hall who was held in the highest regard was the Gertrude (Batson) Brooke, the Viscountess Colebrooke.
Left: Horace S. Lewis, one of Niagara Hall's 'skating professors'. Right: A smartly dressed woman sketched at Niagara Hall.
During The Niagara Club's three-hour sessions, every half an hour a gong sounded for the skaters to reverse and skate in the opposite direction. Combined figures were popular. However, the groups of four or six skaters who performed these figures often were interrupted by 'intruders' and their figures were ruined. Legitimate figure skaters had to contend with the fact that they were often interrupted by high society types who were more interested in one-upping each other with their latest velvet, chinchilla and sable skating dresses and playing cricket on the ice than learning how to 'once back and meet and half double' in the English Style.
Two of the criticisms the rink faced were that the looky-loo's outnumbered the skaters and the ice was extraordinarily hard. In February of 1895, Lewis Alexander Richard Wallace - writing under his pseudonym Oxonian - remarked, "There were comparatively few skaters, the greater number of people having evidently looked in to see the evolutions of the amateurs and experts, and to meet their friends, chat and have tea. The latter was probably in most cases the influencing motive, just as it is at Lords' And Henley. By a simple addition-sum I have come to the conclusion that their takings certainly exceed £100 a day. To do the management justice I must add that they have certainly solved Shakespeare's problem of 'smoothing the ice'. For the first five minutes or so one is inclined to agree with the Bard of Avon that it is in truth 'wasteful and ridiculous excess.' The surface is extraordinarily, smooth, hard and unyielding, and unless your skates are in prime condition you stand no chance at all. You actually have to 'learn' the ice before you can play tricks on it."
Stephen T. Dadd illustration of the 1902 World Championships
A number of figure skating exhibitions and competitions of importance were held at Niagara Hall.
On February 21 and 22, 1900, the National Skating Association hosted an international competition in the Continental Style at the rink, the prize being a silver cup presented by the management. The winner was Ulrich Salchow. In May of that year, Henning Grenander and Edgar Syers gave midnight exhibitions in front of Prince Soltykoff, Lord Altlumney, Prince Victor Dhuleep Singh and Lord Rosslyn. The 1902 World Figure Skating Championships were not only attended by the King and Queen, Prince and Princess Of Wales, Princess Victoria and Price and Princess Charles of Denmark, but they marked an important historic first in figure skating history, when Madge Syers became the first woman to compete at an ISU Championship. She finished second to Ulrich Salchow, but her participation ultimately precipitated a rule change which gave women their own ISU Championship.
Sadly, the ice rink at Niagara Hall closed its doors the spring after the 1902 World Championships, no longer able to compete with The National Skating Palace and Prince's Skating Club in Knightsbridge. The rink's swan song was a farewell benefit organized by the rink's professors, which featured a waltzing competition.
The four hundred by thirty-eight "Niagara In Winter" canvas was sold off for two hundred pounds; the carpets and walnut and mahogany furniture unloaded at an auction. The City & Suburban Electric Carriage Co. bought the property and converted it to a parking garage with quarters for chauffeurs. Niagara Hall was demolished in the early seventies, its unique place in skating history all but forgotten.
Prince's Skating Club
Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine
""When nobody has time to think,
No time for Prince's Skating Rink,
Where nearly all one's time is spent
From autumn now, right up to Lent." - Reginald Lucas, "A Trilogy" from "Poems And Verses", 1897
"Yesterday, Sunday (yes, Sunday! Is not London getting very sacrilegious?) I went to Prince's Skating Club with Mrs. Marvin. There were about a hundred people on the ice, but I only saw three really smart women there. Three percent; small return, isn't it?... Among the things I jotted down in my notebook yesterday is that the skating Englishwoman seems to have a fondness for feathery hats and anachronistical streamers. Also that flirting is more briskly practiced around the rink and in the tea-room than on the ice itself, the exertion of skating being, perhaps, a sufficient safety valve for the energy of the skaters." - Marthe Troly-Curtin, "Phrynette", 1911
Prince's Skating Club on a 1916 map of London, England
On November 4, 1896, Prince's Skating Club opened its doors for the first time. Located on Hill Street, between Montpelier Square and Knightsbridge, the private skating club soon became one of Westminster's most popular attractions of the Edwardian era.
An account from the November 6, 1896 issue of "The Morning Post" recalled, "The building was formerly somewhat of an eyesore to the neighbourhood, but it has now been embellished, and the interior is no longer recognizable. As decorated by Mr. Bockbinder, it offers a vast interior, illuminated by electric arc lights, the side panels filled with large paintings representing the Nile, the Ganges, Montreal, Gibraltar, and Westminster, with a gallery running round it arranged as a lounge, with small tables for tea, while attached to the main building is a house which will serve the purposes of a club. The skating surface is about 200 ft. long by 50 ft. wide, and the ice is made under the superintendence and by the parents of M.E. de Stoppani, whose system has been in successful operation for several years at the Palais de Glace and the Pôle Nord in Paris, as well as in Brussels. The difference between the new rink and those already existing in London consists mainly in the shape. Both Niagara and Hengler's are circular, and this must necessarily entail a loss of space in the centre, whereas the new rink is rectangular, and its length permits a great swing from end to end. It is not intended to throw the rink open to the public; it will be connected with a club, there being two sessions each day except Sundays, when the club will be open only from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. On three evenings in the week there will also be night meetings, and of course music will be provided... The season is to last up to Easter, and after that the hall will be available for bazaars and similar entertainments, and as it is the largest of its kind in West London it will probably be in great request." A year later, the "Pall Mall Gazette" also noted, "The building is a very attractive one, having a series of panels representing scenes in Egypt and on the Mediterranean painted on either side. At one end the Blue Viennese band plays excellent music, and at the other there is a refreshment-room, whence tea and cake can very served to any part of the building."
Prince's Skating Club was actually an extension of Prince's Club, a gentlemen's sporting club founded in the early 1850's. The name 'Prince's' traced back to the 'old' Prince's Club's founders James and George Prince, who once owned a wine and cigar shop on Regent Street. The financiers behind Prince's Skating Club shelled out over forty thousand pounds during the construction process - no paltry sum in those days! The original committee behind the club included the Countess and Earl of Minto, the Marchionesses of Lansdowne and Londonderry and the Hon. Alfred Lyttleton, M.P. When the club first opened, advertisements were placed in "The Sporting Life" inviting potential (male) members to apply by letter to the Club's Secretary. Women could ultimately obtain membership by being "nominated by two lady members and seconded by another; and one black ball excludes. For men are deemed sufficient preparatory for election."
Left: Miss Somerville and Mr. Neilson. Right: Victor Bulwer-Lytton 2nd Earl of Lytton
In Prince's Skating Club's early days, Montagu Sneade Monier-Williams warned, "It seems probable... that for an ice-rink to be a permanent financial success it needs to be large enough to minister to the pleasure of the public at large, as well as of figure-skaters. The former soon tire of skating round and round a limited area, and the latter cannot skate unless there is room for them to protect themselves from collisions with the unskilful." Monier-Williams' prediction didn't prove correct. It was the club's diversity that was its strength.
The habitués of the club were an unusual mix of members of the 'smart set' of London, curlers, bandy and hockey players and a who's who of figure skating. The likes of Victor Bulwer-Lytton, 2nd Earl of Lytton, Lord Brabazon, Lady Helen Vincent, the Viscountess Coke, the Hon. Lady Wenlock, the Duchess of Westminster, Lord and Lady Archibald Campbell, Lady Randolph Churchill and the Selfridge family mingled seamlessly with members of the Diplomatic Corps and the Brigade of Guards. Major F.G. Sharp, the father of 1939 European and World Champion Henry Graham Sharp, also skated there.
Henning Grenander, Madge and Edgar Syers, Bror Meyer, Dorothy Greenhough Smith, Phyllis (Squire) and James Johnson, Basil Williams, Albert March, Arthur Cumming, Gwendolyn Lycett, Kenneth Macdonald Beaumont, Herbert Ramon Yglesias, Horatio Tertuliano Torromé, Muriel Harrison, Mildred Allingham and T.D. Richardson, John Keiller Greig and Herbert J. Clarke were just some of the many eminent figure skaters who held memberships at the club.
Perennial British Champion John Keiller Greig pictured with H.W. Page at the 1910 British Championships. Greig was a tailor from Kinross, Scotland noted for his imposing build.
A 1911 article in "The Bellman" noted, "In the first place, it has always been a club; next, it has always been admirably managed, and its social side has been carefully balanced by a real keenness for proficiency in figure work. The result is to be seen at the international championships... where the English skaters, who were formerly almost unknown, now often outnumber all competitors."
Engravings of Madge and Edgar Syers, an anonymous 'lady skater' at Prince's
In its heyday, Prince's Skating Club championed progress in British figure skating. As the suffragette movement gained steam in England, female figure skaters finally began to make names for themselves. The Continental Style was embraced, and in turn, some practitioners of the stiff English Style largely shunned the rink altogether in favour of Swiss skating resorts where they were more welcome.
Skating fashion evolved at the club as well. Phyllis Johnson caused a minor scandal when she dared to wear a green velvet dress that barely reached the top of her boots, and society columns in newspapers were chock full of praise for the top hats and tails and elaborate dresses and hats worn by the club's members.
In his book "Ice Skating", T.D Richardson recalled, "The club was presided over by a debonair gentleman, The Hon. Algernon Grosvenor, an uncle of the Duke of Westminster, who was in every way fitted for the job. His method of running the club is illustrated by the following true story. Time and again he was being pestered by an over-dressed, be-ringed young gentleman who was allowed in, on a voucher, as to why, after two or three years, he was still not elected [as a member]. Said Mr. Grosvenor, 'My dear fellow, there are two lists of candidates for election, A and B - those on A get elected, those on B don't. Unfortunately for you, my dear fellow, your name is on B.' And that was that. Gone were the days of the heavy boot, brown or blank and the 'Dowler blade.' The building was warm, which meant that it was possible for the ladies to dress extremely smartly. Skates with high pillars up to 2 1/2 inches to which blades were fitted with rivets, black highly polished boots, sometimes of glacé kid, morning coats after luncheon, dinner jackets always on the club evenings. Such was the dress considered de rigeur at the turn of the century, and which, except that during the week, lounge suits for the gentlemen became permissible - but not on Sunday afternoon - lasted up to 1914 at Prince's Skating Club... Everyone, with of course varying degrees of success, tried hard to emulate the wonderful style of the graceful young athlete Grenander: in fact I think one is justified in saying that his extempore demonstrations on Sunday afternoon, when quite spontaneously, all the skaters would clear a space in the middle of the rink and, no matter who was giving the usual formal exhibition, Henning would signal to the orchestra, which would perform quietly some waltz or mazurka or other piece, and he would play about just as the mood and the music made him. There was no set 'programme', and what is more there was no jealousy or annoyance by the advertised exhibitioners - none I ever heard... It was an age of 'honour to whom honour is due' and everyone gave it to Henning, ungrudgingly."
Ice dancing also thrived. T.D. Richardson recalled, "It became the rage not only of the smart dilettante set but also of the leading figure skaters, who perfected the two dances [Waltz and Tenstep] which were considered to be in conformity with decorum, and were mainly used by them as a relaxation from their more serious skating."
Left: The Duchess Of Bedford. Right: An etching of skaters having tea at Prince's.
By 1901, Prince's Skating Club already had eight hundred members. Four years later, Adeline Marie Russell, Duchess Of Bedford took over proprietorship of the Club. after convincing her husband to take over the last eleven year's of the building's lease. This allowed "her to go skating alone whenever she wanted to," recalled John Ian Robert Russell, the thirteenth Duke of Bedford, in 1959. "My grandfather clearly pandered to her whims, as the cheque involved was well up in the five figures." The Duchess was an extremely enthusiastic skater, who earned the National Skating Association's Silver Medal.
March of suffragettes advertising the Women's Exhibition and Sale of Works in the Colours at Prince's Skating Club in 1909. Photo courtesy Museum Of London.
The rink remained in operation for five months of the year, with the facilities used for exhibitions during the off-season. A special condition attached to the skating club's license specified that during the off-season "only entertainments of a high-class character permitted, no intoxicating drinks to be sold on premises, and the premises to be closed at 11:30 p.m." In consequence, a 1909 suffragette exhibition at Prince's featured England's first soda fountain. Exhibitions of the International Society Of Sculptors, Painters and Graver and The Royal Photographic Society drew in thousands. A popular Cooking and Food Exhibition in the summer of 1901 put meat, flour, wheat, tinned and fresh fruits at the forefront. A militant suffragist group once held an exhibition there - a stark contrast to bazaars for the Hospital Of St. John and St. Elizabeth and an on-ice charity sale for Our Dumb Friends' League, where "women of rank and fashion acted as programme girls, skating with their wares among the spectators."
On a typical day at Prince's Skating Club, school and combined figures were practiced in the mornings. When the club re-opened for its afternoon session at 2:45, the band started to play and skaters practiced free skating and performed the Waltz and Tenstep in the 'enclosure', which is what the dance interval was called. The exception was those taking a lesson in the middle of the rink. The rink was particularly busy on Sunday afternoons. The ice at Prince's was then tended to by an ice maker and engineer named Mr. Nightingale, who was behind a failed ice rink in Southport. The club had its own pony named 'Tam' that pulled the ice plough.
Medallion presented to Billy Chambers in 1901
Lessons were offered by a unique group of 'skating professors' employed by the club to teach both legitimate figure skating and impart the basics to the 'smart set'. Brothers Bernard and Alex Adams, Walter William Brewer, Billy Chambers (who also taught in Switzerland), Christian Soldan and a Basque from Biarritz named Léonce Pesquier were among the instructors. They were the kind of 'society pets' that received jewelled cigarette cases at the end of each skating season.
Mrs. C.B. Wheeler
Mrs. C.B. Wheeler - one of the first female skating instructors in England - also worked at the club and was described as "the most patient of teachers." Mrs. Wheeler and her fellow female instructors taught in a uniform that consisted of a blue skirt, scarlet corsage and turban.
Illustrations of competitors at the 1906 and 1907 British Championships. Among those pictured are Dorothy Greenhough Smith, Albert March, Herbert Ramon Yglesias, John Keiller Greig and Horatio Tertuliano Torromé
A number of important competitions were held at Prince's Skating Club, including the figure skating events at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games where Madge Syers was victorious. The rink's annual competitions for seniors and juniors, the Amateur Figure Skating Championship of Great Britain for the Swedish Challenge Cups and valsing contests with prizes presented by the Duchess of Bedford all drew in huge crowds. The latter contests were held in conjunction with the Swedish Challenge Cup and the rink's annual Instructors' Benefit Carnival.
Competitors and judges at the 1908 British Championships
One valsing contest, won by Phyllis Johnson and John Keiller Greig, had no less than forty-eight couples entered! Another for children under fifteen, won by a young Mildred Allingham (later Richardson), earned the winner a large cup inscribed by Joseph the Marquis de Mouzilly St. Mars.
Sample marking card for valsing competitions at Prince's
By 1912, Prince's Skating Club had become choosier than ever. Edward Walford later recalled, "Prince's was always rather select and exclusive, but latterly its exclusiveness increased, the price of admission being raised, and all sorts of stringent regulations being introduced by the committee, in order to keep it 'select.' So 'select' indeed had it became, that a cricketing husband, though an old subscriber, might not take his wife into its precincts, nor could a skating wife introduce her husband, or even her daughter. Nay, further, an edict was issued from the despots of Prince's 'that no lady was to be admitted at all unless she had been presented at Court.' Of course, therefore, the members became 'very select': no 'nobodies' were there; 'Lady Clara Vere de Vere' had the skating-rink all to herself, or shared it only with other 'daughters of a hundred earls'. How delightful! Yes, delightful for Lady Clara and her friend, but not so much for the outside public."
A 1906 postcard illustrating the 'proper sort of woman' that Prince's Skating Club attracted
In 1913, Prince's Skating Club found itself in the middle of a controversy when the Duchess of Bedford flatly refused to pay thirteen pounds of the rink's taxes "on the ground that women were not represented in Parliament." She was a member of the Women's Tax Resistance League, a group associated with the Women's Social and Political Union which had a 'no vote, no taxes' stance in line with the suffragettes. To pay her debt, a seventy-two ounce silver cup awarded as a prize for figure skating contests was confiscated from her home. It was sold at auction... and bought by the Women's Tax Resistance League's secretary Mrs. Kineton Parker for twenty guineas!
During the Great War, Prince's Skating Club ceased operations at as a skating rink. The venue instead played host to Princess Clémentine and Prince Victor Napoléon of Belgium's War Exhibition, organized in aid of the Belgian Red Cross Anglo-Belgian Committee and the Economy Exhibition, which offered suggestions on how to economize to those on the home front. In 1917, the Red Cross took over the Club for storage. It ultimately closed its doors for good. The building was occupied by Daimler Hire as a depot for chauffeur-driven limousines. The façade of the building was kept until its demolition in the seventies.
LORDS AND LADY'S MAIDS
Skaters on the Marietta River in Ohio, 1905. Photo courtesy University Of Cincinnati.
"Skating in Paris is one of the manias of the upper classes and always has been... The Empress Eugénie started the fashion years ago and it has never waned since." - "The Boston Globe", January 24, 1904
Prince's Skating Club, the Niagara Skating Rink and National Skating Palace were unique in that they allowed the upper and middle classes to mingle rather seamlessly. Lords waltzed with doctor's wives and university professors debated the correct technique of counters and brackets with Countesses. Yet, it's important to understand that the middle class skaters who gained access to the private Clubs (either by their sheer renown as skaters or by social or familial connections) simply wouldn't have advanced in the sport as they did as skaters without the privilege of membership.
"The Prolonged Frost: A London Skating Pond" by Lucien Davis, 1902
In researching figure skating in the Edwardian era, we often really only read about the rich and for this there's an important reason - The 'average Joe' wouldn't have had the opportunity to receive expert instruction from the professors the Club employed. They also wouldn't have had the means to travel to Switzerland to 'winter' in Davos or St. Moritz, where a who's who of figure skating shared the ice and exchanged ideas. For some, their only connection to the sport was in clearing the ice for the upper classes.
In Victorian London, The Wimbledon Skating Club would hire over one hundred men after a snowstorm to act as human Zambonis with 'scows and snow boxes'. These men earned paltry sums for their back-breaking work and few could even afford an orange to skate combined figures around. Some barely made enough to keep themselves out of poorhouses.
Limerick from "The Sphinx And The Mummy: A Book Of Limericks" by Carol Vox, illustrated by H. Boylston Dummer, 1909
Yet, through reading books and instructional articles, countless Joe's and Jill's whose stories are lost to the sands of times learned grapevines and 'the Flying Mercury' on frozen ponds, rivers and bogs - often wearing hand-me-down skates. They played tag and amused themselves with candle, egg on a spoon and potato races and threw gymkhanas with modest winter picnics, ice waltzing and hoop races. Gold rush city Rossland played host to one of British Columbia's first covered rinks, frequented mainly by the working class. The Countess of Minto described it as "a splendid building where many may seek relaxation and exercise during the inevitable trials and excitement of a miner's existence." A short story by Edith Wyatt that appeared in a Colorado newspaper in 1902 shared the tale of a young Jewish immigrant who died valiantly trying to save a local boy who fell through the ice. Wyatt's hero was a rare lower-class skating expert who was always "showing off, cutting figure eights in the ice and skating backward with his scarf floating in the breeze."
Young men from America skating during the Edwardian era. Photos courtesy University Of North Carolina at Greensboro (left) and New York Historical Society (right).
Scullery maids, housekeepers, cooks, footmen and grooms who were prudent enough to scrimp and save used part of their meagre pay packet to buy skates, taking to the ice on frozen ponds and canals on their one day off a month. Many in service were exposed to skating through their employers. A lady's maid would dress the lady of the house for a skating party and a valet would be responsible for carrying and tying his master's skates.
Back in the Victorian era, the reclusive 5th Duke Of Portland, William John Cavendish-Bentick-Scott, despised being seen by his female servants so much that if he passed them in the corridors, he sent them outside to skate on his private skating rink for his amusement, as a form of punishment. The eccentric Henry Pelham Archibald Douglas Pelham-Clinton, 7th Duke of Newcastle-under-Lyme also demanded that his servants skate for his entertainment, like court jesters. Many servants who couldn't afford skates enjoyed 'sliding', which is exactly what it sounds like - sliding on the ice in their everyday footwear.
'Sliding' would have been the first introduction to the ice of many young people. Unlike today, where skaters start taking lessons at a very young age and are 'at their prime' as athletes in their teenage years, young people would have allotted precious little time to amusements such as skating. Children were taught "to be seen and not heard" and to do what they were told. In the best households, that meant listening to nannies and governesses and focusing on their education. In poorer households, children were expected to work from a very young age to support their families. An afternoon spent skating would have been a rare escape from a life of drudgery and obligation.
Top: Dora Miller and Ray Gurney skating in Massachusetts. Photo courtesy Boston Public Library. Middle: Illustration of Toronto's Walter Monroe jumping barrels and a chair, 1901. Bottom: A group of women skating on a frozen pond in Beaton, a gold rush town in British Columbia, in 1904.
During the first decade of the twentieth century, there were nine million new immigrants to America. Many came from great poverty, hoping for a better life in the New World. They brought with them their own traditions and pastimes. Among the modest possessions of many European immigrants were often pairs of handmade skates. Relegated to ponds in the poorer parts of port cities, Jewish, Catholic and Protestant immigrants from Austria, Poland, Ireland and Italy all co-mingled on frozen ponds, canals and bogs.
Top: Skaters on the skating pond in Central Park in New York City in 1903. Bottom: A skating exhibition at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Michigan in 1909.
While the skating haunts of the upper class were the picture of decorum, the crowded skating ponds of Joe Public at times got a little rowdy. In December of 1909, one New York City mother warned, "The cautious mother does not let her child go skating without a bodyguard or servants" for fear of "the children of the rich [meeting] the children of the tenements."
In December 1910, John Piper of Omaha, Nebraska pleaded guilty to the charge of assault and battery when he struck a laundry worker named W.H. Mick across the eye with his skate in a jealous rage while skating in Hanscom Park. On December 16, 1910, the "Omaha Daily Bee" noted, "The prisoner explained that Mick had become escort to a young woman to whom Piper was giving attention. The disappointed swain then followed the pair from the park and attacked Mick at Twenty-ninth and Castellar streets. He was fined $25 and costs by Judge Crawford." I don't know about you, but twenty-five dollars seems like a pretty light sentence for slashing someone in the eye with a skate.
1905 postcard with art by O. Kendall inscribed "Father O'Rooke had never been skating before, and found it somewhat difficult to retain an upright position."
These asides notwithstanding, without the influence of the landed gentry, figure skating simply wouldn't have advanced during the Edwardian era as it did. Gilbert John Eliot-Murray-Kynynmond and Mary Caroline Grey, the daughter of Sir Charles Grey who once served as secretary to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, made innumerable contributions to the sport. The Earl and Countess of Minto spent the first two years of their marriage in Canada, and were titled Lord and Lady Meglund at the time. The Earl served as military secretary to Governor-General Lord Lansdowne, famous for his 'Arctic Cremornes' - torch-lit evening skating parties with military bands - during Sir John A. MacDonald's second term as Prime Minister.
The Countess and Earl Of Minto with Major Lawrence Drummond, the Earl Of Minto's Military Secretary, January 1899. Photo courtesy Library And Archives Canada.
While in Ottawa, the Minto's skated at the Rideau Hall, where the Lord and Lady Dufferin had held weekly skating parties during the 1870's. Upon returning to England, they both became members of the Wimbledon Skating Club. The Countess received her first instruction in hand-in-hand skating by Algernon Grosvenor and skated by moonlight with the Earl. The couple often frequented England's early indoor rinks - the National Skating Palace and the ice rink at Niagara Hall. The Earl was said to have been a proficient skater; The Countess quite competent.
The Countess of Minto and her son Lord Meglund. Photo courtesy Library And Archives Canada.
When the Minto's returned to Canada in 1898 when the Earl was appointed Governor-General early in Sir Wilfrid Laurier's term as Prime Minister, they brought their enthusiasm for skating with them. They revived Lord Lansdowne's popular Rideau Hall skating parties and soon had everyone who was anyone in Ottawa lacing up and learning how to cut an outside edge. William Lyon Mackenzie King, future Prime Minister Of Canada, was a fixture at the Minto's Rideau Hall skating parties. In her diary, socialite Ethel Chadwick complained that King was "stilted and priggish... a real butterer-up" and that he had no problem complementing her dresses, but never asked her to skate the waltz. "Fool," she chuckled. "If only he would ask me to skate instead of jawing."
The Earl Of Minto. Photo courtesy Library And Archives Canada.
Sadly, The Minto's were disappointed in the standard of skating in Ottawa as compared to England. The Countess bemoaned, "They are far behind the 'Old Country' and European countries in figure skating as an art - and it really is an art requiring a great deal of knowledge and perseverance." She found a competent waltz partner in George Meagher, who was considered one of the finest professional skaters in the world during the late Victorian era. Eleanor Kingsford recalled, "She skimmed around the figure eight so gracefully, always with the toe of her balance foot point down, and with the others waltzed so divinely."
The Countess of Minto. Photo courtesy Library And Archives Canada.
On January 29, 1904, The Earl travelled by sleigh from Rideau Hall to Parliament Hill, where he had a morning meeting with Lieutenant Colonel D.T. Irwin, Ailwyn Creighton, Vernon C. Nicholson and Ormonde Butler Haycock's father Richard, to organize the Minto Skating Club, today one of the oldest existing clubs in Canada. That afternoon, the men skated together at the Rideau Rink. It was common for the Earl to fit a skating session into his daily schedule in winter. Soon after, the Countess set to work organizing a committee which established a "small examination" or entrance test for potential (well-heeled) members. So obsessed were The Minto's with skating that Parliamentary Librarian Martin Griffin bemoaned, "The skating people seem to be the only ones Their Excellencies care for."
It was the Countess Of Minto who recruited the Minto Skating Club's first Honorary President, Sir Louis Henry Davies, a former Supreme Court justice who represented Prince Edward Island in the Canadian Parliament. The Countess' one-time partner George Meagher became the Club's first instructor, charging twenty-five cents a lesson. He dedicated his 1900 book "Lessons In Skating" to her, stating that she was "in my opinion the most graceful lady skater in the world.
The Minto's provided prizes for figure skating competitions as early as 1903. A Canadian paper of the era read, "At some date in February hereafter to be named, Her Excellency the Countess of Minto proposes to offer a prize for ladies' skating to be called the 'Countess of Minto's Prize'. The object of the competition will be to encourage skating, especially as regards an exact execution of the edges, control of those edges and the necessary position of the body to render them possible, in connection with the large curves which add to the beauty and grace of skating. Each figure will be skated to a centre. 'His Excellency's Prize' will be awarded for the most graceful performance of the following hand-in-hand events: Waltzing, swinging threes, rockers on right foot and rockers on left or reverse three on left and right."
The Countess and Earl of Minto skating on the Ottawa River in 1901. Photo courtesy Library And Archives Canada.
In 1905, the Rideau Skating Club and Minto Skating Club merged, and the Earl became a patron of the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada. That same year, the Minto's gifted a cup for a championship in singles skating (which meant men's singles) and two for pairs to the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada. In 1908 the Earl Grey, the succeeding Governor-General, became the patron of the Earl Grey Skating Club in Montreal an offered a trophy of his own to the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada for best aggregate marks in singles, pairs and fours by a team from a club at the Canadian Championships. The quest for these much-sought after trophies played an important role in Canada's early prominence in fours skating.
The Earl and Countess continued their involvement with figure skating upon their return to England. They both continued to take a keen interest in the Club they founded while in Canada. Despite the fact she severely injured her leg when she fell skating in 1904, the Countess regularly skated at Prince's, where she was once partnered by future skating judge, historian and Olympian T.D. Richardson. In a letter penned while she was living at Minto Castle on the Scottish border, she once remarked, "It is wise to give our children the opportunity of enjoying this splendid pastime which much rank amongst the foremost of sports, combining as it does so much of science, strength and skill." The Countess went on to celebrate her seventieth birthday at the Westminster Ice Club in 1929. Eleven years before her death, she wrote, "I waltzed to favourite tunes and skimmed the whole length of the rink on a back rocker, bringing back the happy remembrance of youthful pleasure."
The Second Earl Of Lytton. Photos courtesy "Vanity Fair", September 1906, Elaine Hooper, BIS Archive.
The second Earl Of Lytton was as famous for his passion for skating in England as the Minto's were for the same in the Dominion. Born in Shimla, India in 1876, Victor Alexander George Robert Bulwer-Lytton served as British governor of Bengal in the roaring twenties. Before securing a post with the Admirality during The Great War, the Earl Of Lytton studied at Eton and Trinity College at Cambridge University. It has been suggested that he first learned to skate while travelling abroad while serving in the Diplomatic Service as a young man.
The Second Earl Of Lytton
During the Edwardian era, The Earl Of Lytton was a dapper twenty something who regularly frequented the skating resorts of Switzerland. A fixture at Prince's Skating Club in London, the Earl sponsored cups for many of England and Switzerland's early figure skating competitions. He was all by accounts a fine English Style skater and placed third in the International Free Skating Competition of the St. Moritz Skating Association in 1909, mentored by Muriel Harrison. The Lytton Challenge Cup, an English Style competition he established prior to The Great War, continued to be held at Wengen and Murren until the thirties.
The Earl Of Lytton played an important role in bridging the gap between the high society types and elite skaters who mingled at the skating clubs of the day and rarely missed a figure skating competition. The Hon. Irene Constance Lawley, who competed at the 1914 World Championships in St. Moritz, was his wife Pamela's bridesmaid at their wedding in 1902. Irene was the only child of Beilby Lawley, the 3rd Baron Wenlock and Constance (Lascelles) Lawley, the daughter of the 4th Earl of Harewood. In the 1890's, her father served as both a Member of Parliament and Governor of Madras.
Left: Irene Lawley. Right: Irene Lawley and the Earl Of Lytton.
Not only was Irene a young woman of social standing, amateur actress and the heiress to Escrick Park in Yorkshire, she was a habitué of Prince's and the fashionable skating resorts of Switzerland in the early twentieth century. In 1910, she finished second in the junior pairs competition at Prince's with the Earl Of Lytton as her partner. In 1913, she gave an exhibition at the Manchester Ice Palace and in 1914, her family financed her trip to the World Championships in St. Moritz. Needless to say, she finished dead last on all but one judge's scorecard. Only months later, she was sidelined with a case of the measles. During the Great War, she nursed with the Red Cross, hosted benefits for Belgian refugees and organized sporting activities for wounded soldiers at the Escrick Red Cross Hospital. For her efforts, she was invested in 1918 as Dame of Grace, Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem - a rare honour for someone so young. Clementine Churchill marvelled at how a woman who she once considered "rather pretty and fluffy and used to be rather silly" had transformed herself during the War: "She gets up at the crack of dawn and nurses all day at a hospital and in her off time she drives herself in a little open car. She took me home last night thro' the pitch-black streets driving most skilfully... She wears white fur clothes... and altogether she looked rather attractive but very overworked and unhappy and then I recollected that Lord Vernon whom she loved and Charles Lister who loved her are both dead." Lister's correspondence to Irene from Constantinople, published after his death, affirmed his fondness for her. Following the Great War, Irene married Colin Gurdon Forbes Adam, the Private Secretary to the Governor of Bombay, spent many years living in India and had four children. She passed away in 1976.
Lady Helen Vincent
Daphne FitzGeorge, the granddaughter of the late Duke Of Cambridge, was a regular at Prince's, as were the Marquis of Headfort, Lady Rosslyn, the Duchess Of Westminster and Lady Helen Vincent, the daughter of the Earl Of Feversham. Lady Helen Vincent taught at Prince's and can be credited as one of England's first female skating instructors.
Skating was even a favourite pastime of members of the Royal Family. In his younger years, Edward VII himself was reportedly one of the first person to lace up his skates when the upper lake at Sandringham froze. During The Great Frost Of 1895, Edward even brought a team of hockey players from Sandringham to London to square off against a team from The House Of Commons on the lake on the grounds of Buckingham Palace. In his later years, he generally refrained from skating but likely enjoyed watching his family take to the ice. In January of 1908, "The Illustrated Sporting And Dramatic News" reported, "At Sandringham the ice was bearing, and the members of our Royal Family disported themselves gaily on the upper lake, which is close to the house, lying below the high terrace and overlooked by the windows of the Queen's own private apartments. She is herself a fine performer on the blades, and is very fond of skating. Princess Victoria skates, and so does the Prince of Wales. The teaching of the young Princes and Princess Mary was the great interest of the ice, and very thoroughly have the Royal Children enjoyed it. The lower lake does not bear quite so soon, as there is a slow stream running through it. It was open to all those living on the estate. It is near York Cottage, and is about a stone's throw from the other lake." Skating became an entrenched tradition of the Royals, so much so that in 1933, Queen Elizabeth II herself (then Princess) took private lessons from an instructor named George Marples on the small rink of the balcony of the Park Lane Ice Club.
Left: Illustration of a well-dressed skater at the Palais de Glace in Paris by impressionist artist Daniel de Losques, 1902. Right: Monsieur Champion, Baroness Mathilde Hannah von Rothschild and Baron Jean Roissart du Bellet skating on the Bois de Boulogne in Paris in January of 1903. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.
A year before New York millionaire Irving Brokaw made history as the first American skater to compete at the Olympics, a little-known instructor at the Duquesne Garden ice rink in Pittsburgh used skating as a springboard to high society. Willard Hay Bratton, a handsome skater from Flatbush, salaciousously (for the time) eloped with a widow ten years his senior named Ida Wainwright. Mrs. Wainwright had inherited a two and a half million dollar fortune when her first husband died. Bratton had wooed her during a skating lesson and the couple's "romance on the ice" became a sensation in newspapers from Long Island to Los Angeles. Even the class-conscious Edwardians loved a good scandal and unsurprisingly, many rinks soon became filled with men and women who, perhaps looking for (taboo) romance, instead fell in love with the art of figure skating. A DIFFERENCE OF STYLES
An unidentified Continental Style skater on the Bois de Boulogne in Paris in 1908. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.
"I should like to impress on those who are going to learn to skate in the International Style that all the positions they are taught to place themselves in are not merely poses, assumed for effect, and in order to look nice... Every position assumed by expert International skaters has, however, a definite object, and is the position which long experience has proved to be the easiest, and that which is most conducive to the holding of a correct balance on any particular edge or turn... The reader should learn the correct positions from the beginning, so that when he reaches the stage when they are essential, they will have become easy and natural to him." - Dorothy Greenhough Smith, "Winter Sports Review", September 1912
A recurring talking point amongst figure skaters during the Edwardian era were the differences between the English and Continental Styles. Until the very end of the Victorian era, the stiff, almost military English Style ruled supreme in Great Britain. In North America, the popular method of 'fancy skating' focused more so on the print of the figures carved on the ice than the form with which they were executed. There was very little regard for posture or grace whatsoever, and so this approach - which some called the American Style - was in essence not a 'style' at all, but a lack thereof.
In the late Victorian era, a small handful of European skaters, including The Beissbarth Brothers from Nurembourg and Dr. John N. Sandblom from Stockholm, demonstrated the Continental Style in America. To say their efforts were unappreciated would be an understatement - the Beissbarth Brothers were openly mocked.
Fleming Williams illustrations of the Continental (left) and English (right) Styles
Jackson Haines' visit to England in 1864 hadn't done much to interest Britons in the Continental Style either, but decades later when the National Skating Palace played host to the 1898 World Championships the Victorians were absolutely enthralled when Sweden's Henning Grenander demonstrated the evolution of Haines' style. Grenander's move to England, coupled with NSA office-holders Edgar Syers and Herbert Ramon Yglesias' efforts, led the British campaign for the adoption of the Continental Style. Countless skaters who 'wintered' on the Continent gained exposure to this 'new' way of skating which was spreading like wildfire.
A group of English Style skaters in Switzerland
One of those skaters, Boston's George Henry Browne learned to skate in the Continental Style in Switzerland from no less an expert than Ulrich Salchow himself. In 1908, he organized exhibitions at Cambridge Skating Club, Brae Burn Country Club and Skating Club of Brookline in Massachusetts where Karl Zenger of Munich and Irving Brokaw demonstrated the Continental Style and J. Frank Bacon demonstrated the 'old' American Style. A report that appeared in "The Boston Globe" noted that at Cambridge, "Bacon went through the old American style figures, which were small and are quickly executed... Zengler used the International association style, which shows splendid poise of arms and limbs. Brokaw adapted himself to the new International association style and he and Mr. Zengler did many figures together."
C. Stanley Rogers, another American who wintered in Switzerland, made similar efforts to 'spread the Continental gospel' in Philadelphia. George Henry Browne described the 'ramrod' English Style as having "a sort of poker elegance which is the reverse of graceful." He added, "The rules of American and Continental Style are... directly opposed to those of English. The American bends his knee as deliberately as the Englishman straightens his; he lets the unemployed leg hang away from the employed; and he uses his arms to avoid or counter-balance this strayed foot."
Rules of Continental Style figure skating, from Edgar and Madge Syers' "Book Of Winter Sports"
As Continental Style skating made serious inroads in Great Britain and North America, English Style skaters were grudgingly forced to practice almost exclusively in Switzerland. This was largely because English Style skaters required a large surface of ice, undisturbed by others, to perform their combined figures and this simply wasn't possible in most crowded indoor rinks. A rare exception to this was the in 1908, when a spring snowstorm walloped England but gave English Style skaters the opportunity to practice outdoors in their home country.
Top: English Style skaters on Earlsfield Lake, Wimbledon in 1908. Middle: A pair of smartly-dressed Continental Style skaters depicted on a 1908 postcard. Bottom: Magic lantern slide of English Style skaters in Grindelwald, 1901.
While Davos and St. Moritz - two of figure skating's 'capitals' - were a melting pot of English and Continental skaters, others almost exclusively catered to one Style. Lenzerheide, Kandersteg, Gsteig bei Gstaad, Grindelwald, Château-d'Oex, Montana and Morgins were firmly English. Wengen, Engelberg, Andermatt and Zweisimmen were Continental. Villars, which had the second or third largest rink in Switzerland, started off exclusively English. By the late Edwardian era, it had set up separate enclosures for Continental skating and waltzing. As there were often any number of qualified judges wintering in Davos, St. Moritz and Villars, tests in both styles were usually offered weekly.
An English Style combined figure from Henry C. Lowther's 1902 book "Combined Figure-Skating"
As one might imagine, an almost forced exile to Switzerland made many disciples of the English Style quite resentful towards Continental Style skaters. Margaret Bland Jameson, an English Style skater who began skating in Davos in 1902, later wrote to British skating historian Dennis Bird: "To us sober English-style skaters - with our severely-controlled movements, these exuberant [Continental] skaters seemed to be showing off and performing circus stunts. We looked askance at their black tunics and tight-fitting breeches, trimmed with Astrakhan fur. Discourteously, and not to their faces, we called them 'lion tamers'... There really was a deep feeling that amounted to animosity... Our efforts at combined figures must have appeared joyless and solemn to the [Continental] skaters, just as their efforts at spins seemed to us grotesque."
Artist George Flemwell who stuck to the English resort at Morgins, remarked, "The main difference between the two schools is ethical. The foreigner, when he wishes to make a '3' turn, waves his arms, kicks his leg into the air, sways his body, and in general advertises his skill with no little success. The ladies stand round and applaud, while the English skater curls a contemptuous upper lip. Not for him the vulgar réclame. Body stiff, unemployed leg gummed firmly into his trousers, arms rigid... a twinkle of the shoulder blade... a slight movement of the little finger... and the hardest of 'B' turns is a thing of the discreetly successful past... no ladies stop and applaud... only the initiated can detect the amazing skill involved in this modest performance. The aim of the Continental school is to emphasize apparent difficulty. The ideal of the English school is to conceal difficulty. They skate for the joy of the thing, careless of applause. The strong silent reserve of the Briton that scorns vulgar advertisement finds perfect expression in the sedate, dignified curves of the English school... I hope I have made myself clear."
Top: A postcard depicting an English Style skater in Grindelwald. Bottom: Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin skating in the Continental Style.
British author Henry C. Lowther penned a series of instructional books in 1901 and 1902 called "Principles Of Skating Turns", "Edges And Striking" and "Combined Figure-Skating". All three books cost a shilling apiece and aimed to educate skaters solely in the English Style. Perhaps alluding to the Continental Style, he remarked, ""It is hoped that the skating public may prove rather to be imbued with the desire of the Athenians of old to 'hear some new thing' than impregnated with the spirit of the doctrine 'omne ignotum pro horribile.'"
French engraving of skaters in Chamonix, 1904. All but perhaps one or two skaters appear to be skating in the Continental Style.
One of the few writers of the time who seemed to be able to provide a balanced and fair view of 'both sides' was Edward Frederic Benson, a novelist and Gold Medallist in the English Style. He stated, "The two styles have nothing whatever to do with one another. They are both practiced by steel-shod feet on ice, and there the resemblance ends... Rightly or wrongly it has been imagined from time to time that there was some sort of rivalry between the two schools, and skaters of one persuasion have been supposed to try to advance the interests of their own faith at the expense of the other. Such rivalry is as futile as it is unreasonable, for there is no question whatever that both will continue to flourish, and rivalry between them is as foolish as would be rivalry between the two styles of football. If such existed in the past, there is good reason to suppose that it exists no longer, and at Davos, St. Moritz, Celerina and other places where skating flourishes... the two schools are cheek and jowl on the ice, their several votaries lie down together, so to speak (after a fall), like the lion and the lamb. For since there is plenty of room for both schools, and since nobody in his senses, who knew anything about either, would deny the extraordinary pleasure to be got out of each, or refuse to acknowledge the high standard of skill which fine skating in either style demands, it is difficult to see how any rivalry can exist. Neither of them lives at the expense of the other, nor desires the demise of the other, nor thrives by the other's decay, which would be the only excuse that a disciple of the one school could have for disparaging or injuring the interests of the other. And no such excuse exists." This statement, as well-meaning and balanced as it was, wasn't entirely accurate. By 1908 (the year Edward Frederic Benson penned this) English Style skating was already, according British skating historian and judge T.D. Richardson, "on its last legs". GOVERNANCE
"Skating, as an art, is of modern growth. It possesses a fascination peculiar to itself, extremely difficult to define or to compare with the pleasure derived from the pursuit of other sports of games. The skater when cutting a free intaglio in the ice experiences the same sense of gratification as the painter or sculptor when depicting or creating some beautiful subject in the seclusion of the studio. If, fettered to the ordinary means of progression, one should stand on the edge of lake or rink endeavoring to attract the attention of a skster deep in the intricacies of his art, he is found as abstracted from the matters of ordinary existence as was the philosophic Newton, who remained so absorbed by his problems as to be unconscious of such trivialities as the flight of time or the necessity for aliment." - Edgar Syers, "The Badminton Magazine Of Sports And Pastimes", 1904
Valentine's Day and Christmas cards, 1909
During the Edwardian era, the International Skating Union was presided over by Lieutenant Colonel Viktor Gustaf Balck, a Swedish former military gymnastics instructor who was one of the original members of the International Olympic Committee. Balck had been elected as the ISU's President in 1895 and actually served as one the Svenska Skridskoförbundet's four Presidents during this era. During Balck's thirty year reign as ISU President, the World Championships were held in Sweden no less than five times - a number only tied by Austria-Hungary - drawing some to perceive a conflict of interest between his involvements with both the Swedish federation and the ISU.
An incredible group of Edwardian era figure skating champions, taken in Manchester in 1910. Back row: James Henry Johnson, Phyllis (Squire) Johnson, Madge Syers and Henning Grenander. Front row: Gustav Hügel, Ulrich Salchow and Edgar Syers. Photo courtesy BIS Archive.
Speaking of conflict of interests, Ulrich Salchow, the World Champion for practically the entire decade King Edward reigned, began serving as a delegate at ISU Congress in 1905 and was thus directly involved in decision-making and rule changes pertaining to the very events that he competed in! A fellow Swede, Alex Lindman, served as the ISU's Secretary, further strengthening the Swedish control over the Switzerland based organization. Council members during this period included Great Britain's George Herbert Fowler, Germany's Alfred Schulz and Hungary's Dr. Emmerich von Szent-Györgyi. As of 1908, twelve countries were affiliated with the ISU - more than double the number of members since its formation in 1892. That number only increased by two in the years after the Great War. The countries affiliated were Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Great Britain, Holland, Hungary, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland.
A crowded rink of skaters in Berlin, 1908
The Österreicher Eislauf-Verband was governed during this period by Karl von Korper and Karl Fillunger. The latter also served on ISU Council. Germany's federation had left the ISU in 1897 as the result of a bitter dispute, leaving the country only represented by the Berliner Schlittschuhclub. Its membership was reinstated in 1904.
A trio of figure skaters in Helsinki in 1904. Photo courtesy National Board Of Antiquities - Muscat.
The Suomen Luisteluliito joined the ISU in 1908, the year it was founded. Prior to this, the Helsingfors Skridskoklubb had been Finland's member. Reinhold F. von Willebrand served as organization's first President. The Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques was founded in 1903 and joined the ISU in 1908. Its first President was Louis Magnus, who was also the French Champion. However, the real power broker in French figure skating at the time was the Cercle des Patineurs, or Winter Sports Club Of Paris, which was founded in 1896 by mountain climber Lucien Tignol. The Club, which operated out of the Palais de Glace, reigned over all things figure skating and hockey in Paris during the Edwardian era. Its President was Albert Michel.
Hayes Fisher. Photo courtesy "Vanity Fair", May 1900.
The National Skating Association's President during the entire era was William Hayes Fisher, Conservative M.P for Fulham and later the Baron Downham, who also acted as Great Britain's representative in the British Olympic Association. Henry Leonard Ellington of the Rowing Club in Putney acted as Honorary Secretary until 1908, when skating judge Harry Faith temporarily filled the position until George Talbot Burrows Cobbitt took over.
The Budapesti Korcsolyázó Egylet was Hungary's first ISU member. The Magyar Országos Korcsolyázó Szövetség joined the ISU in 1908. Its first President was Károly Demény. The Netherlands had been a charter member since the ISU's foundation, but participated only in speed skating competitions. Its President was M. Mzn van Heloma. The Norsk Skøiteforbund had no less than five Presidents during the era. The Internationaler Schlittshuh-Club Davos was Switzerland's ISU member.
Program from the 1910 Canadian Championships. Photo courtesy University Of Alberta.
In Canada, skating was governed by the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada, formed in 1888. In 1907, the Amateur Athletic Union Of Canada terminated its membership after years of disagreement between speed and figure skaters. Through the latter years of the Edwardian era, the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada was governed by the International Skating Union Of America, with Canada's most prominent skating clubs - the Minto, Toronto and Earl Grey Skating Clubs - filling in the gaps by organizing competitions during the latter part of the decade. Though the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada was an ISU member, it didn't field competitors at the World or European Championships until after The Great War.
Toronto skaters lacing skates in an indoor dressing room, circa 1907. Photo courtesy City Of Toronto Archives.
The Toronto Skating Club, officially founded in 1895, produced its first carnival in 1905 and organized its first club competition in 1908. In his 1977 history of the Toronto Cricket, Skating and Curling Club, Stanley Fillmore recalled the Toronto club's fate during the Edwardian era thusly: "For the first few years the fortunes of the club were uneven. Membership first increased, then declined. Skating was shifted from the Victoria Rink to Mutual Street to the Caledonia Skating and Curling Association. Then back to the Victoria Rink. Some years there were small surpluses in the club's operating budget; most years there were small deficits; in almost every year it was the club's carnival that made the difference between the red and black sides of the ledger." Members of Canada's earliest clubs improved not just due to plenty of practice coupled with expert instruction, but the addition of a band which played music during free skating sessions. In 1907, the Winnipeg Skating Club hired a band to play once a week as well to entice members to learn the waltz. "Skating clubs in the east are composed of fancy skaters and there is no reason why the same should not apply to Winnipeg" wrote one member in the "Manitoba Free Press".
In America, the National Amateur Skating Association, formed in 1886 to promote the "speed, art and science of skating" dissolved in 1905, having never become a member of the ISU. It was succeeded by the International Skating Union Of America, which was actually formed in Montreal in February of 1907. The Union was a conglomerate of former NASA officials, members of the Amateur Skating Association Of Canada and representatives of the Western Skating Association Of Chicago. The International Skating Union Of America organized only one figure skating competition - the 1909 Championships Of America, held in New York City. Louis Rubenstein, a Canadian, served as the organization's first President. In the organization's infancy, it had a rocky relationship with the Amateur Athletic Union Of The United States which governed many other American sports, but after a mail vote in late 1907, an agreement was signed whereby both organizations agreed to accept each others rulings, suspensions and right to govern their respective sports. As in Canada, clubs of the time - among them the New York Skating Club, New York Athletic Club and Philadelphia Skating Club and Humane Society - all played crucial roles in all aspects of development in skating during this period.
On February 21 and 22, 1900, the National Skating Association held an International Competition in the Continental Style at the Niagara Rink, consisting of four school figures and a four minute free skating program. It was also won by Ulrich Salchow. The next year, the National Skating Association held its first tests in the Continental Style. TESTS
"The strict rules for English form have undoubtedly contributed to a high level of general proficiency among English skaters, but at the expense of individual freedom and elasticity. Judges and skaters have a definite standard to go by, even if it doesn't suit everybody. On the other hand, the freedom of the American schedule and rules makes it difficult for skaters to know just what local judges expect of them – there is no precise standard for skaters at large." - George Henry Browne, "A Handbook Of Figure Skating For Use On The Ice", 1907
Skaters practicing figures outdoors in Sweden. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.
Tests were already well-entrenched in skating culture by the turn of the century. From Vienna to St. Moritz, skaters of all skill levels practiced hard and proved their mettle by showing off their figure form in front of small panels of judges at clubs throughout Europe. For the Victorians, who largely believed competitions were ungentlemanly and unladylike, tests were perceived as a civilized way of confirming one's skating talent.
Third, second and first class tests for skating in the English Style had already been well-established in the 1880's by Henry Eugene Vandervell, who served as the Chairman of the Association's Ice Figure Committee until his death in 1908, but Continental (International) Style tests were a new phenomenon in England during the Edwardian era. The National Skating Association's Ice Figure Committee revised their Continental tests in 1908 and 1912. A test for Special Figures had been adopted in 1897, but abandoned in 1902. A report published in "The Field" in 1909 noted that the previous season, only twenty-six Continental Style tests had been passed in comparison to ninety-nine English Style tests. The first skater to pass the gold tests in both styles was Bernard Adams, a respected instructor at Prince's Skating Club.
From the very beginning, tests proved a popular undertaking for skaters and the National Skating Association's tests proved the basis for tests in many other Commonwealth countries. In Canada during the early twentieth century, approximately twenty to thirty tests were taken by skaters annually.
On February 2, 1900, the first known formal figure skating tests in the United States had been held at the Cambridge Skating Club in Massachusetts. These were tests of the clubs own devising, designed to "stimulate an interest in good skating.". From 1900 until 1908, when the club was officially incorporated, more than thirty Third Class tests were passed, along with over twenty Second Class tests. The lone First Class test was passed by Arthur Drinkwater, an immigrant from Dresden, Germany who went on to become one of the seven incorporators of The Skating Club Of Boston, Inc.
COMPETITIONS AND JUDGING
"The Judges shall make, in
conjunction with the Skating Club, all necessary arrangements for the
holding of the competition, such as receiving the entries... deciding
the order in which the competitors shall [skate], awarding marks,
summing up totals and declaring the winners." - International
Skating Union, 1908
Gilbert Fuchs and Ulrich Salchow, 1901
ISU Championships were, of course, exclusively held in Europe as there were no ISU members from elsewhere fielding competitors. Most competitions were held outdoors and the weather proved a problematic factor on more than one occasion. The 1902 and 1903 European Championships, both slated for Amsterdam, were cancelled due to a thaw. The 1907 World Championships in Vienna were almost moved to Klagenfurt at the eleventh hour for the same reason, but after the competitors and judges arrived the temperature suddenly dropped down to twenty-six below. The good news was that there was ice again; the bad news was that a blizzard suddenly hit.
Spectators wrapped themselves in furs and wore plush felt pointed hats. The band on hand to play music for the free skating events, struggling with the cold, split into two groups and played in shifts so their instruments wouldn't freeze. The "Neues Wiener Tagblatt" noted, "The ice was glassy due to the great cold and became hard. It was too smooth and fast for the figure skaters, and many failed for this reason." Despite Many of the skaters and judges ended up getting sick after spending hours outdoors in blinding snow and mind-numbing cold. During the school figures, Swedish skater Per Thorénhad to seek medical attention for frostbite in both feet. Not long after he returned, he again had to retire for some time. He finished the competition in excruciating agony, but placed a creditable fourth. Edgar Syers was "so unwell," remarked one reporter, "that he really ought not to have been competing." His wife Madge recalled, "The Championship of 1907 will long be remembered by those who took part in it owing to the suffering entailed on them by the intense cold which, accentuated by a bitter wind, was almost unbearable. Several times the benumbed skaters were forced to retire and restore the circulation to their hands and feet, and many of the competitors and judges were subsequently hors de combat as the result of this trying experience." Once recovered, Edgar wrote in "The Sportsman", "The competition lasted far into the evening, the committee making the serious mistake of crowding far too many events into the limits of a brief winter day, thus inflicting on judges and competitors an unnecessary amount of pain and discomfort. The cold during the whole of the meeting was indescribable. Several persons were seriously frost bitten, and many others were quite overcome by the severe conditions. It cannot be said that the committee of the Vienna Club were ideal hosts. The competitors were left to their own devices during their stay, and located where no food, save a scanty breakfast, could be obtained, and where a bath was an almost unheard of luxury." It wasn't a good winter at all on the Continent that year. The Johnson's, Syers' and Elsa Rendschmidt had all trained in St. Moritz the month prior to the event, where temperatures were consistently around thirty below zero. An unnamed reporter from "The Queen" wrote, "Skating early and late has been the reverse of pleasant, and even at mid-day it has been none too warm."
Elsa Rendschmidt. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.
The 1907 World Championships were perhaps the most infamous ISU Championship of the Edwardian era, but they weren't the most historically significant. When the fourth biennal ISU Congress was held in London in June of 1899, Queen Victoria's son-in-law, the Marquess of Lorne, who was President of The Skating Club, buttered up officials by taking them on an excursion to Windsor Castle. The British hosts of the Congress weren't without their ulterior motives. The success of the 1898 World Championships motivated representatives of the National Skating Association (in particular George Herbert Fowler) to persuade the ISU to allow them to have another shot at hosting the World Championships in 1901. Queen Victoria's death at the age of eighty-one on January 22, 1901 sent England into national mourning. The 1901 World Championships were quickly incorporated into the Nordiska Spelen (Nordic Games) in Stockholm.
Through the cooperation of Julius Olbeter, a director of the International Skating Union in Davos and William Hayes Fisher, a Conservative Member Of Parliament and President of Great Britain's National Skating Association, it was arranged for England to have their second turn at hosting the World Championships in 1902 instead.
Etching of Edgar and Madge Syers competing at the 1902 World Championships. Courtesy Elaine Hooper.
Held on February 13, 1902 at the rink at Niagara Hall in Westminster, London, the 1902 World Figure Skating Championships were historically significant in several respects. They marked the first time a woman competed at an international figure skating competition organized by the ISU, the first time (albeit 'unofficially') pairs and ice valsing competitions were included at the World Championships, the first time an ISU Championship was held indoors and the first time figure skating's rich history was celebrated on an international scale.
Etching entitled "The King At Niagara Skating Rink, February 13" by Ralph Cleaver
The Britons turned the 1902 World Championships from a one or two day competition into a week-long national celebration of figure skating in conjunction with the National Skating Association's anniversary. A display of books, pictures and bone skates was exhibited at London's Alpine Club. The Duke of Argyll welcomed competitors and judges from overseas. Amateur speed skating races were contested at Lochleven in Scotland and at Lingay Fen in Cambridge.
Skaters at Kensington Gardens, February 1902
Fancy dress carnivals were held at the National Skating Palace and Prince's Skating Club. The National Skating Association hosted national competitions in combined (fours) and individual skating in the English Style, as well as a Commemoration Cup for Continental Style skating. Foreshadowing the successes of twenty year old Madge Syers, who would make history later in the week in the main event, Phyllis Wyatt Squire was a member of the winning four and was second in the individual competition for the Benetfink Cup behind Frank Fedden. Sweden's Einar de Flon won the Commemoration Cup, besting London's H.A. Notley and Edgar Syers.
Einar de Flon. Photo courtesy Länsmuseet Gävleborg.
A history of the National Skating Association was published, a commemorative medal struck and a dinner was hosted by The Skating Club. Many a glass of claret was enjoyed at a lavish closing banquet at the Savoy Hotel... but the highlight of the week was without a doubt the World Championships themselves.
Etchings of the fancy dress carnival at Niagara Hall
Making history as the first woman to compete at the World Championships, Madge Syers made a favourable impression in the school figures. She placed second behind the reigning World
Champion, Ulrich Salchow of Sweden, the judges showing her preference over Great Britain's Horatio Tertuliano Torromé and Germany's Martin Gordan. The June 14, 1902 issue of "The Queenslander" recounted, "Herr Salchow has no rival in these school figures, and he delighted the connoisseurs by his large, bold sweeps and the firm manner in which he held the edges of his loops, brackets and rockers. But quite as astonishing was the accuracy with which Mrs. Syers went through her task. Such precision and neatness of execution are quite a novelty on the part of a lady, and it must have puzzled the judges to compare her smaller curves with the ampler ones of the champion."
After the initial phase of the competition concluded, a dozen couples took to the ice for a valsing competition. While waltzing around the ice in tandem, the orchestra suddenly stopped at four in the afternoon and the packed audience rose to their feet to greet the guests of honour: King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra of Denmark, Princess Victoria and the Prince and Princess of Denmark. The moment the royals were in their places, the band struck up again, the couples continued valsing and with the push of an electric button, the royal galleries were lit up by coloured incandescent lamps. The exceptionally tall Gladys Duddell, better known for her prowess in lawn tennis than on the ice rink, celebrated her victory in the valsing competition with partner French Brewster.
The royals and judges alike watched with keen interest as each of the four competitors in the singles event took to the ice for their five minute free skating programs. First to skate was Horatio Tertuliano Torromé. His program included a star figure and a back cross eight with feet crossed in front 'borrowed' from Henning Grenander. The March 29, 1902 issue of "The Leader" remarked that Torromé "proved once more that it is difficult for a skater brought up in the English style to change to the Continental fashion; his attitudes seemed rather forced, and his turns slightly inaccurate in consequence, but it must be remembered that the high level he reached throughout is one in which criticism is very difficult, and 'clumsiness' a merely relative term. He fell in making one figure about half way through the time allowed." Overshadowing Torromé considerably was the second skater, Martin Gordan, whose "Berlin style was different to the others, and slightly more rough and unfinished. He confirmed that impression when he chose his own figures, but he is, of course, a strong and bold skater, with plenty of confidence a very firm edge." Gordan's program included an eight concluding in a spin on his toe, a choctaw with a jump and several Special Figures of his own design.
Martin Gordan and a special figure of his design
The final two skaters, Ulrich Salchow and Madge Syers, drew far more praise. Syers appeared in a black dress trimmed with Astrakhan fur and performed an outside back crosscut combined with inside back loops in a star pattern and eights compromised of rockers and double grapevines. Salchow's program, by far the most ambitious, included a star figure designed by Eduard Engelmann, Jr., a variation on Gustav Hügel's trademark spin, a series of spread eagles and grapevines and his own namesake jump. In the February 23, 1902 issue of the "Illustrirte Sport Zeitung", an Austrian sportswriter praised Syers as being "full of grace", noting that she "[mastered] almost the whole [Viennese] school perfectly... The attitude was correct and informal. Her free-skating was not particularly difficult, but it was very pleasing." The June 14, 1902 issue of "The Queenslander" noted, "Herr Salchow traced upon the ice a wonderful star or cross which involved the most intricate changes of edge and reversals of direction, and even the tracing of small circles with one skate running round the circumference, while the toe of the other kept the centre. He also shot round the rink in large backward 'spread-eagles' and concluded by spinning rapidly like a top on one foot and going down thus into a sitting posture... Mrs. Syers went through a less ambitious program with wonderful grace, her outstretched arms and uplifted foot being not only free from all trace of ostentation or awkwardness, but contributing to the harmony of poses which reminded one of perfect dancing." The free skating apparently so impressed The King that "before leaving, he commanded its repetition." When The King Of England tells you to skate your program a second time, you do it... and they did. His Majesty later sent a message saying how delighted he was "that an English lady had created a unique and permanent record by her beautiful skating and remarkable success."
Stephen T. Dadd illustration of the 1902 World Championships
After the four skaters each skated their free skating performances a second time, the competition concluded with a pairs competition organized by the National Skating Association which was not considered to be an official part of the World Championships. After finishing second earlier that year at the Nordic Games in Stockholm to Christa von Szabo and Gustav Euler (who weren't in attendance) Madge and Edgar Syers were considered the heavy favourites. Contrary to contemporary accounts, the Syers' were not the only competitors.
Emmy Sjöberg and Christian Soldan in 1902. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.
The first team to take the ice, Emmy Sjöberg and Christian Soldan, hailed from Stockholm, Sweden. "The Queenslander" recalled that the sole Scandinavian entry "performed many wonderful feats, and the galleries resounded with applause when the gentleman swung his partner lightly through the air in the course of a waltz." However, when Soldan fell at the end of the program, the door was opened widely for the Syers' and they skated right through it. The Syers' reportedly "skated in perfect unison, and did all that they attempted as well as possible. The waltzing was a very pretty part of the program, though the rhythm of the measure played by the band was not always faultlessly kept." The final pair, Fraulein Hedwig (Müller) Weingartner and Martin Gordan of Germany, "did not seem quite at their ease."
Competitors and officials at the 1902 World Championships. Back row: Herbert Ramon Yglesias, Frank G. Fedden, George Herbert Fowler. Center row: G. Notley, Christian Soldan, Horatio Tertuliano Torromé, Henry Leonard Ellington, Dr. George Cunningham, Ivar Westergren. Front row: Martin Gordan, Einar de Flon, Ulrich Salchow, William Hayes Fisher, Henry Eugene Vandervell, E. Vollenweider and Dr. Piotr von Weryho. Photo courtesy BIS Archive, J.R.C. Yglesias.
At the end of the pair event, 1896 World Champion Gilbert Fuchs performed a waltz with one Mrs. B. Sharpe at the request of The King. "The Leader" recalled that Fuchs and Sharpe "executed some very charming waltz steps, in which other couples soon joined in, and by about a quarter-past 5 the Royal Party left their box." Later that evening, when the scorecards of the judges were tallied up by hand, Ulrich Salchow was announced as the winner in the singles competition, with Madge Syers second, Martin Gordan third and Horatio Tertuliano Torromé fourth. The Syers' easily bested Emmy Sjöberg and Christian Soldan and Weingartner and Gordan for the pairs title.
One interesting aspect of this competition are the legends that have surrounded it. Contemporary sources have consistently claimed that many people believed that Syers outskated Salchow and should have won. Further, there's the long-standing legend surrounding Salchow being so impressed by Syers' performance that he gave her his gold medal. An interesting clue as to the origin to this story can be found in an essay penned by Herbert G. Clarke which appeared in "Skating" magazine in December of 1952. He claimed, "Salchow presented the Gold Medal he had won to Mrs. Syers, but the news of this was not made public. Many years afterwards I told Mrs. Salchow of this presentation; Mrs. Salchow replied that she knew now for the first time why her husband had only nine Gold Medals although he had won the World Championship ten times."
Another important piece of the puzzle is what was happening in London at the time. A smallpox epidemic had been raging since 1901, with as many as twelve hundred cases identified ten days after the World Championships by the Metropolitan Asylums board. The sick put on hospital ships or sent to the Gore Farm Hospital, and though the disease disproportionately affected the poor, there were many cases in prosperous neighbourhoods like Westminster and Shoreditch. The skaters would have been all too aware of the dangers that lurked just beyond, and perhaps within, the Niagara rink.
Judges at the 1909 Nordic Games. Photo courtesy National Archives Of Norway.
The Nordic Games, a quadrennial multi-sport competition held in Scandinavia during this period, played host to prestigious international figure skating competitions of its own, several of which were deemed ISU Championship events. Viktor Balck, the ISU's President, wore yet another hat in playing an integral role in the organization of these events. During his tenure in 1905, the World Championships were held at the Stockholms Allmänna Skridskoklubb in conjunction with the Games.
The European Speed Skating Championships were also included in the Games, along with hockey, bandy, curling, skiing, tobogganing, ice yachting, sledging and other winter sports. There were also horse, balloon and motor car races, swimming races in Stockholm's new central bathing house and demonstrations of gymnastics and national dances. Athletes attended a special opera performance where the works of national composers were celebrated, as well as teas and art exhibitions. Norwegian athletes didn't participate in the events, owing to a feud between Norway and Sweden's top sport officials.
In 1904, a figure skating competition had been held on the large public rink at Nybroviken bay but there had been complaints about the high winds and hard, rough ice. Organizers from the Stockholms Allmänna Skridskoklubb decided to move the 1905 World Championships to a smaller rink at Idrotts Park, which was well-sheltered by a raised bank with ample room for spectators.
Defending World Champion Ulrich Salchow and defending European Champion Max Bohatsch went head to head in the school figures. All but German judge Max Rendschmidt (who voted for Bohatsch) had Salchow first, though Bohatsch was only ten points behind. Swedes Per Thorén and Richard Johansson and Germany's Martin Gordan took themselves out of the running for the World title in the initial phase of the competition, but were in a three way race for the bronze medal.
Though in declining health, King Oscar II of Sweden attended the men's free skating competition, along with his son Crown Prince Gustav. An account from "The Field" noted, "On the evening of Sunday, Feb. 5 a sudden thaw set in, and on the Monday morning the ice on the Idrotts Park was covered with water. A consultation of the referee, judges and competitors was convened, and it was decided to proceed with the free skating for the championship and for the Northern Games prize, the pair-skating and free figures for the ladies' competition being postponed. There was nearly a quarter of an inch of water on the ice when Salchow commenced the free skating, and the form of all the competitors was seriously interfered with in consequence. The free skating of Salchow and Bohatsch is very difficult in comparison; the one energetic and forcible, introducing surprising jumps and difficult star figures, the other all lightness and grace, nothing offering apparent difficulty but all harmonious and artistic, truly the poetry of motion."
Max Bohatsch, Per Thorén, Ulrich Salchow, Martin Gordan and Richard Johansson
Interestingly, Ulrich Salchow's only first place vote in free skating came from Max Rendschmidt, the only judge who placed him second in the figures. The rest of the judges all had Max Bohatsch first, except British judge Herbert Ramon Yglesias, who tied him with Per Thorén. Salchow's six first place ordinals overall earned him his fifth consecutive World title over Bohatsch, Thorén, Johansson and Gordan. A British correspondent attending the event wrote, "The Austrian's extraordinary quickness and nimbleness of foot was really a revelation, and for sheer prettiness of execution London has seen nothing like his skating - except that of Mrs. Syers, whom in style he much resembles. But the absolute assurance and self-command of Salchow's performance, and especially his perfect carriage, told with the judges... Anyone who wishes to see what international form can be should contrive to watch [Ulrich Salchow] skate at Prince's. Needless to say, his success was immensely popular."
Bror Meyer. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.
In addition to the competition for the men's World title, there was also an international men's event for the 'Nordiska Spelens pris', a gold cup. There were over ten entries in this event, all from Sweden, Germany and Great Britain. It was a close contest, with Karl Axel Holmström and Bror Meyer receiving two first place ordinals apiece to Gustav Schönning's one. Meyer took the gold, bolstered by a thirty point lead in the school figures. The two British entries, Herbert Ramon Yglesias and W.H. Adams, acted as judges in the other events in Stockholm.
Though not recognized by the ISU as World Championships, there were of course international competitions for both women and pairs in Stockholm as well. The talk of the town was the contingent of excellent British women who participated. Muriel Harrison and Mrs. Kellie had won the 1904 and 1905 junior club titles at Prince's Skating Club. Madge Syers had won the senior title both years. All three had competed against - and defeated - men. Syers opted not to participate in the women's event in Stockholm. With all but one first place vote, Muriel Harrison was declared the winner. Less than one point separated the second and third place skaters, Lili Kronberger of Hungary and Mrs. Kellie. Kronberger had one first from the Hungarian judge and one third from the British judge. Elna Montgomery, Bella McKinnan, Helga Liljegren and Anna Hamilton rounded out the seven women field. A British correspondent wrote, "Miss Harrison's exhibition did not leave her supremacy in doubt for a moment. There is a cleanness about her 'school figures' as well as her free-skating, which delighted the crowd, all of them experts in the sense of being good judges."
Madge and Edgar Syers in Stockholm
The pairs event was perhaps the most exciting of the events in Stockholm. Madge Syers, skating with her husband Edgar, had won international titles in pairs skating in 1902 in London and 1904 in Berlin. The most experienced of the five teams, the Syers' were considered clear favourites. Though their performance was excellent, they were upset by Austria's Mizzi and Otto Bohatsch, who delighted the audience and judges alike with their Viennese style.
The Bohatsch siblings were unanimous winners. Less than a point separated the third and fourth place teams, Valborg and Emil Lindahl and Muriel Harrison and Ulrich Salchow. Sweden's Edit Tidlund and August Anderburg were a distant last, some twenty points behind Harrison and Salchow, who had hastily put together a program on one of Salchow's visits to Prince's.
Left: Valborg and Emil Lindahl. Right: Mizzi and Max Bohatsch. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.
A British correspondent wrote, "Salchow skated with Miss Harrison, and neither, perhaps, ever skated better. But for true pair-skating it was rather too individual in character... Mrs. Syers was very much admired, and it must be confessed that her style is exceedingly taking."
Following the events, a banquet for the skaters was held at the lavish Grand Hôtel, where prizes were presented by Crown Prince Gustav. An unnamed British correspondent humourously mused, "It was called dinner, but it was timed for nine, began at ten, ended at twelve, and revived in a dance which for all I know may be going on still."
Britons got to see silent film footage of the Championships if they attended one of Charles Urban's 'Urbanora' life-motion pictures, which toured English theaters less than a month later. "The London and Provincial Entr'acte" raved, "A great feature of the film is a splendid illustration of fancy and figure skating by lady and gentleman champions. These include Miss Harrison and Mr. W.F. Adams, both of London, and Ulrich Salchow of Sweden, the world's champion... The film is most engrossing and interesting in character."
At the 1905 ISU Congress in Copenhagen, the decision was made to value figures at sixty percent and free skating at forty percent. In Stockholm, figures had been valued at sixty-seven percent and free skating at thirty-three, making it next to impossible for Bohatsch to defeat Salchow before either man took to the soggy ice to perform their free skating programs.
Program from the 1908 Summer Olympic Games. Photo courtesy LA84 Foundation Digital Library.
In London in 1908, figure skating became the first winter sport to be added to the modern (Summer) Olympic Games. The four figure skating events - men's and women's singles, pairs and Special Figures - were contested in October of that year, some six months after most of the other sports. The National Skating Association was tasked by the British Olympic Council with carrying out these events. Special Olympic and Rink Committees were formed, which included The Earl Of Lytton, Henry Eugene Vandervell and Henning Grenander.
Top: Phyllis and James Henry Johnson's competitor badges from the 1908 Summer Olympic Games. Photo courtesy BIS Archive, Johnson Family Collection. Bottom: Silver medal from the 1908 Summer Olympic Games. Photo courtesy The British Museum, copyright The Trustees of the British Museum, shared with permission via a Creative Commons License.
Edgar Syers and James Henry Johnson, both of whom medalled in the Games, also served on these Committees and acted as stewards to the judges. The death of the National Skating Association's ageing Secretary Henry Leonard Ellington less than six months before the Games dealt a huge blow to organizers, and Harry Faith stepped in to fill his shoes at the last minute, impressively acting as both an organizer and a judge.
Richard Johansson, silver medallist at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games. Photo courtesy Länsmuseet Gävleborg.
The International Skating Union issued a communication prior to the Games advising potential contestants what judges would be looking for. In an article he penned for "The Field", competitor Geoffrey Hall-Say republished it: "Upright carriage, not bent at the hips, but without being stiff. Strong bending of knee or body to be only momentary; head upright. Free foot to be held only a little way from the ice, not dragging behind; toe turned downwards and outwards, knee slightly bent, generally held behind the tracing foot; otherwise swinging freely and assisting the movement, but without being held far away. Arms to hang down, easily; like the free foot, they can be used to assist by their movement, but without raising elbow or hand far away from the body; hands, when possible, never above the waist. Fingers neither spread nor clenched. In general, everything violent, angular or stiff to be avoided in the movement; no effot is to be strongly expressed, but the impression that the figures are executed without trouble is to be aimed at."
Competitors practicing at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games
The big story of the 1908 Games was the rivalry between Ulrich Salchow and Russia's Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin. There was allegedly some unpleasantness between the two skaters that forced Salchow to withdraw from the Special Figures event, which Panin won, and Panin to withdraw from the men's event, which Salchow won. Contemporary newspaper reports vaguely mentioned both competitor's 'illnesses' but the fact the events were contested on the same day and both men were well enough to win their respective gold medals lends credence to the rivalry between the two skaters. Russian newspapers only briefly alluded to the unpleasantness in London. The "Novoe Vremia" complained of the composition of the judging panel, while the "Rech" pointed out how "regrettable" it was that Panin didn't compete. There was no mention of him withdrawing due to illness, as was suggested by the British Olympic Committee, who tactfully stated that he, "feeling unwell, decided not to compete" in the men's event. Less controversially, Anna Hubler and Heinrich Burger took the laurels in pairs skating and Madge Syers became the first Olympic Gold Medallist in women's singles. Syers also became the first skater to win two medals in figure skating in one Olympics, a feat not repeated until Ernst Baier won medals in both singles and pairs in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936. Recalling the stress of competing at the Games, she remarked, "Free skating is rather an ordeal. It requires considerable strength, both physical and mental, to skate for four or five minutes on a empty rink, with judges ready to note the slightest failing. It is especially trying out of doors should there be a high wind or the ice be in bad condition."
In 1909, all of the ISU Championships were held outdoors. On January 23 and 24, the European Championships for men and the ISU Championships For Ladies (later recognized as World Championships) were held at the Budapesti Korcsolyázó Egylet in Budapest, Hungary. Five men competed for the European title and five judges had the reigning Olympic Gold Medallist Ulrich Salchow first in the school figures. The other two first place ordinals went to Sweden's Per Thorén and Germany's Gilbert Fuchs. Fuchs, who had won the 1898 and 1906 World titles but never managed to claim a European title, soundly defeated Salchow in the free skate but was unable to make up the difference in the free skate. Salchow won his seventh European title; Fuchs settled for his third silver. Per Thorén took the bronze, ahead of Karl Ollo of Russia and Sándor Urbáry of Hungary. The "Neues Wiener Tagblatt" noted, "Salchow and Thorén showed great form; Fuchs was in the compulsory exercises weaker than in the previous years. Anton Steiner did not compete."
Lili Kronberger defended her World title under the most unusual of circumstances. She was initially to have been challenged by Dorothy Greenhough Smith, the bronze medallist at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games in London. However, Greenhough Smith didn't appear in Budapest after announcing her entry. Anna Hübler also considered entering, but - noted George Henry Browne - she opted not to as she was out of practice on her school figures. Three other women who could have easily challenged Lili for the ISU Championship For Ladies in Budapest opted to participate in a separate 'International Senior Damenkunst' class instead. This event was won by Vienna's Jenny Herz, with Elsa Rendschmidt of Germany second and Zsófia Méray-Horváth third. Primary source accounts of the event don't allude as to why these three accomplished women didn't challenge Kronberger, but we can certainly speculate that it may have had something to do with the fact she was the reigning World Champion... competing in her home city. Unopposed, Kronberger still had to skate to a standard score of the panel of judges. She did so to defend her title... without a single Hungarian judge on the panel. Similarly, a group of men opted to participate in a 'International Senior Herrenkunst' class in Budapest instead of vying for the European title. Hungary's Andor Szende bested Finland's Walter Jakobsson, who represented Berlin as he was studying there, in this category. Olympic Gold Medallists Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger took the pairs title, ahead of Frau Knich and Karl Mejstrik of Vienna and Ludovika Eilers and Walter Jakobsson. Helene Fräter of Hungary bested Hedda Müller of Troppau in the junior women's event, while Herr Sonder of Augsburg, Germany took the junior men's title ahead of skaters from Berlin and Lemberg.
The second of the two ISU Championships, held on February 7 and 8, 1909, were the figure skating competitions at the Nordic Games in Stockholm. Despite extremely cold weather, these events drew thousands of spectators. While the senior men and pairs in attendance were vying for the ISU's World Championships, a trio of women who competed were 'simply' competing for an international title. In this class, Berlin's Elsa Rendschmidt emerged victorious over Zsófia Méray-Horváth and Sweden's Elna Montgomery. Swedish skating historian Gunnar Bang recalled, "Little Elsa Rendschmidt from Berlin was the best of the three [in the figures]. Stubbornly and quietly, she skated the various figures with precision. Opika von Méray Horváth from Budapest, a smart and extremely elegant woman, made the best impression of the three graces [in free skating]. Admittedly, she did not have all the technical features, but she was in possession of a great natural grace." In a junior men's class featuring only Norwegian and Swedish skaters, Gösta Sandahl bested Gillis Grafström and Andreas Krogh. Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger and Madge and Edgar Syers did not compete in the pairs event in Stockholm. Their absences made it all the more easier for the Silver Medallists at those Games, Phyllis and James Johnson, to claim their first major international victory. They did so with first place marks from four of the five judges, and a graceful program that featured all manner of dance steps, combined figures and spirals. Only the Norwegian judge dared tie them with Valborg Lindahl and Nils Rosenius, the Swedish pair who finished second. Sweden's Gertrud Ström and Richard Johansson and Norwegian pairs Mimi Grømer and Karl Erikson and Alexia (Schøien) and Yngvar Bryn rounded out the field of five teams.
Gilbert Fuchs, Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin and Arthur Cumming were all rumoured as possible challengers to Ulrich Salchow at the 1909 event in Stockholm, but none of them made the trip to Scandinavia. The men's school figures were skated in bitterly cold conditions, which made the ice hard and brittle. To make matters worse, Per Thorén - one of the three Scandinavian men who swept the Olympic podium in 1908 - was recovering from a previous bout of frostbite and wasn't in the best of health. When the marks were tallied, Salchow won the figures in a three-two split over Thorén. Many were surprised as to how close it had been between the two men. The February 12, 1909 issue of the "Helsinin Sanomat" noted, "Salchow made big turns and moved calmly, steadfastly and accurately. His skating is something so calm, clear and bigger. Thorén, [Ernst] Herz and [Richard] Johansson looked like fairy tale [characters] in comparison. [Fedor] Datlin skated [the figures] much weaker."
Ernst Herz performing a loop-change-loop at the 1909 World Championships
Two judges tied Salchow and Johansson for first place in the free skate, while one of the Swedish judges actually had Johansson ahead of Salchow. When the overall marks were tallied, Salchow had come on out top at the World Championships for the eighth time... by a slim margin. Thorén took the silver; Herz the bronze. Richard Johansson, held back by a poor showing in the figures, remained in fourth, well ahead of Datlin. As the winner of the Nordic Games and World Championships, Salchow didn't just receive a gold medal. He received a special prize from his king, Gustav V.
The next year in Davos, the top skaters in the world dealt with dreadful weather conditions. On the day of the school figures at the 1910 World Championships, it was snowing heavily. The winds were so strong and the ice so soft that there was considerable discussion amongst the organizers about cancelling the event altogether. Gilbert Fuchs and Walter Jakobsson thought the better of it and withdrew, leaving only four competitors: Andor Szende, Werner Rittberger and Swedes Ulrich Salchow and Per Thorén. Owing to the weather and poor ice conditions, all four men were well below their usual standards on their first figures but when it came time for the reverse threes, Salchow took a commanding lead with first place ordinals from five of seven judges. One judge had Rittberger first, another Szende. At that year's European Championships in Berlin, Rittberger had led Salchow after the figures.
Gunnar Bang, recalling the 1910 World Championships in his 1966 book "Konståkningens 100-åriga historia", noted that Rittberger "had an undeniable talent and natural ability to skate smoothly, untroubled by the weather, on the rapid an oily indoor ice. However, the snowy weather in Davos overturned [his] plans for the World Championships." Free skating wasn't Salchow's strong suit anyway, and he didn't fare much better in the elements either. In fact, three judges had Thorén first in free skating, three gave Rittberger the nod and one tied Rittberger and Salchow. On the basis of his lead in the school figures, Salchow won with first place ordinals from four judges to Rittberger's two and Szende's one. Salchow told the German press after his fortuitous win that he had been forced to train in Switzerland for three weeks prior to the event because warmer climes in Sweden had all but ruined his chances of preparing properly. He admitted, "I have never gone into a season so handicapped like this. But in St. Moritz I found myself again. Although the climate does not really agree with me, with two weeks of training behind me, I went down to Mürren in the Bernese Oberland. The location is not quite as high, and my night's sleep, which in St. Moritz left much to be desired, returned and gave me new force."
Following the event, the competitors all hopped a train that took them directly from Switzerland to Berlin, Germany, which would play host first to the World Championships for women and pairs on February 4 and later, the European Championships - an event at the time only contested by men - on February 10 and 11. Salchow was excited about the prospect of better training conditions in Germany. He wrote, "A stranger who had an opportunity to follow the standard in Berlin, past and present, must be surprised at the [progress] forward the sport has taken... Yes, I dare say that the Berliner Schlittschuh-Club is the best skating club worldwide. It provides every morning several hours ice, not during a few weeks but on a monthly basis." Phyllis and James Johnson didn't stand a chance in the pairs event in Berlin. All seven judges were German and the two teams they were up against were Germans Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger and German born Ludovika Eilers and her Finnish partner Walter Jakobsson. Ultimately, four judges had Hübler and Burger of the Münchener Eislauf-Verein first, two tied them with Eilers and Jakobsson and but one judge tied the winners with the married Johnson's, who every other judge had third. The women's event was a showdown between Germany's Elsa Rendschmidt and Austria-Hungary's Lili Kronberger. The latter skater, encouraged by her husband Dr. Emmerich von Szent-Györgyi - the president of the Budapesti Korcsolyázó Egylet (Pest Skating Club - trounced the former on every judge's scorecard in both figures and free skating. Dr. Frederick Liedmann, secretary of Pest Skating Club described Kronberger's performance in Berlin thusly: "The orchestra begins to waltz of Waldteufel, with soft melodious music... Miss Kronberger starts a second time to defeat the lady champion [of Germany] ... [with] crossed arms of a beautiful spiral that all can imagine surpassed [Rendschmidt]. She has completed the program, the entire audience is expressed his displeasure that [music] is similarly never heard."
As was the case in the World women's and pairs events, the 1910 European Championships were judged by an all-German panel at the insistence of the competition's organizers. As expected, Ulrich Salchow was none too pleased about the perceived advantage this gave Rittberger. Ultimately, Salchow's skating did the talking. Gunnar Bang recounted, "In school skating, Rittberger had the advantage of the fast ice in his home rink. His figures were extremely smooth" but Salchow "was in good shape, [skated] all figures in large format with regular and safe transitions and performed considerably better than all his competitors." After the school figures, six out of seven German's agreed that Salchow was the best skater of the day. The sole British competitor, John Keiller Greig, had the misfortune of falling on his entrance. He rebounded with "daring jumps and a double pirouette on one foot, first on the heel, then on the toe." Norway's Martin Stixrud landed an Axel, but received only polite applause for a performance that was criticized for its "lack of entertainment". As was the case in Davos, Thorén gave a fine performance. "His jumps looked good," wrote Bang. "He performed standing pirouettes and the Axel Paulsen jump. The audience was very interested and applauded sympathetically and almost thunderously when he stopped." Rittberger had fine steps and "handsome figures" but didn't "give the impression that [he] gave himself totally to skating or that he endeavors to the best of his physical ability." Salchow had the audience in the palm of his hand from the moment his free skating program began. "The Berliner Tageblatt" wrote that "after the first minute he eliminated any doubt who would be the champion." He skated with confidence and secure edges, included several complex figures connected with good speed and even performed his trademark Salchow jump to rival Rittberger's invention, the loop - or as it was then referred commonly as, the Rittberger. The Berlin crowd gave Salchow a warm ovation and all but one judge placed him first in free skating over Rittberger. Thorén settled for the bronze ahead of Greig and Stixrud. Salchow was heartened by his improved performance and the reception from both the German audience and judges. He had quite vocally complained to the German press that some of his competitors were "everywhere criticizing and gossiping about his faults and [extolling their own] virtues." He made a point of praising Stixrud for standing up in his defense to German reporters.
The rules governing the judging of figure skating during the Edwardian era weren't exactly what you would call uniform. The National Amateur Skating Association and International Skating Union Of America's systems for competitions in North America differed wildly from the system devised by the European-based ISU. Skaters were required to participate in a 'schedule' of over twenty rounds of competition, performing a wide range of elements including figures, spins and whirls and 'specialities' of the skater's own choosing. After the eleventh round, the judges had the option to eliminate any skater who they felt didn't skate "sufficiently well" up to that point at their discretion. George Henry Browne described this system thusly: "The officials of a figure-skating competition shall be three judges and one scorer. The judging shall be done on a scale of points running from the number of contestants down to 0. Experience shows the following to be most practical method of scoring: 'The number to be given to the one standing first in any section shall be that of the number of contestants. Should there be two or more of equal merit, they should be marked the same number; and the one coming next takes the number resulted from subtracting the number of contestants above him from the number entered. A total is marked zero.' A fall does not necessarily constitute a failure. At the conclusion of each figure each judge shall, without consultation from his associates, mark the number of points which he awards to each competitor. These reports shall then be compared, and in the case of disagreements the majority shall decide. The scorer shall keep an accurate record of the points allowed to each contestant on each figure... The decision of the majority of the judges shall be final in regard to all questions of disqualifications, interpretations of the program and merits of competitors. In case of a tie, the judges shall require the competitors so tied to skate five specialities each."
The ISU's system was considerably different. At the 1899 ISU Congress in London, the first rules concerning the appointment and approval of judges were drawn up. It was decided that there must be a referee and at least five judges and that each association participating in an ISU Championship had the right to at least one judge, but if there weren't enough judges, the host association had the right to appoint additional judges from their own association. The first published list of ISU approved judges was published in a Communique printed on December 1899. ISU competitions consisted of two parts: school figures and free skating. The school figures, six in number, were chosen from the original schedule of forty-one school figures. Associations who organized international figure skating competitions were allowed to select the school figures, provided there were at least six and at least one of the figures were from the following group: Serpentine, Three, Double Three, Loop, Rocker, Counter and Bracket. Skaters were required to submit diagrams for the Special Figures, along with a verbal description, to the judges beforehand. Difficulty and originality were rewarded moreso than form, with the emphasis on a correct print and the use of clear edges. Experts in this very specialized field saw it as figure skating's future.
Left: Skaters on the Serpentine River in London, 1900. Right: An artist's depiction of a skating rink atop a New York City skyscraper in 1910.
In free skating, men's programs were five minutes long and women's and pairs four. Skaters were signalled to start their programs by the dropping of a flag and the minutes were called by the referee during a skater's free skating program. At the end, 'time' was called and if the music hadn't ended, it was stopped. Madge Syers suggested skaters always have "one or two items to spare" in case their program ran short, for skaters weren't permitted to stop skating until instructed by the referee.
In an article penned for the "Badminton Magazine Of Sports And Pastime", Edgar Syers described what a typical free skating program at the turn of the century looked like thusly: "The judges are ranged at intervals round the rink, the first competitor has called to the band for his favourite tune, generally a waltz, and his name and club having been announced, he bursts into the skating area... The entry is usually made at speed on a large and bold outside or inside spiral, the [astrachan] cap is removed in salute and held high above the head, the body erect, with a free and graceful carriage. When the spiral has been brought to a centre the cap is replaced, and the competitor proceeds to demonstrate his programme of free figures. The point chiefly aimed at is continuity; the skater should never be at fault, and one figure should merge into another almost imperceptibly. The figures should be as attractive as possible, and on no account should the skater introduce any of those contained in the compulsory list, but should aim at producing novel combinations and tours de force."
Magic lantern slide of skaters at Davos
The scale of marks from 0 to 6.0 was introduced at ISU's 1901 Congress. Previously, it had been 0 to 5.0. Skaters had to achieve an average mark of not less than 4.0 in two thirds of the school figures and free skating to win a prize. These same rules applied to pair skating once it was introduced to competition. A score of 0.0 was deemed "not skated or failure", 2.0 was "pass", 4.0 "good" and 6.0 "faultless". The odd numbered marks of 1.0, 3.0 and 5.0 were considered intermediate. George Henry Browne educated, "In assigning a number, first importance is given to correct mark on the ice, second to carriage and movement; third, to size of figure, and forth, to approximately exact placing of marks in the triple repetition... Free skating is marked (a) for the contents of the program offered (difficulty and variety); (b) for the manner of performance (harmonic composition, surety, pose, and movement, etc.); in each case with the numbers 0 to 6, with the same values as the prescribed figures. The number of points for free figures plus the number of points for compulsory figures, gives for each skater individually the total number of points which he has earned from the individual judge. Each judge ranks the competitors according to these total points, and the final result is obtained by adding the ranking ordinals (the lowest winning)." ISU historian Benjamin T. Wright also noted, "The majority principle in calculating the (final) result was adopted as a single change to the 1897 rules, which meant that only if there was not an 'absolute' majority, would the total ordinals govern (as a tie breaker)." A resolution was passed at the 1909 ISU Congress that "the calculations of the Judges' score-cards may be made only after the completition of the free-skating", a rule change that was likely inspired by incidents of less than scrupulous behaviour from officials.
Schedule of school figures of the International Skating Union, with reverse Q's added
In 1907, the ISU appointed a special Committee (which included Ulrich Salchow, Gustav Hügel and Tibor von Földváry) to revise the factors of its schedule of school figures. The Committee was chaired by George Helfrich. The factors of difficulty for some of the more difficult figures were increased, as were some on the lower scale. New diagrams were also made and a new set rules "for correct tracing" were approved.
A recurring concern during the Edwardian era was the fact that judges from a competition's host country often dominated panels, potentially skewing results in favour of skaters competing on home ice. A fine example of this was the 1906 World Championships in Munich, where the judging panel for the men's event was composed of four Germans and an Austrian and German skaters took the first two spots. Yet, at the 1908 pairs Championship in St. Petersburg, four of the five judges were Russian and the other from Finland, which was under Russian rule, but in this case the German and British teams soundly defeated the sole Russian entry. Ulrich Salchow also won three of his European titles during this period in Germany, each time defeating his German rivals.
Though instances of national bias undoubtedly occurred, the ISU's initial soft-line stance was that they trusted judges would be "good sporting gentlemen" in situations where a bloc existed. By 1909, there were already enough instances of questionable judging that the ISU Congress passed a resolution "that the Associations and Clubs belonging to the I.E.V. should take the greatest care to appoint only the most trustworthy members as Judges." A QUESTION OF GENDER
Claude Berton illustration from "Les Mois Parisiens". Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.
"Ice skating as an outdoor sport for women will certainly compare favourably with any other exercise because it gives, in a marked degree, grace of carriage, ease and suppleness of movement, brings into play unused muscles, equal strength to both legs, and stimulates deep and regular breathing, all of which teach one to stand erect." - William T. Richardson, 1903
Top: 1904 engraving of a woman flanked by two men from "The Nottingham Evening Post". Bottom: French postcard, 1910.
Between 1893 and 1901, New Zealand, the Cook Islands and Australia passed bills allowing women the right to vote. Yet in Great Britain, the country that ruled over them all, women were still fighting tirelessly to have a say and role in how the countries they lived in were governed. Around the world, the women's suffrage movement was a hot button issue during the entire Edwardian era and it was during this period that women began to make names for themselves in the sports world. Twenty-two women participated in the 1900 Summer Olympic Games in Paris and when figure skating to the roster in 1908, the number of female participants nearly doubled.
Left: "The Girl Of The Hour" from "Puck" magazine, December 1904. Photo courtesy Library Of Congress. Right: 1908 postcard entitled "Skating Girl".
Yet, make no mistake, progress for women in the sporting world was slow and incremental... more so than you would think in a sport we think of as female-dominated today. Odious Victorian ideals still held true. Though women were lauded for their excellence on the ice at skating parties and carnivals, the very notion of them competing (let alone against men) even a decade before King Edward ascended to the throne would have been considered absurd in many circles, if not downright vulgar. Lilly and Mary Cheetham, Southport sisters who passed the National Skating Association's Gold Figure tests in the 1880's, were considered novelties because of their gender, despite their accomplishments. By the late Victorian era, Madge Syers and Phyllis (Squire) Johnson were entering the Association's English Style competitions and competing against men. Times were changing in England, but the old boys club at the International Skating Union couldn't have given two rusty hoots about skating suffragettes.
At the first five ISU Congresses held between 1892 and 1901, there was no evidence of any discussion about international competitions for women. When Madge Syers waded into unchartered waters and submitted an application to compete in the World Championships in 1902, she had the support of her husband Edgar, who was an influential member of the National Skating Association who hosted the event in London, and British ISU delegate George Herbert Fowler.
Left: Bronze statue by Abastenia St. Leger Eberle, 1906. Photo courtesy Metropolitan Museum Of Art. Right: Cover image from "McCall's Magazine - The Queen Of Fashion", 1907.
In 1904, Edgar Syers wrote that Madge's "entry... for the World's Championship was an event so unprecedented that the International Committee which arranged the details of the event were somewhat embarrassed. Many were against the acceptance of the entry, not believing that a woman was capable of competing on level terms with men; but the International Skating Union, having never contemplated the possibility of such an innovation, were bound by their rule which admitted the eligibility of any amateur. In the result the step was justified by Mrs. Syers easily defeating two out of her three opponents, and finishing second to the redoubtable Salchow." At the ISU Congress in Budapest in 1903 the opinion was voiced that women and men should not compete against one another.
The arguments brought up in protest of a woman competing against a man, according to George Herbert Fowler, were as follows:
1) that the dress prevents the Judges from seeing the feet; to this we answer that it is impossible to skate figures properly in a long dress, the dress must be short. 2) that a Judge might judge a girl to whom he was attached; we reply that if a man were so little of an honourable sportsman as to be willing to judge in this case, his Association should certainly not permit it. 3) that it is difficult to compare women with men; we respond that the woman must be judged in every respect exactly as a man is judged.
There was a vote, six to three, but no actual proposal was made and the rules weren't formally amended. As a consequence of this, Madge entered the 1904 European Championships in St. Moritz. Competing in hypothermic conditions, she placed fourth in the figures, but withdrew before the free skating.
The Dugdale sisters, winners of the Count de la Feld Trophy for junior pairs skating at Prince's Skating Club
Jenny Herz performing the sit spin in Davos
In 1905, after further lobbying from the National Skating Association, the ISU finally devised the 'Championship of the I.S.U.' for Ladies, at the time not termed a World Championship on equal grounds with men. However, these early ISU Championships were later deemed World Championships during the Jazz Age. Fittingly, Madge Syers won the first of these Championships in Davos in 1906. Jenny Herz, the sister of European Champion Ernst Herz, finished second. It has been claimed that she was the first woman to perform the sit spin. Madge Syers went on to repeat as winner of the Championships in 1907 and capped off her career with a win at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games in London, making her arguably the most decorated female skater of the Edwardian era.
Another talented Briton, Dorothy Greenhough Smith, made history during the Edwardian era as the first woman to pass first-class international test, thus becoming the first woman to obtain the National Skating Association's Gold medal. She also won an Olympic medal in 1908 and twice medalled at the ISU's Ladies Championship. Both eminent British skater, judge and writer T.D. Richardson and Olympic Bronze Medallist Geoffrey Hall-Say credited her as the first woman to land an Axel jump. A report from the October 31, 1908 issue of "The Field" confirms she performed the daring leap in her free skating program at the 1908 Olympics. According to Richardson - who skated with her at Prince's - she "could jump it with complete nonchalance - complete with ankle length skirt, hat and very high skates indeed."
In the same era when the Salchow and loop jumps made their first appearances, Dorothy Greenhough Smith pushed the boundaries of athleticism in a time when many considered the idea of a woman jumping rather vulgar. The judges might, after all, see a flash of knee! Madge Syers wasn't a fan of jumping either, stating, "Jumps are not very attractive for a woman; her skirt is apt to become twisted and awkward, whereas in movements like a toe-spin the skirt flies in a graceful circular movement."
Left: Advertisement for Pabst Extract, 1905. Right: Mrs. Kellie skating at the Nordic Games. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.
In January of 1910, a forward-thinking ladies page columnist from Utah remarked, "Any girl who has become fairly expert on skates will tell you... if she attempts any other sport, such as driving an automobile, tobogganing, skiing or something else requiring a certain amount of strength and visual accuracy... it is twice as easy to learn to learn to handle a motor car when one has mastered the art of skating before. Unconsciously almost the skater learns to measure distances, to take in situations at a glance; in fact to see without apparently looking when flying along the ice balanced on two keen, cutting blades."
Unfortunately, women often faced the same challenges in joining skating clubs as they did gaining the right to vote. Though the Wiener Eislaufverein in Vienna had allowed women full membership back in 1874, a number of skating clubs still wouldn't allow women to join without the recommendation or accompaniment of a male member.
Top: Skaters at Regent's Park and Kensington Gardens, 1908. Bottom: Etching of a group of Edwardian women posing rinkside.
The Skating Club, which met at Regent's Park in London when the weather cooperated, had the following requirement: "A lady must be proposed and seconded by lady members and also by a member of the committee in order to be admitted. The test is: forward roll, back cross roll, a large 8 each foot, and twice back and forwards skated to a centre." Fortunately for some Londoners, the Wimbledon Skating Club didn't have the same strict barriers to entry.
Engravings from Germany (left) and Great Britain (right), 1904
At the Minto Skating Club in Ottawa, only men were permitted to be members. Women could only be admitted as 'associates', with no possibility of becoming a director of the club. This was unfortunately a pretty standard practice at the time. Despite this, The Countess of Minto recognized a woman's suitability for the sport. She wrote, "Skating is perhaps the only pastime in which ladies have an undeniable advantage over the sterner sex, for men cannot vie with the 'elegance and ease' which is woman's right par excellence; nor can they wear the skirt which adds so much to the effect of the figure, intensifying the graceful curves as it sways with every movement of the body. The skirt also enables the mediocre skater to produce a far better effect than those who have nothing to conceal the frequent assistance given by the unemployed foot, and it enables a lady to skate a figure in a way that might easily deceive the uninitiated, who neither know nor care if a turn has been skated on a true edge; but although the skater may mislead the gallery, she cannot deceive herself, and anyone who is a lover of the art will persevere until the goal she has in view has been really reached."
America was one of the few countries with a more liberal view on allowing women to take up membership at skating clubs. Several of the first members of the Commonwealth Skating Club (which maintained a six acre skating ground near the Newton and Boston trolley car line in Massachusetts) were women. When the club was formed in 1905, instructor William T. Richardson used his ties with the department of physical training at Wellesley College to invite young women studying at the school to join and take lessons. Oberlin College in Ohio also had a keen group of well over a thousand skaters and was one of the few places in America that offered contests for women. Their only entrance requirement was being able to skate certain figures on the programme.
Though skating clubs in the United States might have been more open to accepting female members, the old boy's club was having none of it. In 1906 - the same year Madge Syers won the first 'ISU Championship For Ladies', Chicago's Isabella (Allen) Butler made history as the first woman to submit an application to compete in the Championships Of America. This "privilege" was flatly denied. It's worth noting that James Edward Sullivan, who was the President of the Amateur Athletic Union Of The United States at the time of Butler's application, was the man behind barring American women from competing in the diving and swimming events at the 1912 Summer Olympics. His stance was that "competition for girls should be... in private, without an admission fee and without the sensation-seeking crowd that would have absolutely no interest in the health of the girl and be on hand only from motives of curiosity... Girls should be kept in their own group and not be permitted to take part in public sports... There is no necessity for seeking competition beyond the school building or yard." He died in 1914, the same year American women were granted the 'privilege' of entering a figure skating competition organized by the International Skating Union Of America.
DRESSED TO THE NINES
was securely controlled by the rich and socially eminent among the
upper classes and by those who had achieved wealth and the limelight
of either fame or notoriety, plus the copious leisure that being in
fashion still demanded. Fashion was a badge of social status and its
devotees regarded it with high seriousness and full absorption.
Fantastic, elaborate, shaped as nature never made her, the
fashionable Edwardian lady is infinitely beguiling in the aplomb and
serenity with which she carries off the daunting elaboration of her
toilette. Those immense, yard-wide hats, laden with plumes and
feathers or with basket-loads of artificial flowers; those rustling,
frothing bell-shaped skirts that swept the ground; that giddy
confusion of ribbons, lace, embroidery, frills, jewels and beads at
every point all contributed to fashion's mightly overspill." -
Elizabeth Ewing, “History Of Twentieth Century Fashion”, 1975
During the Edwardian era, appearances were everything and though some consideration was given to the practicality of dressing for warmth in damp covered rinks and chilly outdoor resorts, skaters certainly dressed to impress. The elegance of their wardrobe was intended to show their wealth, whether real or an illusion. Their on-ice fashions reflected an era which Edmond Taylor described as "probably the last period in history when the fortunate thought they could give pleasure to others by displaying their good fortune."
To look the part, a man needed a little more than a well-tailored tweed suit. Tights or snug trousers with doeskin gloves, a crisp white shirt with starched collar and a tightly fitted, military style jacket banded with fur or Persian lamb became the fashion for men in Europe and Canada, whereas in America a Norfolk jacket with a mandarin collar and a combination of knickerbockers and stockings became popular. Edgar Syers found the latter fashion to be "deplorably ugly... particularly if the former are baggy." Herbert Ramon Yglesias found them to be "the least desirable form of dress."
Top: Suggested skating costume for men in Minnesota in 1906. Bottom: 'Suitable costumes for skating' from a 1907 fashion magazine.
Irving Brokaw, the New York socialite and figure skating champion remarked, "The skater must adopt the costume which experience and wisdom has taught to be the most serviceable for all-round use. For general skating almost any costume may be worn, providing that the coat or jacket is rather short and more or less tight fitting, so as not to impede the movements of the skater; but, of course, knickerbockers, which must be rather tight-fitting about the knee, are to be recommended for general practice, as they are far more comfortable to skate in than the long trousers, and give a feeling of freedom which is so desirable. For competitions or tests, where the skater wishes to make as good an impression as possible before critical judges, a costume consisting of a tight fitting coat or jacket, rather short, with the collar and front often trimmed with Astrakan fur, or sometimes the coat decorated with braid, after the military fashion. A neat felt hat, or cap made of fur or dark cloth. For the limbs, skating full tights Spalding No. lA, or black, tight-fitting knickerbockers, with leather leggings fitting down over the ankles coming from just below the knee. For general exhibitions, the skater should study the style of costume which is most suitable for himself. The main thing is not to have the jacket too long or loose fitting, as this gives an awkward and ungainly appearance to even the most graceful of skaters." Almost all male skaters from the Edwardian era completed their look with a fashionable handlebar moustache and a smart hat - whether it be a bowler or felt derby or an unadorned or fur-trimmed cap.
Left: Irving Brokaw sporting a typically American men's skating costume of the period. Photo courtesy Library Of Congress. Right: Ernst Herz in a typically Continental men's fashion. Photo courtesy Nasjonalbiblioteket.
An interesting distinction between Edwardian men's and women's skating costumes were the decoration with (or absence of) medals won in previous competitions. In examining photographs of the period, one notices that the jackets of European men are almost always decorated with a slew of medals and pins, while very few women added these 'badges of honour' to their costumes. While one might assume that the reason why women really didn't cover themselves with pins and medals was Victorian modesty, there was also a simpler reason. During the Victorian era, when many of these older medals would have been collected by men, women didn't participate in international competitions.
Left: Zsófia Méray-Horváth sporting an elaborate hat. Right: Johan Peter Lefstad with a jacket covered in medals earned at skating contests.
Whereas a skater today might show up to a competition with a rolly bag carrying a dress bag, an Edwardian woman wouldn't have been caught dead wandering into a rink's cloakroom in a dressing gown carrying a hat box, her finery draped over her arm. She arrived already dressed to the hilt; the only addition to her ensemble being her skates - which more often than not, someone else put on for her. Though modesty and decorum ruled the roost, Edwardian dress construction was very complicated and it often took hours - and assistance - to achieve the look the skater so desired.
When discussing women's skating attire during the Edwardian era, it's important to understand that most female skaters bowed to fashion norms. Only a small group of daring women who took the sport seriously dared consider functionality. The prevailing attitude of the time is well described in this quote from an article on skating fashions that appeared on a ladies page in the "Los Angeles Herald" in 1909: "In order to be a true sport it is not necessary for a girl to array herself like a tomboy in unbecoming, ungainly garments simply because these chance to be particularly practical for the special form of athletics in which she may chance to indulge... The agile tennis player or clever skater will elicit double the admiration if she herself looks charming and smartly gowned."
Top: Belgian artist Fernand Fernel's humourous 1908 illustration"Patinage". Bottom: Postcard by Léon G. Lebègue illustrating a group of French skaters, circa 1910.
The bodice of a typical Edwardian skating dress was built over a fitted underbodice, and the dresses were often poached. Sleeves were wide at the shoulder and jackets were often finished with contrasting materials, braid and lace. Popular dress materials included wools, cottons, taffetas, satins, mousseline de sole and velvets. Bonnets had gone out of fashion during the late Victorian period, worn only by widows and 'the elderly'.
Photos courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France
Over-the-top hats with small crowns perched atop women's heads, adorned with all manner of notions, flowers, feathers and ribbons. The hems of skirts were sometimes weighted with shot, recalled Harry Stone, "to avoid the embarrassment of alpine breezes." Fashion experts Herbert Norris and Oswald Curtis added, "Gloves were worn on almost every occasion, and their absence was deemed to show a complete lack of breeding. No self-respecting woman would have [dreamed] of partaking in a cup of tea or sitting in a theatre with her hands uncovered." Embroidered gloves made of a heavier fabric like suede were often worn for outdoor activities like skating.
Left: A lady's maid assisting a woman into a straight-fronted corset. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France. Right: Advertisement for Redfern & Sons Corsets, circa 1910.
In 1900, the appearance of the new straight-fronted corset lowered the bust line and allowed more emphasis on a higher waist and gave a long, slim line. This new style of corset allowed women (with considerable relief!) to abandon tight lacing. This would have obviously made a huge difference in a woman's ability to skate; the Victorian corset would have restricted movement greatly. With very few exceptions, Edwardian women would have worn corsets when they skated. To abandon one - even on the ice - would have given cause for others to whisper that she was a woman "of loose morals".
Ball's skating corset, designed for roller skaters and also worn by figure skaters. Photo courtesy Boston Public Library.
One typical turn of the century skating dress was "carried out in mouse-grey cloth, had a zouave of red velvet with bold embroidery in gold and coloured thread, the grey sleeves and skirt being similarly decorated. The vest of chinchilla was finished with fancy gilt buttons." Lady Helen Vincent wore a similar dress of velvet and chinchilla when she attended the 1902 World Championships.
Left: Chinchilla skating dress depicted in Austrian newspaper "Sport und Salon", 1909. Right: The skating costume of Miss Tronér of Örebro, Sweden. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.
Some women, prioritizing appearances over common sense, made some rather impratical choices.
Hobble skirts, next to impossible to skate in, were tried out on the ice by those who didn't give thought to how constrictive they were. Lady Constance Gladys Robinson, the unusually tall Marchioness of Ripon, was a patron of the arts and the accountant responsible for the takings at Covent Garden. In her book "The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before The Storm", writer Juliet Nicolson recalled, "At the Niagara skating rink... 'scene of the most amusing parties', according to Mrs. Hwfa Williams, she persuaded her women friends to stack the heels of her their shoes with 'elevators' so that their height did not make her conspicuous. Her accommodating friends hobbled stilt-like 'in utmost discomfort' across the pavement while Gladys glided gracefully towards the rink, at ease with her anonymity."
Left: Madame de Fossault and Mademoiselle Houlep in Paris in 1907. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France. Right: 1908 postcard from Wisconsin illustrating a young woman skating in an unusually short skirt that is flying up with the wind.
Mademoiselle Houlep was the subject of whispering and pointing in Paris in February of 1907, when she attended a skating fête on the Bois de Boulogne wearing a dress that barely covered her knees. She proceeded to enter a three hundred metre speed skating race and tied for first place. Her dress would have been shocking for the time - even by Parisian standards - and she would have only got away with it because of her young age. Isabella (Allen) Butler was another woman from this era who challenged fashion norms. For her exhibitions, she often wore knee-length dresses and even a pair of shorts. Isabella was a professional who came from the circus world, and her exhibitions on tank ice in Vaudeville shows were billed as the kind of spectacles where circus-style costumes would have been the accepted.
Women who took the 'sport' aspect of skating more seriously wore flared skirts as early as 1900 and 1901. Madge Syers believed, "A skirt must always be an impediment, particularly when there is a wind; therefore, do not hamper yourself unnecessarily by a long or pleated skirt, but choose one short and rather narrow, of a fairly heavy material, cut to hang away from the figure, and weighted by a band of some close fur. Although many prefer the appearance of a full skirt, it should not be worn because it is so apt to get under the skate and cause an awkward fall; and it has a most tiresome habit of wrapping around the knees and binding them together. A loose warm blouse and fur toque should be preferred. Nothing should be worn which restricts the movements. No one will ever learn to skate who is tightly laced. This foolish habit is both dangerous to health and the cause of many bad falls. The waist must be free, so that the muscles have full play."
Skating fashions from 1909 (top) and 1910 (bottom)
By the time of Madge Syers' retirement from competitive skating in the late Edwardian era, there was some evidence of skating fashions evolving. In January of 1909, an anonymous American ladies page columnist wrote, "The correct skating costume is of a rough material, with skirt shorter than the ordinary and a half fitted jacket of three-quarter length, while the hat should be small and should fit snugly on the heat. Plaited skirts are not worn this year, but a skirt to be comfortable to skate in should have a greater width and flare than is given in the regular fashionable model this season... For outdoor skating a good length of skirt is one which reaches just to the top of the laced boots... The jacket for a skating costume should be made full large, to allow of a sweater being worn underneath, as there will be days so mild as to make this added protection unnecessary. The old Norfolk jacket is an excellent model for this dress. A medium three-quarter length is best for a skating jacket, as, unless it is extremely cold, too long a coat is a great inconvenience... Rough tweed, homespun, heavy ribbed serge, cheviot and camel's hair cloth all are excellent for a skating costume, while for a rather smarter style of costume corduroy is exceptionally pretty. The coarse ribbed serges are perhaps newer than any other of these textures, and in the bright reds and warm taupes and browns are most attractive. Strange to say, the Directoire coat, with its loose back and trimmings of straps and buttons, does not look too exaggerated for a skating costume, and many of the rough serges are made in a much modified Directoire design that is extremely smart."
T.D. Richardson recalled that at Prince's Skating Club, "The ladies wore beautifully cut black cloth skirts reaching to the top of the shining black boots. Now and again there was a glimpse of coloured lining or petticoat or - very daring - sleek black silk stockings... The rink being very warm, transparent chiffon blouses were quite in order - dashing toques made a gay and glittering picture. But the first sign of things to come, was the occasion upon which one delightful daughter of the aristocracy appeared to give a show one Sunday afternoon - a regular tea-time event, with half the smart world of Edwardian society present - clad in a black silk maillot, a-top a daringly short skirt, and quite obviously NO CORSETS. This caused the most tremendous sensation and considerable adverse criticism - but she looked so delightful, so graceful and so lissome, that gradually a movement for freer clothing for skating began to take shape; but the war intervened, and it was not until peace came again that freedom of costume and movement was finally adopted."
Top: A Edwardian era pair of Norwegian skates. Photo courtesy Nasjonalmuseet. Bottom: The Monier-Williams skate, which was sold in England in the early Edwardian era.
The skating boots popularly sold during the Edwardian era were fashioned of calf or leather, in the laced Blucher or Balmoral cut style, firm but not stiff, with a broad straight heel. Madge Syers favoured "rather high" soft calf boots over patent leather, such as those made by Samuel Winter Ltd. and Manfield & Sons in London. There was no need for England's elite to travel by carriage to Samuel Winter Ltd.'s offices in South Kensington. Agents from the manufacturer made house calls, measuring skaters feet discreetly from the privacy and comfort of their own drawing rooms.
Popular blade manufacturers in America included Barney & Berry, the Samuel Winslow Manufacturing Company and A.G. Spalding & Bros. Gustave Stanzione's small shop on Columbus Avenue in New York City opened in 1906, specializing "in the making of fine skating boots for ladies and gentlemen." One Herr Schumacher had been making custom 'made-to-measure' boots for skaters in Switzerland since the Victorian era. Japanese factories began manufacturing skates in 1907, which were mainly distributed to skaters who frequented Lake Suwa, a popular skating destination in the Kiso Mountains near Honshu.
The cost of an English pair of skates in 1904 was approximately two pounds. Swedish made pairs sold for about a pound and a half. The Syers', Henning Grenander and Arthur Cumming all obtained "most satisfactory skates" from T.H. Deane and Co. in Knightsbridge, London. John Wilson's skates, based at the Portland Works in Trafalgar Square manufactured an Edgar Syers skate with a facsimile of his signature. Two former Portland Works employees opened a competing skate-making shop at Thorpe Works called Francis Wood & Son's. A 1908 book from Germany raved about the 'Halifax' Acme skates made by the Starr Manufacturing Company in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, calling them "comfortable... durable [and] very popular."
Ulrich Salchow wore a round-toed boot, with a leather band across the fore part, which made lacing difficult. His skates were specially designed by Swedish surgical instrument maker Johan Albert Stille, with a toe-pick and a parallel sided hand forged blade that was flat in the middle for big curves and turns and sharper at both ends for loops and cross-cuts. An English Style skater named Major Bailey later shared the rumour that straps and several patches were put on Salchow's boots because they were actually quite old - a favourite or lucky pair. His unique equipment proved so popular that A.G. Spalding Bros. later marketed a whole line of boots and blades called the Salchow Model. Their advertisement claimed that "every pair positively passes his personal inspection."
George Dawson Phillips, a well-respected American speed and figure skater, was of the belief that figure skating blades should be "1 1/2 inches longer than the shoe, the back being even with the back of the foot. The blade should be on a six-foot radius and thirty-sixty-fourths of an inch wide, and smooth ground. A perfect blade should have a bearing of five-eights of an inch on the ice." George Henry Browne noted how English and Continental Style skaters used different blades. He stated, "The difference between the two schools of skating has not only been due to national differences of temperament, but also to the difference in skates used... The English have used exclusively a right-angled blade ground to a 7-ft. radius, sometimes with concave sides (Dowler blades, narrow at middle and thicker at ends). Continental skaters use 5- or 5 1/2-ft. radius skates, often with convex sides (blades 1/4-in. thick at bearing point, tapering to 1/8-in. at ends). The flat blade contributes to a stable equilibrium, permitting large curves on unbent knee in quiet pose; the sharp rock skate contributes to a stable equilibrium and requires a bent knee and swing of arms and unemployed foot to maintain balance on short curves. Salchow uses a parallel sided blade, flat in the middle for big curves and turns and sharper at both ends for loops, cross-cuts and beaks."
AMATEURS AND PROFESSIONALS
1910 postcard showing a woman in a costume that certainly wouldn't have been sported by an amateur competitor during the Edwardian era
"Amateurism is the flower of one of the most fundamental of animal and human instincts, play. It is the product of the play, impulse with social rivalry added. Professionalism grows out out of an entire different instinct, the instinct in human nature that creates an interest in spectacular contests of whatever nature, the willingness to pay for the satisfaction of that interest on the part of some and the willingness to serve as a spectacle maker and receive the favours on the part of others." - "Sheffield Independent", January 4, 1909
The ISU first defined an "amateur" in its Regulations at the 1901 Congress in Berlin. Skaters could be disqualified and deemed professionals if they participated in any sport for gain. In fact, they had to submit an entrance fee to even enter an ISU Championship, which was only returned in the event the competition was cancelled. If they withdrew from a competition after entering, their entrance fee was forfeited. Unusually, skaters were forbidden from skating or teaching skating for money, but could earn a living teaching gymnastics or fencing. If a skater lost their amateur status, they could apply to the ISU Council for reinstatement. If the Council deemed them 'rehabilitated', they had to wait a year before re-entering competition.
Open or professional competitions were forbidden, as was the selling or pawning of cups, trophies or other prizes won at competitions. There were 'workarounds' for skaters though. Reimbursement of travel and hotel expenses was permitted, and if a skater received a discreet 'gift' while skating abroad and both parties agreed that 'Mum was the word', no one would be the wiser, would they?
While most of the ISU's rules regarding amateurism were penned to curb betting at speed skating races where competitors often got a cut, the Edwardian era gave rise to a relatively new-fangled phenomenon: professional figure skating. Though lavish spectacles like the Eisballets at the Admiralspalast in Berlin hadn't yet been conceived, there were certainly skaters during the Edwardian era who achieved fame and success skating for money.
George Meagher. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Canada's George Meagher toured Europe during this period, jumping barrels and carving out fancy figures for paying audiences. He was billed to audiences as a World Champion, though he never competed in an ISU Championship. Edgar Syers had something to say about skaters like Meagher when he published a review of the 1898 World Championships: "The I.S.U. is the only body having authority to award the title of champion, and as one frequently sees Mr. Blank or Professor Dash advertised as a 'champion skater', it is as well to note that the claims of these performers (often, be it allowed, good skaters) to such distinction are usually, when investigated, found to be of a singularly unconvincing nature, appearing to depend chiefly on the unfortunate fact that in the world of sport such false pretensions are extremely difficult to suppress. The breasts of these claimants are usually profusely gay with decorations, which on inspection will be found to consist of gifts from admirers, rather than the hardly earned rewards of bona fide competition."
Norval Baptie in 1908
Finnish skater Nadja Franck turned professional during the late Victorian era after her amateur status was questioned when she began giving lessons to Scandinavian skaters. During the early Edwardian era, Franck toured Finland and Russia, giving exhibitions. Canada's Norval Baptie joined the ranks of the professionals in 1905, when he won an international speed skating race, defeating some of the world's fastest racers. He would go on to tour Western Canada with a seven-act one-man show that featured speed and figure skating and barrel jumping.
Isabella Butler performing the 'Dip Of Death' in Barnum and Bailey's Circus
Perhaps most famous was Isabella (Allen) Butler, a Vassar educated American who rode stunt bicycle down a curved roller coaster track, doing a full loop in the air over a forty foot chasm and flying onto another track in Barnum and Bailey's Circus. She teamed up with Eddie Bassett, a champion skater from New York, in 1907 and took America by storm skating a pairs act on portable tank ice.
Boston born circus star and impresario Stanley W. Wathon promoted Butler and Bassett, falsely billing them as the "World's Champion Skaters" to draw in patrons - much like George Meagher. The ruse worked. Patrons flocked en masse to the Fifty-Eighth Street Theatre in New York City to see what all the fuss was about. "The New York Clipper", on March 14, 1908 recalled their act: "A tank of real ice, about eight or ten feet in length by half of that in width is set in the centre of the stage, and on this the team perform their skating novelties. The act opens with some neat evolutions by both Miss Butler and Mr. Bassett and then each takes an individual try at it, with capital results. They do some remarkable feats, particularly when the small space in which they are compelled to work is taken into consideration. Miss Butler aroused plenty of enthusiasm and Mr. Bassett's skating around four lighted candles brought forth hearty applause. The entire act is worthy of the highest praise, and is something new for Vaudeville. It ran about twelve minutes, in three... He introduces a marvellous human top spin, in which he claims to spin at the rate of several hundred revolutions a minute." Following their Big Apple debut, Butler and Bassett took their icy stage act on the road to Chase's Theatre in Washington, D.C., The Grand Theatre in Pittsburgh and Bennett's Theatre in Montreal between May 1908 and January 1909. Over a decade before the nineteenth amendment guaranteed American women the right to vote, Isabella Butler was personally responsible for teaching New York women to figure skate. These 'skating suffragettes' were largely members of the city's upper crust. On April 21, 1909, "The Bridgeport Evening Farmer" reported on her classes thusly: "Desiring to interest her sex in the sport she yielded to the entreaties of Mrs. Irving Brokaw and Mrs. Ernest Iselin and had a class at the St. Nicholas Rink which did more to create the interest in ice skating among the women of New York than anything else had done for several years."
History was made at the Niagara Skating Rink in March of 1901 when Great Britain's first professional skating competition was held as a last minute substitution for the 1901 World Championships in London, which were moved to Stockholm after Queen Victoria's death. The March 14, 1901 issue of "The Sportsman" reported, "Two of the best skaters among the professional teachers whom the opening of ice rinks has brought to the front were pitted against each other yesterday for a medal and a purse given by the management, plus, of course, the likewise accruing honour. The two contestants were Messrs Karl Aufholz and Harry Stiegert, for several years instructors at the rink. Each man deposited with the appointed judges - Messrs Edgar Syers, Clement Hopkins and H. Torromé - a sealed envelope in which he appointed six figures to be executed, each having to do his own and his rival's feats, making twelve in all. A couple of hours in the afternoon were set apart for this portion of the display, which was watched with most interest by practical skaters who could understand the difficulties overcome and the triumph achieved. At night half an hour was given up to free skating, and here the appeal was to the normal as well as to the educated eye. How close the struggle was appears from the fact that while the winner, Mr. Aufholz, scored 965 points, Mr. Stiegert, who was second, had 990 to his credit, the apparent topsy-turviness of these figures being accounted for by the method of scoring, so that with his 965 Aufholz had two firsts and a second, while Stiegert, not withstanding his 990, had two seconds and one first."
Charlotte Oelschlägel penning a letter. Photo courtesy Library Of Congress.
On November 18, 1908, a ten year old who would go on to become a sensation during The Great War made her professional figure skating debut in Germany. Charlotte Oelschlägel was the daughter of the wealthy owner of one of Berlin's largest furniture factories. He was greatly opposed to the idea of his daughter skating for money, thinking she'd be viewed as a "showgirl". Charlotte's doctor, who had prescribed outdoor exercise as therapy after a breakdown, teamed up with an ice show producer to outnumber her father. Crown Prince Wilhelm, who was also taught to skate by her first instructor Paul Mundner, gave her special working papers as she was under the age of sixteen, with the condition that she continue her education with private tutors.
A cigarette card depicting skaters at the Berliner Eispalast, circa 1910
Charlotte's 1908 performance at the Berliner Eispalast led to a starring role in the famous Eisballets at Berlin's Admiralspalast and eventually, a five thousand dollar a week contract with Charles Dillingham on Broadway. She became so famous that she was known as simply Charlotte. BETTER TOGETHER
Left: German postcard, 1910. Right: 'Peacock series' postcard by German/American publisher Paul C. Koeber Co. entitled "The Ice Trust", 1910
"Promised that a Duchess would waltz on skates on ice was enough was enough to draw a crowd to Prince's park, London, the other day, when an exhibition was given for the benefit of a society that befriends dumb animals. The Duchess of Bedford was the titled shower of skill in figure skating. She wears a silver medal of the National Skating Association. The Duchess waltzed on the ice with Grenander, who calls himself former champion skater of the world. When she had finished a pony drawing a sledge made a tour of the rink, collecting a rich harvest of gold of silver from the crowds on the 'banks'. Women of rank sold programs, skating with their wares among the spectators." - "The Montgomery Tribune", June 5, 1908
'Hand-in-hand' or pairs skating developed immensely during the Edwardian era. During Queen Victoria's reign, it was commonplace for both similar and mixed-gender teams to perform figures in unison. When the ISU first started holding pairs competitions, a rule was passed stating that partnerships had to consist of "a gentleman and a lady".
Left: Edgar Syers and Martin Gordan skating a similar pair during the early Edwardian era. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France. Bottom: Solveig Anderson and Arthur Johanssen. Photo courtesy Oslo Museum.
It was really during the Edwardian era that the distinction between a pairs team and an ice dance team was made, long before the latter discipline was officially established. In reviewing the results of pairs and valsing (waltzing) competitions during this period, one notices something quite interesting. Pairs teams (with very few exceptions) were either married, romantically linked or siblings.
Etching from Albert Beck Wenzell's 1903 book "The Passing Show". Photo courtesy The Costumer's Manifesto.
Valsing partnerships were informal and quite temporary, no different than a man asking a woman to dance at a grand ball. While the whole concept of two unrelated or unmarried persons establishing a formal partnership on the ice was considered untoward in some circles, a temporary partnership for a valsing competition wouldn't have caused anyone to bat an eye. This was because the same Victorian ettiquettes that applied to ballrooms and dance halls applied to ice rinks during the Victorian era.
Couples valsing in Vienna, circa 1910
Men were expected to dance with the women they accompanied first and to see to it that she had a partner whenever she wished, but were also encouraged to take turns skating with different partners. Tousey & Small's book "How To Dance" cautioned, "Ladies and gentlemen should not dance exclusively with the same partners, if by doing so they exclude others from desirable company... We should treat all courteously; and, not manifesting preference for any one in particular, be ready to dance with whoever may need a partner."
Poem from "The Cheery Book" by Joe Kerr, first published in 1898
While pairs skating was formally bestowed a Championship of its own at the ISU Congress in Stockholm in 1907, international pairs competitions drawing the exact same competitors had been existence for nearly a decade by this point. Madge and Edgar Syers had won international competitions in London and Berlin in 1902 and 1904, and Anna Hubler and Heinrich Burger, whom history remembers as the first World Champions in pairs skating in 1908, had already won international pairs competitions in Munich, Vienna and Troppau before winning their 'first' World title in St. Petersburg in 1908.
Left: Christa von Szabó and Gustav Euler. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France. Right: Illustration by Charles S. Chapman, from Albert Hickman's 1909 short story "An Unofficial Love-Story". Photo courtesy University Of Michigan.
Pairs performances of the era usually consisted of combined figures, a highlight move such as a spiral or footwork sequence and interpretations of the few known ice dances. Emphasis was on sureness and simplicity, as evidenced by Norcliffe G. Thompson and F. Laura Cannon, members of The Skating Club, who cautioned that "nothing looks worse to English eyes than a couple rushing wildly about, heedless of how many unoffending people they may upset in their frenzied attempt to execute some figure which is probably wholly beyond their powers."
Left: Edwardian era valsing patterns. Right: A couple demonstrating the waltz position. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Valsing on ice was in vogue from London, Ontario to London, England. The typical pattern used during the Edwardian era was in a large serpentine eight form, with one loop made with a three-turn, the other by reversing. However, by late in the decade it was starting to be abandoned in favour of a circular pattern. The reason for the change was the high number of near-collisions when couples passed through the center of the pattern. A valsing competition was held in conjunction with the 1902 World Championships in London and Canada saw its first Waltzing champions, Lady Evelyn Grey and Dudley Oliver, in 1910.
Top and middle: A French four and trio. Photos courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France. Bottom: An all-male Austrian four.
The Bohatsch Two-Step or Ten-Step was also popular, as were The Lancers, a group dance based on a European folk dance which caught on particularly at Canadian clubs, contributing along with combined figures greatly to the early popularity of fours skating. In 1909, Karl Schreiter first performed his dance, the Kilian, at the Engelmann rink in Vienna. There were also attempts to interpret other popular dances of the day on ice, such as quadrilles, scottisches, polkas, mazurkas and country dances. An article from the January 19, 1908 issue of "The New York Times" noted, "Occasionally the [St. Nicholas] rink on club evenings is set aside for dancing exclusively, as at other times the waltz and two-step are only played at intervals during the afternoon, and everyone who does not know how to waltz is expected to leave the ice at that time. On the evenings of the dances the quadrille is one of the features, and it is a very interesting thing to watch how the various skaters, some of whom may be quite proficient in different figures, adapt themselves to the more stately movements of the quadrille." THE RISE OF THE ARTIFICIAL RINK
The Melbourne Glaciarium packed to the brim in 1906. Photo courtesy State Library Victoria.
"Two inches of clear, black ice will bear infantry. Four inches will bear cavalry. Six inches, field-guns. Eight inches, heavy siege-guns with a thousand pounds to the square foot. Snow ice is very dangerous and should be at least two inches thick before venturing upon it." - William T. Richardson, quoting from an unknown engineer's handbook in "Athletics And Out-Door Sports For Women", 1903
J. Simont engraving of skaters at the Champs-Élysées rink in Paris, 1906
In the late Victorian era, the rise of the indoor rink or 'Glaciarium' allowed skaters shelter from inclement weather, the freedom to practice figure skating year-round and the ability to shut the door (literally, at times) on 'undesirable' skaters of the middle and lower classes. By the turn of the century, dozens of artificial rinks had already been constructed - in New York City, London, Paris, Vienna, Brussels, Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Hanover, Hamburg, Brooklyn, Washington and Munich.
Top: Engraving of skaters at the Palais de Glace in Nice, France. Bottom: Illustration of instructors at the Palais de Glace. Photo courtesy Musée Carnavalet, Histoire de Paris.
Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.
In 1906, Nice, France got its very own Palais de Glace. Built by architect François Fratacci, the Palais de Glace opened its doors for five o'clock tea until one or two in the morning. It had an in-house casino, a staff of instructors and a party atmosphere.
Skaters at the Berlin Eispalast
In 1907, the Crossmyloof rink in Glasgow, Scotland opened its doors. A successor to the short-lived Glasgow Real Ice Skating Palace, Scotland's newest artificial rink had an unusual elevated bandstand at center ice which was modelled after Paris' Moulin Rouge. In 1908 and 1909, two of the most prominent rinks on the Continent opened their doors: the Berlin Eispalast and the Engelmann rink in Vienna. The Engelmann rink was reportedly the first open-air artificial rink in Europe. Both the Eispalast and Engelmann Rink would serve as the training bases of future Olympic Gold Medallists born during the Edwardian era.
In 1909, Boston and Chicago followed suit with large-scale indoor rinks of their own. In 1910, one of the first 'ice tanks' was installed at Hammerstein's Roof in New York City.
Left: Tea time at Prince's Skating Club. Right: Three skaters at the Palais de Glace in Paris.
The important role artificial rinks played in the development of figure skating certainly wasn't lost on The Earl Of Lytton. In 1908, he wrote, "The establishment of artificial ice rinks in London and elsewhere has given to skaters opportunities for practice which were unknown to a former generation. The result has been greatly to increase the proficiency of English skaters, who can now hold their own in international figure-skating competitions with the skaters of other countries." The Earl Of Lytton presided over the opening of the Manchester Ice Palace, on October 25, 1910, the autumn after King Edward VII's death. This massive new facility played host to the 1912 World Championships.
Photograph and trade card from the Sydney Glaciarium, circa 1908
The rise of the artificial rink also allowed figure skating to flourish in parts of the world never thought possible. South Africa's first ice rink opened in Johannesburg in 1909, and a trio of Glaciariums in Australia opened their doors: Adelaide in 1904, Melbourne in 1906 and Sydney in 1907. All three of these Australian rinks could be connected to a syndicate that included Henry Newman Reid and Dunbar Poole, the latter being a prominent Australian skater who had lived for a time in England and skated at Prince's. Australian Champion Charles MacLurcan, who skated on the ice of the Sydney Glaciarium before it officially opened with the permission of Poole, recalled the early days of the rink in an article that appeared in "The Sun" on February 20, 1956. He remarked, "When it was opened it was all the rage among the socialites, the Potts Pointers. They use to skate in the afternoon. They spent millions of pounds there. Mrs. So-and-So would hire the rink for a private party, and the three professors would have fully booked seasons of teaching, at 10/- for each quarter hour. The parties were very exclusive."
Dunbar Poole (in the black sash) presiding over festivities at the Sydney Glaciarium in 1909
In the decade that followed, artificial rinks - considered exotic novelties - would be established in such unlikely locations as Shimla, India and Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 1904, one Australian completely unaccustomed to the chillier climes of an ice rink quipped to an Adelaide reporter, "It's glorious but - great Scot - it's cold!"
While many skaters of the time relished in the new opportunities that artificial rinks provided, there were others who were wary of them, fearing they were potential breeding grounds for illness as they were damp, cold, smelly, poorly ventilated and often overcrowded. In 1909, one Washington, D.C. ladies page columnist suggested, "A rub down in alcohol is not a bad idea after a skating party. But as alcohol is an astringent it should be followed by a generous application of cold cream. The coat is all the more necessary in order that one may be prevented from taking cold after skating." Five years earlier, one Daniel Mayer, who owned Erard's Piano Manufactory not far from the National Skating Palace in London, complained that "an offensive effluvium caused by sulphuretted hydrogen was emitted [from the rink] which was dangerous to health and that led to complaints from all parts of the neighbourhood." Mayer claimed the fumes were so malodorous and detrimental to his health that he was no longer able to reside on his premises. The chief clerk at Marlborough Street Police Court even made entries in his diary about the smell.
There were cautionary tales of what could happen if you cut corners constructing your ice rink. In Solsgirth, Manitoba - now a ghost town - the locals constructed a fifty by one hundred and twenty foot ice natural rink with a rounded roof in a shoddy barn in 1909. The roof caved in from heavy snow. It was repaired the next year only to be blown over in a storm. Damage and destruction was one thing; loss of life quite another.
Sadly, newspapers regularly shared shocking stories of poor unfortunate souls falling through the ice on frozen ponds, bogs and rivers and drowning. On Sperry Brook, a tributary of the Cuyahoga river in 1908, a father, his three daughters and their uncle all perished in one such tragedy. It's a sad fact that the vast majority of those who sadly perished were impoverished members of the lower classes. They simply wouldn't have had access to well-maintained artificial rinks where the risks would have been considerably fewer. LOOK IN A BOOK
"Ice Skating", colourized engraving by A.B. Frost, 1904.
"Enthusiastic interest and unusual opportunity for comparing the best styles of skating [is] to be found among many nations... and the unbounded hospitality extended to [Irving Brokaw] in all parts of the world where skating is looked upon as a sport in the best sense of the word, have accused the author to venture on this little volume, which, on account of its convenient size, can be carried about and easily referred to when the learner is on skates." - Introduction to "The Art Of Skating" by Irving Brokaw, 1910
Though many skating clubs and artificial rinks were beginning to employ skating instructors at the turn of the century, many of these early coaches were tasked almost exclusively with teaching the uninitiated the very basics. Most 'serious' figure skaters got the bulk of their education from corresponding with one another by letter, exchanging ideas over a cup of tea in the skating centers of Europe and reading books.
The skating books of the time were mostly instructional in nature and often filled with hundreds of quaint diagrams. Principal authors of period included George Henry Browne, Herbert Ramon Yglesias, Edgar Syers, Irving Brokaw, Edward Frederic Benson, George Helfrich, Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin, Ulrich Salchow and Louis Magnus. It almost seemed a given that any top skating champion would pen a book, sharing their opinions and secrets to success. The popular texts of the time covered everything from skating history to technical knowledge of school and 'field' figures used in free skating. Antiquated names for "rhythmical combinations" like 'wing-figures', 'The Chinese Grapevine' and 'The Antihypochrondriac' (holdovers from the Victorian era) also made their appearance. Ernest Law's 1905 book "Valsing On The Ice" was the first devoted entirely to ice dancing. George Helfrich's 1906 book "Die Dame auf Schlittschuhen" was the first devoted entirely to women's figure skating. George Seifert's 1908 book "Auf Dem Eise!" was addressed to both 'herren' and 'damen'. That same year, George Helfrich had another first. "Paarlaufen und Gruppenlaufen auf dem Eise" was the first book devoted to pairs skating in the Continental Style.
Louis Magnus and Yvonne LacRoix demonstrating the finer points of figures for the French newspaper "La Vie Au Grand Air". Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France.
Newspapers and journals also featured articles on figure skating during the winter months, as well as advertisements for skates and ice rinks. Unfortunately, articles in the Society and ladies pages tended to focus more on how women could achieve the ultimate look on the ice than offer them much helpful instruction.
Top: Swedish skater Victor Lundquist carving out a Special Figure. Bottom: Postcard by German artist Carl Robert Arthur Thiele, circa 1901.
It's interesting to note how skating books of the Edwardian era showcased the great interest in Special Figures that was quite unique to the period. The 1905 edition of Herbert Ramon Yglesias' book "Figure Skating" only devoted a couple of pages to Special Figures, but Russian, German and Scandinavian books of the period devoted entire chapters to the subject. The striking similarities between the star designs of top skaters of the period from book to book suggest that many skaters were plagiarising each other's patterns.
French skating historian Jeanine Hagnauer claimed that in 1909 the Russians went so far as to "suppress school figures in favour of Special Figures, proving that they acted independently." Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin's win in this category at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games may have played a role in this, but so did the focus of literature at the time. Panin-Kolomenkin's own book, which was first released in 1910, focused largely on Special Figures. LEGENDS OF EDWARDIAN SKATING
Margaret Bland Jameson
The daughter of Elizabeth Anne (Mellor) and Frederick Bland Jameson, Margaret Bland Jameson was born on New Year's Eve, 1883 in Heywood, Lancashire. Her father, a cotton spinner by trade, died when she was an infant. Her mother remarried to his younger brother George Herbert Jameson, a doctor, and she grew up in a large blended family at a large Victorian house called Leam in Warwickshire. She was educated at a boarding school called Deerhaddnn in Eastbourne.
At the age of eighteen, it was decided that Margaret should travel abroad with her older sister Dolly. The day they were due to leave for Hanover, Germany, they received word at the train station that Queen Victoria had died at Osborne House. She and her sister walked a mile to a drapery shop, bought material, and had a tailor make their black mourning dresses. After her trip to Germany, Margaret passed the Cambridge Local Examinations but was coerced out of attending by her sister. In a letter, her sister Dolly wrote, "How could [your mother] possibly afford to send a daughter to the University as well as providing for the four sons to have this opportunity and how could she herself with all that had to be done by the daughters of a family, if she was left the only one at home?" Reluctantly, she decided not to attend Cambridge. Her life during the Edwardian era consisted of visits with friends and relations, tea parties, trips to the Stratford Festival, Scotland and Switzerland... and skating.
Margaret first took to the ice during The Great Frost Of 1895 on a frozen, flooded meadow near Leamington Spa. In her autobiography "The Long Day 1883-1983" she recalled, "We perched on chairs at the edge of the meadow and a patient man, kneeling on the cold ground, fixed skates to our small boots. These were little oval platforms of wood with a very narrow band of steel inserted down their length. A long screw fixed them to the heel of the boot and a broad leather strap was pulled tightly over the numbed toes to secure the front part. Thus equipped, we lurched off, regardless of the pain, to struggle over the rough ice between the tufts of weeds and grass. But I remember the joy of gliding, so it must have all been worthwhile."
Though she also had taken to the ice on her trip to Hanover, Margaret wasn't exposed to the true art of figure skating until she was invited to join a small party travelling to Davos in the winter of 1902. The group stayed at the Flüela Hotel and skated at the town rink, where English Style skaters had built an adjoining pavilion. The English rink was maintained by the Kurverein and skaters weren't allowed to skate their unless they qualified for membership by passing a test that was only slightly easier than the National Skating Association's bronze test. Margaret recalled, "Until you had acquired the necessary skill... you had to struggle among the crowd on the big rink, with little children tumbling about and boys rushing headlong and, at certain times of the day, a few lone speed-skaters practicing their easy, loping movements around a track of their own... The English Style of skating consisted [of] sets, skated in unison, and for this it was necessary to restrict the use of far-flung arms and spare leg to help balance. Add to this the Englishman's natural dislike of anything approaching showing off and you will understand the contrast between the noisy, seething town rink and the peaceful, orderly movements on the English side of the great pile of snow which divided us. Of course, I accepted that the English was the only way and threw myself with enthusiasm into mastering the rest of the turns and combinations of turns, so that I could join in the combined figures. It took several years and the luck of one long stay, with mild February weather, before I actually gained the first class standard - the gold medal. But long before that time I and my sister were joining in the sets and also skating hand-in-hand figures. There is no professional element in the English style; there were no paid instructors (at any rate in those days). We coached one another, and the leaders of the Club, Dr. C.E. Williams and his brother-in-law, the Reverend E.H. Allington, were severe critics of anything that was not in accord with their idea of strict, reticent, graceful English Style. Of course, it was a lesson itself, every time we skated a set with the magnificent skaters of those days. I say magnificent advisedly, because the whole idea was big and bold: outdoor skating can be very big and bold; a skating friend of mine, a stipendiary magistrate of the West London Court, used to say he believed the English Style was evolved by the English lord, thwarted of his hunting by the frost, making an attempt to replace it by long, fast skating turns, and also by the country-folk who wanted to replace their Morris dances of the spring by combined skating to a centre in the winter."
Though Margaret won an informal waltzing contest with her brother Gordon in Davos in 1906 and earned the National Skating Association's Gold Medal during the Edwardian era - a feat that few women achieved - she didn't participate in a English Style competition until January 1911, when she joined a team that competed for the Challenge Shield at the Manchester Ice Palace. In both 1911 and 1912, her team finished second in the Shield and she and her brother placed second in a hand-in-hand skating contest held in conjunction with the event. After losing the Shield to the Manchester four in 1911 and 1912, the Wimbledon Skating Club - of which Margaret was a member - triumphed and took the Shield in 1913 and 1914.
During this period, Margaret's other brother Edward got divorced and left his three daughters in her care. The Great War brought an end to her skating, and she focused all of her attention on domestic duties... with the aid of a bevy of domestic servants. She wrote, "They were very sad years indeed... Very soon the casualty lists began to include the names of young men who, only a few months earlier, had been in the classrooms and on the playing fields and who had left school, often earlier than they would normally have done, spent a short time with a training unit and then gone to France, never to return... Shortage of some particular commodity found us queueing up outside a shop very early in the morning in the hope of getting a small quantity of cooking fat or a small joint of meat. We made the bread ration stretch by taking our allowance in flour and baking bread at home, so that some flour was left for puddings and possibly cakes. We added boiled potatoes or boiled rice to the baking to make the loaves bigger. We took on what little part-time war work we could - in my case very little - but I managed to help in the Casualty Department of the Guildford Hospital once a week and I bicycled out to the temporary huts on the Milford Common, after the girls were in bed, to help serve teas to the men and to try to teach a few useful phrases of French to the sargeants who were expecting to be sent overseas." Near the end of the War, she trained as a secretary and in 1921, she took on a job as secretary to the headmaster of the Abbotsholme boarding school in Staffordshire. Later, she took positions as a live-in matron in the boys' house of a public school, a secretary of the owner of a language institute in Bonn, Germany, a work placement worker for au pairs at the YMCA, an interpreter for a small film company and a typist for Times Printing Ink, Adler cars and a German journalist.
Winter trips to Zermatt, Cortina d'Ampezzo and La Grave in the French Alps renewed her interest in figure skating. After a twenty year absence from the sport, Margaret began taking to the ice regularly at the Westminster Ice Club and joined the Royal Skating Club. She wrote, "The Ice Club, close to the Tate Gallery, and near the Embankment, was a delightful place. It had been built largely by private enterprise and it had all the elegance and comfort of a privately owned rink. What a pleasure it was to come for a half-hour in mid-week and for a longer session on Sunday mornings, from my busy city office, and enjoy the ice and the companionship! It took some work to get back to something like the old form, but before long I was included in the Four that competed annually against other clubs. These competitions were a great pleasure - there were three clubs skating in our style, Birmingham, Manchester and ourselves, and the rivalry was kindly and happy."
The outbreak of World War II put an end to Margaret's comeback as a skater. She spent much of the War working at the Littlewood's Pools building in the British government's postal censorship department. She recalled, "A small group of us, no longer quite young, were kept closely to the letters from German Prisoners of War to their families and the families' letters to them... I translated on to the 'required form' a description, from an outlying country farmhouse, of how the 'Canary birds had changed sex': I never knew whether the hidden meaning was that someone in the family had joined 'the Party' or left it." She was eventually released from the position and returned to London, where she experienced the Blitz first hand and took a post as a caseworker with the Czech Refugee Trust Fund. In June of 1944, her sister-in-law and niece were killed in the bombing of the Royal Military Chapel at St. James Park. They were attending a church service commemorating the soldiers that had been killed on the Continent.
When the War ended, she moved to a little house in between Framlingham and Saxmundham and cared for a young blind, mentally challenged girl living in the Sunshine Home in East Grimstead.
In 1945, the Royal Skating Club resumed skating at Queen's Ice Rink and on the small Arosa rink at Richmond. Margaret recalled, "I eagerly joined in, although it meant quite a long drive from near Haywards Heath in Sussex in order to reach Richmond for the 10 o'clock start. We resumed our three-cornered contests, but soon Birmingham dropped out and we were left with a yearly meeting with Manchester, sometimes there and sometimes with us at Richmond. Those meetings at Manchester were something very special; many of the English Style skaters were shareholders in the Ice Palace and could call the tune, and they entertained us regally and with a delightful show of dignity." Margaret was later invited to serve on the Committee of the Royal Skating Club and worked tirelessly for many years to keep the English Style alive. She donated the Jameson Trophy for English Style skating to the Club, which was actually a pair of altered silver candlesticks.
Margaret Bland Jameson, Peter Jordan and Robin Cousins in 1982
In the sixties and seventies, Margaret worked with blind students at Oxford University, took up writing and spent some time abroad in Portugal. she was invited to attend the 1979 Centenary Gala, attended by Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as a guest of the National Skating Association. She recalled, "To my delight and surprise I was... also invited to a dinner for about 150, mostly distinguished performers past and present, the evening before. Mine must be one of the oldest-standing names in the Association's list of members, and I found that I was given the honour of a mention in one of the speeches in a reference to the 100 years' life of the Association." The following year, she gave a talk about skating on Oxford Radio. At the conclusion of a Holiday On Ice performance at Wembley Arena in 1982, the National Skating Association presented Margaret and Robin Cousins with Honorary Life Memberships For Distinguished Services. Their names joined a select list of legendary skaters and officials including Ulrich Salchow, Henning Grenander, Miss Gladys Hogg, Mildred and T.D. Richardson and John Curry. She died peacefully just a few months shy of her one hundredth birthday in Petersfield, Hampshire on August 20, 1983.
Photo courtesy New York Historical Society
"One of the chief objects of artistic skating is to encourage, rather than to repress, the latent individuality of the skater." - Irving Brokaw, "The Art Of Skating"
The son of Elvira (Tuttle Gould) and Isaac Vail Brokaw, Isaac Irving Brokaw was born on March 29, 1871 in New York City. He grew up in a lavish Gilded Age mansion on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 79th Street in Manhattan, overlooking Central Park. The area, at that time, was known as Millionaire's Row.
The Brokaw mansion. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.
Irving's father was a prominent realtor in the Big Apple and the founder of the successful men's clothing firm Brokaw Brothers. The family were descendants of Bourgon Broucard, a Huguenot leader who immigrated to America from the Holy Roman Empire in 1675. They were also fabulously wealthy and well-connected members of the choosy Union League Club.
Irving Brokaw in 1893. Photo courtesy Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University.
As a young man, Irving excelled at baseball, golf and polo and was a member of the New York Athletic Club. He won an intercollegiate quarter-mile race in running and owned owned a grey gelding horse named Tigre which took part in equestrian events. He was first introduced to ice skating when attending the Cutler School Of New York, but wasn't until 1893 (in his senior year at Princeton) when he saw an exhibition at the St. Nicholas Rink at 66th Street off Broadway, that he was seriously hooked on the sport.
Irving Brokaw in 1893. Photo courtesy Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University.
Photos courtesy Library of Congress
In 1897, Irving won the St. Nicholas Rink's figure skating championship by one point and the following year he competed at the Championships Of America for the first time, placing a surprising second to Dr. Arthur Gaetano Keane.
Top: Louis A. Servatius, Frank Horner, Irving Brokaw, Howard R. Ward, Arthur Gaetano Keane and John Doughty at the 1898 Championships Of America. Bottom: Judges and competitors at the 1899 Championships Of America. Top row (left to right): S.J. Montgomery, William Curtis, Frank P. Good, George Dawson Phillips, Louis Rubenstein. Bottom row (left to right): W.W. Arnold, Howard R. Ward, Arthur Gaetano Keane, Irving Brokaw, A.G. Stevens. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.
After finishing in the top three at 1899, 1902, 1904 and 1905 Championships Of America, Irving finally won the event in 1906, defeating Eddie Bassett. The following year, he travelled to Europe and studied the Continental Style of skating in St. Moritz, Davos, Berlin and Paris. While abroad, he met Madge and Edgar Syers and Ulrich Salchow and took lessons from Bror Meyer. In the autumn of 1908, he made history in London as the first American athlete to compete in a winter sport at the Olympic Games, placing sixth. The following year, he placed third to Muriel Harrison and Dorothy Greenhough Smith in an international competition in St. Moritz and second to John Keiller Greig in the Swiss contest for the Bandy Cup.
Photo courtesy Library Of Congress
Irving was a married father when he competed, having walked down the aisle with Lucile Nave, the daughter of the co-owner of the Nave & McCord Mercantile Company, on February 3, 1903. The family lived in a Gothic townhouse at 985 Fifth Avenue, constructed for them by Irving's father, with no less than eleven servants.
Left: Charlotte Oelschlägel and Irving Brokaw. Right: Lucile and Irving Brokaw with the Hon. Roger Coke, the brother of the Earl Of Leicester, in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, 1913. Photo courtesy "The Tatler".
Six and a half feet tall with blond hair and hazel eyes, Irving was a skater with a striking and commanding presence on the ice. When he won the Championships Of America in 1906, a reporter from the "New York Herald" wrote, "Brokaw's work showed much improvement over his efforts of a year ago. He was more at ease, and his execution was clean cut and graceful." Roland Geist, who skated at the St. Nicholas Rink in Broadway with Irving recalled in a 1983 article in "Skating" magazine, "He was a tall, handsome and very distinguished looking man, always impeccably dressed in trim skating attire." Years later while skating at the Ice Club atop Madison Square Garden, Irving called out to him, "Take an edge!". He considered this advice for many years to come.
Photo courtesy Library of Congress
Having been admitted to the bar after graduating from the New York Law School in 1907, Irving devoted a great deal of time and effort to arguing for the adoption of the Continental Style in America. One such plea, published in "The New York Times" on March 19, 1911, stated, "The difference between the Continental and the American skating is not so much a matter of schedule as it is of performance. Both schools have similar sets of moves and figures, the former making them larger and always in the form of eights, while the latter makes them smaller and more infield, each, however, demanding correct tracings on the ice and proper executions at all turns. The Continental Style also demands ability to harmonize and combine all possible combinations of figures into a complete performance set to music... Now, under the influence of some of the European countries who learned their skating from our early American skaters [Jackson Haines, Callie Curtis, E.T. Goodrich, etc.] the various branches of the art have been systematized and arranged so that we now have what are called school figures, which might be called the grammar of skating; the free skating is like the 'rhetorical or literary expression of the performer's character and power in true artistic form.' The importance of the school or prescribed figures is therefore at once apparent; as rhetorical excellence is impossible without grammatical accuracy, so good skating begins with the mastery of the school figures. This is, of course, the International Style of skating, meaning that style which obtains in all the European countries. America being the only country not in the International Skating Union, it is time for us to train skaters in the form where they may meet foreigners on their own ground and in their own style."
Lucile and Irving Brokaw. Right photo courtesy Library of Congress.
Irving's famous book "The Art Of Skating" was first published in 1910 and went through several printings and editions. So popular that it was termed 'The Figure Skater's Bible' by many, it was one of the first books published in America to juxtapose to old American 'fancy skating' style with the Continental Style and study the sport's history with some degree of accuracy. His important efforts to promote the sport through his book and a string of newspaper articles led many contemporary sources to erroneously claim he (alone) was the one to bring Continental Style skating to America. Joel B. Liberman, a contemporary of Irving's from the Skating Club of New York clarified in 1944, "It is my conviction that there were any number of figure skaters who had visited Europe and returned with a version of what they had seen, and tried it at local rinks or ponds. So too, continental Europeans, visiting or resident, must have skated in this style during the Gay Nineties and early 1900's. Stories have come to me of two brothers, the Beissbarth twins of Nuremburg, who skated at the Claremont Rink in Brooklyn in such an 'exaggerated' style that the gallery yelled in derision. But what they or any of the others did made no deep or lasting impression on American skating. It was Irving Brokaw who made figure skating conscious after its long sleep and he did it in the International Style.... He probably ate, slept and lived with the International Style until he mastered it. It should be borne in mind that he was an expert skater in the American style with highly trained ankles, but he was also man of magnificent height and bearing, with a good musical education and a great love for beauty. It must have been the opening of a new world when he saw what skating could really be like... I think it can be safely said that while others who visited Europe saw and admired the International Style, Brokaw's was the only voice to be heard crying in the wilderness, as far as American skating is concerned. His studies in the literature and art of skating were probably more extensive than anyone's before or since and his manner of spreading the knowledge is to be emulated."
James A. Cruikshank, Irving's literary editor, remarked, "Brokaw's greatest contribution to the sport was his personal adoption of the greater beauty and grace of the International Style, his splendid abandonment of all he had learned (in the American style) and his enthusiastic demonstration and teaching of the new style at his own expense."
Irving and Lucile Brokaw in the twenties
Irving, a member of The Salons Of America and the Huguenot Society, was also a talented artist and avid collector. He amassed quite the hoard of antique French furniture, pottery and carpets, many items dating back before the days of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. He also had a huge collection of antique skates and curios from skating's early days.
"La Patineuse", Irving Brokaw
One of Irving's oil paintings, "La Patineuse" or "A Skating Girl", was exhibited in Paris by the Salon D'Automne and hung at the Luxembourg Gallery. He frequently threw parties in Biarritz and New York City to show off his latest works and spent many summers at an artists colony in Eastport, Maine. He was taught water colour painting by William Merritt Chase.
One of Lucile and Irving Brokaw's famous Dansants a Glace
During the skating boom in New York City during the Great War, Irving was front row and center. whether serving as a judge or donating cups and trophies for competitions. He and his wife Lucile won a waltzing contest at Iceland during an ice fête in support of the Jewell Day Nursery and devised a tango for the ice. They were also famous for their Dansants a Glace at the Hippodrome. At one of his teas, there was a contest among for best skater. It was 'won' by Irving. Irving also threw skating parties on his private pond at his country estate at Mill Neck in Oyster Bay, Long Island, which drew a who's who of figure skating. Tea was served on the ice and bridge was sometimes played.
During the roaring twenties, Irving performed in the Skating Club of New York's earliest big carnivals - once appearing as American Revolutionary War naval commander John Paul Jones. Paired with Gertrude Cheever Porter, he won the Fourteenstep at the U.S. Championships in 1920. He was later made an Honorary President of the United States Figure Skating Association.
Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine
As skating grew more popular in New York, Irving grew increasingly concerned about the direction it was headed. In an article that appeared in the "Omaha Sunday Bee", he remarked, "Everybody seems suddenly to have gone ice-mad. For years I have tried to arouse enthusiasm in this most graceful of sports and now that the boom has come I'm almost afraid the thing may be overdone. There are so many people who are taking up skating now who will never really amount to anything. They are going at it in the wrong way. You see them at the rinks going around and around like so many mice on a tread-mill instead of endeavouring to perfect themselves in the only feature of ice-skating that is really worthwhile - figure skating... When I see skaters who have been able to skate for years and are still content to roll around in the ceaseless grind of rink-skating instead of trying to accomplish something in the way of figure-skating, it makes me a little discouraged... Many skaters never get beyond the preliminaries. That is unfortunate. Perhaps the renewed interest in this most graceful of sports may bring about a general improvement in this respect."
Photo courtesy New York Public Library
It's important to consider what really allowed Irving to make such a name for himself and impact in figure skating circles in America during his life... his money. When his father passed away in 1913, a whopping twelve million dollar estate was divided between him and his brother. Instead of using the law degree he earned, he threw a tremendous amount of money at his passion for skating. "The Art Of Skating", his travels through Europe, the fancy skating parties and the wining and dining of skating personalities... it never would have been possible without his pocketbook.
Photo courtesy "The New York Times"
Based on census records showing a greatly reduced income and collections letters found in the Library of Congress, one can deduce that Irving was greatly affected by the Stock Market Crash and Great Depression. He liquidated his Mill Neck estate in 1938, shortly after the death of his beloved wife Lucile. On March 18, 1939, he passed away from pneumococcal meningitis at the Good Samaritan Hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida, less than two weeks shy of his seventieth birthday. He was inducted posthumously to the United States Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1976 and several pairs of skates from his famous collection were donated to the Skating Club of New York.
Paul Armitage remembered Irving Brokaw in 1949 as an "apostle of beauty". In "Skating" magazine, he recalled, "I knew him well. He was a man of heroic build - six feet, two inches. He had been a trained athlete in college, a runner and a hurdler. He had a natural grace which threw its mantle over all his performances. As an artist he had learned skill in sketching and painting in the best schools of Paris. He had acquired excellence in music. He was an idealist - a lover of the poetic in movement. By many years of intensive study and application he had become an adept skater in the old American Style and won its championship in 1906. His vocabulary of the art and its movements was well-nigh complete. He was a profound student of the literature and art of skating, a prolific writer and collector of writings on that subject. He realized that treasure can only be found by digging. I saw him win the 1906 competition and as my friend James A. Cruikshank says, 'I, (too), am one of the living skaters who saw him skate all the freak figures of the old American Style better than any of his competitors skated them.' His work may be summed up as a passionate quest of beauty in skating... He voiced the doctrine that without grace and artistry all figure skating was naught. This doctrine took root. It is still growing. It has transfigured skating and brought to light its unsuspected loveliness and beauties and raised it to a place among the fine arts of the world."
"Late one winter I watched with joy the unexpected closing in of a piece of open water left by ice cutters in a shallow part of a pond near Boston. Early in the morning, before the sun should soften the ice, I was on hand with my skates. Yes, the ice would bear! I surrendered myself to the delicious swing of the figure requiring the least effort - the cross roll backward." - George Henry Browne
Born October 11, 1857 in Natick, Massachusetts, George Henry Browne may have been short in stature, but the heights of success he would achieve in life proved to be greater than his parents George and Emeline (Wetherbee) Browne ever would have dreamed. After graduating from Harvard University in 1878 with Honors in Classics, twenty-two year old George earned a post-graduate A.M. (Masters) degree in English from Cambridge University in 1879.
George then headed to Keene, New Hampshire, where he boarded with the family of a local educator and found a job teaching English and Classics at the Keene High School. In the autumn of 1881, he went to Brooklyn and spent year doing private tutoring before returning to Cambridge at the request of a professor. He took a proctor's room in Felton, and began teaching the sons of several professors privately. The following year, he founded the private Browne and Nichols School with Harvard classmate Edgar H. Nichols. It was first called a 'Fitting and Developing School For Boys' and moved several times, with George remaining a fixture as a headmaster and much-loved mentor to the school's pupils. The aim of the school was to teach students to think rather than memorize and George required his students to study many topics other schools didn't deem important, such as ethics and morals, art, biography and ethnology. The whole thing was considered quite revolutionary. A lover of great literature, George brought poet Robert Frost to the school to give a lecture to his students and edited the book "Dolph Heyliger: A Story from Bracebridge Hall", a series of character sketches originally penned by Washington Irving under the pseudonym Geoffrey Crayon in the early nineteenth century. He also published "Poems From Writings Of Ralph Waldo Emerson", two versions of "A Memory Test Latin Word List", and a college textbook, "Notes On Shakespeare's Verification, with Appendix on the Verse Texts and a Short Descriptive Bibliography". However, his greatest accomplishments both in print and life were arguably away from a typewriter and outside of the classroom.
First and foremost, George was a civic-minded family man. At the age of thirty-one on October 10, 1889, he married twenty-eight year old Emily Robbins Webster. The happy couple settled on Garden Street in Cambridge and soon welcomed three daughters - Eleanor, Esther and Amelia - to the world. The family had two live-in servants and their neighbours included doctors, lawyers, artists, an opera singer and a successful tea and coffee merchant. Over the years, he served as Secretary of the New England Association of Teachers of English and editor of association's monthly leaflets, President of the Harvard Teacher's Association, Second Vice-President of the Old Cambridge Shakespeare Association. He was also a member of the Ethical Society Of Boston, Headmasters' Association, Friday Club and Men's League For Woman's Suffrage. He also helped arrange several public speaking engagements for Robert Frost, and developed a friendship with the famous poet. A man of the world if there ever was one... and we haven't even mentioned skating yet!
Left: George Henry Browne. Right: George Henry Browne and J. Frank Bacon.
George first took to the ice at the age of four and like any self-respecting young man growing up in Massachusetts, he flocked to Boston area ponds in his youth every chance they had frozen over with 'good' black ice. In 1898, he was one of the founders of the Cambridge Skating Club which set on a flooded lot next to the Longfellow mansion. While serving on the club's executive, he had signs placed on the windows of three local stores - Thurston's, Amee's and Leavitt & Pierce's - as well as the Browne and Nichols School when the ice would bear for skating. In 1900, he developed the club's first skating tests, based on the National Skating Association (of England)'s figure tests of the time. He also went on to serve on the boards of the Skating Club Of Boston, New England Skating Association and International Skating Union Of America in the years that followed.
George's pivotal role in the development of figure skating in America began in the winter of 1902/1903, when he took a sabbatical and brought his wife and three daughters to winter in Switzerland. Joining the International Skating Club Of Davos, he rubbed shoulders with the skating elite of Europe of the time and developed many important friendships along with a great enthusiasm for the Continental Style that was taking hold in Switzerland. This free, graceful style was not only drastically different than the English Style popular in Great Britain, but also quite a juxtaposition to the 'fancy' style of skating that Americans were accustomed to.
George, the lover of literature that he was, positively devoured every book and article he could find about figure skating and soon came to appreciate the great legacy of Jackson Haines. When he returned to America full of zeal and stories of the Continental (International) Style and Haines' legacy, the Cambridge Skating Club's membership didn't exactly share his enthusiasm... at first.
It wasn't until he organized an exhibition of figure skating 'in the International Style' at the club on February 22, 1908 which compared demonstrations of the 'new' style of skating by Irving Brokaw and Karl Zenger and the 'old' style by J. Frank Bacon that the skating elite became more receptive. In seeing the differences with their own eyes, American figure skaters learned that George was on to something. He later recalled, "I began to demonstration [the International Style] on a pair of Jackson Haines skates which [Ulrich] Salchow, the world's champion, sent me from Stockholm. My crude efforts undoubtedly deserved the ridicule I endured (I was forty-five years old!); but I stuck to it, and now the laugh is on my side."
Michael Kiely and George H. Browne. Photo courtesy Photo courtesy Buckingham, Browne & Nichols Archives.
During this period, George wrote prolifically about the sport, penning the books "A Handbook Of Figure Skating Arranged For Use On The Ice", "The Cardinal Positions And Movements In The International School Figures", "A Skating Primer" and "The 'New' Skating". He learned the Tenstep (most likely in Canada), taught it to Frances Carret and together the duo demonstrated the new dance to
practically every skater in Boston. In 1914, he even designed a model of ice skate which was later marketed by the famous Barney and Berry company.
George mentored countless Boston area skaters, including Sherwin Badger, Maribel Vinson, Theresa Weld Blanchard and Nathaniel Niles. Many of these skaters were in fact his students at Browne and Nichols School. Sherwin Badger recalled, "'Daddy' would come into the study hall with a glow upon his always ruddy complexion, a smile that could not be concealed and a green felt schoolbag distended to its limits by a pair of skates miraculously wedged amongst countless books and papers. The first ice of the season had [come] and 'Daddy' had been on it at the crack of dawn, leaving it at the last possible moment that would still permit him to arrive breathlessly for the opening gong of school. We could be sure to hear all about it, for he would extend the usual 'fifteen minute' morning talk to whatever lengths were necessary in order to expound to us how the skating theories he had been laboring over all summer actually worked out in practice... Whatever the specific subject he chose, it was certain to be Skating with a capital 'S' and told by a man who knew more about his favourite subject than any of us suspected at the time."
George was also one of the founders of the USFSA, and its first Secretary in 1921. He judged numerous competitions during the twenties and worked to make changes to the judging systems in place. Fellow judge Joel B. Liberman recalled, "Mr. Browne, having an extreme scholastic leaning, was more used to marking faults and virtues than the rest of us, and he immediately evolved the 'Browne' system. It was similar to what is often proposed today. The maximum for any figure was six (ignoring the factor for the moment). This multiple of six is still the rule in Europe today, as it was based on the fact that the skater does six repetitions of a figure - three forward and three back. Mr. Browne evolved an arbitrary rating for each division in each figure. I think it was 4 for the turn, 3 for form, 2 for retracing, and 1 for size. Whether this break-up is accurate or not, it shows the principle." Though a stickler for good technique, George was most certainly not without his appreciation for skating's artistic qualities. In the January 1925 issue of "Skating" magazine, he remarked, "My observation, covering now sixty years on the ice, convinces me that we are only yet in the infancy of this most beautiful of all the physical arts of expression, equal if not superior in interpretive resources to the Russian ballet or any other; for it may be not only skilful (in technique) and rhythmic (to music) as now but also imaginative (in creative design) and dramatic (in delineative action) and withal superlatively graceful (in form and movement). Why is it so rarely? Because, I suspect, so much of our energy is spent on competitions and exhibitions of skill - and goes no farther than to win the prize and the applause." In appreciation for his contributions to the sport, the Cambridge Skating Club created the office of Honorary President specifically for him in 1929.
Willard Reed, Lou Wallis and George H. Browne. Photo courtesy Buckingham, Browne & Nichols Archives.
George also had a keen interest in archaeology. In an anniversary report of the Harvard College Class Of 1928 he wrote, "My first trip abroad revived interest in Classical Archaeology aroused by President Norton in College, and an Inselreise through the Aegean, in the spring of 1903, inspired me to perpretrate a monograph on 'Aegean Civilization'. Of late years, I have become actively interested in Southwestern Archaeology, in which a former pupil of mine is the leading expert, and I have made and collected lantern slides and given illustrated talks on our Pueblo Indian life and art. I was active in the organization of the Massachusetts branch of the Eastern Association on Indian Affairs, and I am still on the executive committee. One summer I engaged in some amateur digging on the southwest Colorado-Utah boundary line - the skeleton of a pre-Pueblo Indian in the Peabody Museum at Yale bears interest that it was not wholly in vain [but] I suspect that if a motor car does eventually succeed in killing me, the newspapers will repeat my first claim to public attention as the man who introduced the present style of artistic skating into this country... At any rate, the occasional journeys to New York, Philadelphia, New Haven, Lake Placid, Montreal and Ottawa to judge skating competitions have not been the least enjoyable of a schoolmaster's diversions."
George once wrote, "I shall mark as one sure sign of the approach of old age the time when my blood ceases to tingle at the sight of new black ice, and when I let some other 'young fellow' try it before me." He gave his last performance in 1930, as the Chief Of The Gypsies in a Gypsy Quadrille skated in the Skating Club Of Boston's annual carnival. "Skating" magazine recalled, "His last appearance in public was a fitting climax of a lifelong interest in skating... On this occasion 'Daddy' Browne (as he was affectionately called) strode out on to the ice and skated a spread eagle, calling the gypsies forth from their place of concealment." He was seventy-three years old at the time.
Amy Browne Townsend receiving a plaque from Benjamin T. Wright honouring George Henry Browne's induction to the U.S. Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1983. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.
Bedridden the last weeks of his life, George asked his wife Emily to put his skates on for him. As he laid there, he smiled and reminded her, "I have worn skates every year for seventy years!" He passed away of heart failure just seventeen days after his good friend Louis Rubenstein on January 20, 1931, leaving perhaps one of the most enduring legacies in the history of figure skating in Massachusetts. He was posthumously inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1983.
Arthur Warren Jack Cumming was born May 8, 1889 in the affluent London, England area of Marylebone. His father, Henry Jack Cumming, was a Lieutenant in the 11th (Prince Albert's Own) Hussars, who served in the Boer War. His mother, Marie de la Rue, was a Victorian socialite. His great grandfather, Thomas de la Rue, was a famed printer from Guernsey who founded the newspapers "Le Publiciste" and "Le Miroir politique" in the early nineteenth century.
Beryl and Arthur Cumming, 1899
Arthur's childhood was more than 'comfortable'. He grew up in a house in Cambridge Square, which had no less than nine servants fluttering about. In his youth, he studied the classics at Miss Pincoff's Academy For Young Gentlemen in Folkestone, Stonehouse and Eton College and developed close relationships with his two sisters. In her memoir "Yesterday's Child", Arthur's sister Beryl recalled, "Arthur arrived [home] with a lovely green net, a cork setting board, and a tin alleged to contain enough cyanide to kill the whole of Foston. I retaliated by producing one of the earlier little box cameras, and while Arthur tore about in the sun catching cabbage whites and nothing else, while dreaming of Large Tortoise-shells, Red Admirals, and the like, I optimistically stained my fingers developing fogged negatives. But the red light suggested a new sport or pastime to Arthur. He was a boy of fertile imagination."
Though often sickly, Arthur developed a wide range of hobbies in his youth, including collecting gramophone records and maintaining a colony of pet mice in a Georgian doll house. He began skating at Prince's Skating Club at Knightsbridge when he was fifteen years old. After his sister had imparted all of the knowledge she had gleaned from lessons with Bernard Adams at the Niagara Ice Club at Westminster, Arthur began following Henning Grenander, the 1898 World Champion, around like a shadow, studying his every movement and attempting to emulate the great Swedish skater's fluid style.
Though he had received little formal instruction, Arthur competed in the Prince's Skating Club's competition on March 10 and 11, 1908. He placed an unceremonious third of four entries in the junior men's event. Though he didn't compete in that year's British Championships for the Swedish Cup, he was still named to the 1908 British Olympic team. At the Summer Games in London, he competed in the Special Figures event, where he won the silver medal behind Russia's Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin.
Following the Olympic Games, Arthur left his job in a stockbrocker's office and went to go live with Mary Cadogan, a rather unique socialite who excelled at fencing, horseback riding... and had a nine-foot long pet python named Genesis. Arthur and Mary became pairs partners and competed at the 1912 and 1913 World Championships, with little success. At the latter, they placed dead last. They did, however, win the junior pairs event at the 1910 Prince's Skating Club competiton.
As a soloist, Arthur had more luck. He won the British title and Swedish Cup twice. In 1909, he won the Prince's Skating Club's junior competition. He placed a respectable fifth at the 1912 World Championships in Manchester, where two judges had him third in free skating. At the 1913 Nordic Games, he placed an impressive third and in 1910, he won the Bandy Cup in Switzerland, defeating Kenneth Macdonald Beaumont and Basil Williams.
Arthur's sister Beryl recalled, "[Mrs. Cadogan] was an old friend of ours, in fact the python lady, and was very much impressed by my brother's skating... But he was really in a far higher class, as regards his own performance. People had stopped laughing for some time at the weedy little boy. Now, when he took the ice, a crowd formed to see him perform... This winter he bought tights, a frogged skating coat and a Russian cap - an outfit which was only worn by the elite. He had filled out a lot and was very strong and muscular, though his heart was not really equal to the great strain of five minutes' free skating. For some time school figures bored him. Then, realizing he must tackle them, he engaged Charlton, a splendid teacher, who soon got him through his gold test."
In March of 1914, Arthur appeared in Berlin, where he gave a much raved about exhibition in the Continental Style of skating. Prior to his performance, he consulted with Serge Pavlovich Diaghliev, the founder of the Ballet Russe. This collaboration - ballet and skating - was something that hadn't been seen in England since Jackson Haines came to England in 1864.
Eminent British judge and skating historian T.D. Richardson recalled Arthur's influence on skating thusly: "There is no doubt that Arthur Cumming lived before his time, but in his short span of life he gave exhibitions all over Europe, astonishing the authorities by the revolutionary character of his exhibitions... Certainly one of the most striking and singular amateur skaters of the epoch was Arthur... who, basing his skating completely on that of Grenander, demonstrated to the world that acrobatics in skating when allied with perfect technique could be not only, shall I say, almost bizarre -certainly extraordinary but also extremely beautiful. There was nothing commonplace about either Arthur himself or his skating. On the contrary, he conformed to no theory, magnifying the style, almost one might say the eccentricities of Grenander and then, after long study of the Russian ballet which had newly arrived at Covent Garden, and many talks with that supreme artist, Serge Diaghilev, who produced and directed it, he endeavoured, and I myself think with great success, to adapt it to his skating or should I say his skating to it. Arthur, who was a competitive skater and therefore also a school skater of no mean ability, was the first man since Jackson Haines to attempt such a translation. Diaghilev wrote a long letter to The Times shortly before he died, defending what he called bizarre movements in ballet, and there can be no doubt that had Arthur lived longer, someone would have done likewise in regard to his skating. But wherever he gave exhibitions he always brought the house down. I remember one he gave in Berlin in 1914 when the ovation - one can call it nothing else - was quite astounding. He had more honour abroad than at home, as is so often the case, but the fact remains that he carried on where Grenander left off and sowed the seed of modern free-skating programmes, by setting a fashion wherein individuality was given free scope, and wherein nothing, so long as it was beautiful, rhythmic and musical, was marked down because of a lot of nonsensical hide-bound rules, which, during the previous twenty years, had barred all progress. Thus, to my mind Arthur became the actual founder of modern free skating."
Just after his performance in Berlin, Arthur was selected as the National Skating Association's delegate at an international conference in Paris to discuss the planned 1916 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin. One of the planned topics of discussion was including a figure skating competition, as in 1908 in London. Who better a delegate than one of the men who won a medal at those London Games, who just happened to have dazzled a German audience?
Sadly, Arthur never had the chance to state his case (even though those Games were to be cancelled by the Great War) because that's where his story abruptly came to a tragic end. The Wednesday, April 29, 1914 edition of the "Birmingham Daily Post" noted, "One person was killed and another seriously injured in a motor smash, which occurred in Hammersmith Road, London, yesterday morning, when a motor-cycle, with a side car attached, crashed into an electric standard outside Olympia. The occupants - three gentlemen - were pitched out into the road. They were all taken to the West London Hospital, but one. Mr. Douglas Truman, who resided at Richmond, died on the way. Mr. Paul Kennedy, of Westminster, was seriously injured; but Mr. Arthur Cumming, also of Westminster, escaped with slight injuries." The April 28, 1914 issue "Dundee Evening Telegraph" echoed that Cumming's injured were only slight, and added he was able to go home while Kennedy remained unconscious at West London Hospital. A vaccine for tetanus wouldn't even be developed for another ten years and as a result of an infection, Cumming's "slight injuries" took a deadly turn and he passed away on May 3, 1914. He was interred at the Datchet Parish Council Cemetery in Windsor and Maidenhead Royal Borough, Berkshire, England in a plot near his pairs partner Mary Cadogan. Posthumously, an international figure skating competition for the Arthur Cumming Cup was established in St. Moritz and his Olympic medal was sold in a 2008 public auction for three thousand, five hundred pounds.
In his twenty-five years on this earth, Arthur won an Olympic silver medal, two British titles, competed in two World Championships and shook up the skating establishment in England with a fusion of ballet and Continental Style skating that would have been unheard of at that time. Yet, his name is one of so many skating pioneer who seem to be forgotten from the timeline and rhetoric of how 'the skating history story' goes. Let us hope that by remembering his brief but balletic contribution to skating that his memory is preserved.
Born November 24, 1878 at her grandfather's home in the ancient village of Datchet, Berkshire,
Muriel Beatrice Cecilia Harrison was the only child of Benson Day Harrison and Janet Anne Lucy Cockburn Hood. Raised in a landed gentry family, she spent her childhood living at Kirkmichael House, a historic property in Ayrshire, Scotland that was once home to a Druid temple, and Kenmure Castle in New Galloway. Her father was an exceedingly wealthy landowner who owned shares in an ironmaster firm. Her grandfather, Matthew Benson Harrison, was once High Sherriff of Westmorland and Captain of the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry Cavalry.
Muriel's father, who served as a Lieutenant with the 18th Royal Hussars, died in Souda Bay, Crete at the age of forty on his yacht the Golden Fleece when she was only nine. His cause of death was listed as apoplexy caused by a morphine addiction. Her mother remarried to physician Henry Goodale, an expert in bacteriology, and Muriel returned to England. They had a home on Sackville Street in Westminster and a cottage in Chaddesley Glen, Dorset.
Muriel discovered figure skating in her late teens, when the National Skating Palace and Niagara Rink became fashionable destinations for London's upper class. Winter respites at the skating resorts of Switzerland allowed her ample opportunity to hone her school figures in an ankle-length skirt, say something hat and tight corset. Within a few short years of skating, she was already considered one of England's best 'lady skaters'... and a fixture at Prince's Skating Club. Though she may not have amassed the same number of trophies as some of her contemporaries, the March 27, 1907 issue of "The Bystander" duly noted, "Next to Mrs. [Madge] Syers, Miss Harrison is, undoubtedly, the best lady skater of the day, and is well known at all the great skating centres." Muriel was also adept at playing the piano and excelled at boating. In fact, she once competed against fellow skater Gwendolyn Lycett in a regatta.
That isn't to say that Muriel didn't accomplish some fantastic things in competition! She was a perennial winner at the Prince's Skating Club's annual pairs and valsing competitions and a competitor in the pairs event at the 1912 World Championships at the Manchester Ice Palace. In 1905, she defeated Lili Kronberger to win the women's title at the Nordic Games in Stockholm, Sweden.
Muriel being congratulated on her win at the 1905 Nordic Games by Prince Eugen, Duke of Närke and Prince Wilhelm, Duke of Södermanland. Photo courtsey National Archives Of Norway.
An unnamed British correspondent covering the event for the "Motor-Car Journal" remarked, "Miss Harrison's... exhibition did not leave her supremacy in doubt for a moment. There is a cleanness about her 'school-figures', as well as her free-skating, which delighted the crowd: all of them experts in the sense of being good judges." Muriel also competed in the pairs event at those Nordic Games, finishing fourth with World Champion Ulrich Salchow as a partner.
Left: Muriel Harrison and Ulrich Salchow at the 1905 Nordic Games. Right: Illustration of Muriel Harrison at the 1905 Nordic Games.
Though the men's event at those Nordic Games played host to the World Championships for men, the women's and pairs events weren't designated as ISU Championships. Nevertheless, Muriel's peers - including author and Prince's Skating Club board member Ernest Law - certainly recognized her as a World Champion. The following year, Madge Syers won the first ISU Championship For Ladies, later recognized as the first official World Championships in women's figure skating by the ISU.
On February 3, 1909, Muriel won the International Free Skating Competition in St. Moritz, defeating Olympic competitors Dorothy Greenhough Smith, Irving Brokaw and John Keiller Greig. A reporter from "The Field" remarked that she skated "remarkably well" and that her skating "was of a very high standard."
A who's who of figure skating lined up to skate the Waltz with Muriel, including Bror Meyer, Irving Brokaw, John Keiller Greig and Basil Williams. Edgar Syers and Ernest Law both credited her with inventing the 'back double wave', which was incorporated into an ice dance of her creation called the Wave Waltz, which came to the U.S. in the roaring twenties via Prince's. James A. Cruikshank recalled this Waltz thusly: "The partners dip and rise on the skating knee and sway to the time of the music, instead of taking another stroke, which is one of the most beautiful forms of the ice waltz. It is not at all difficult, but requires care to catch the rhythm."
Muriel stopped competing for unknown reasons several years before The Great War, but continued to skate for pleasure and acted as a judge at competitions in England and Switzerland. She acted as the Earl Of Lytton's skating instructor for a time and married parapsychologist and occultist author (Frederick John) Staveley Bulford (nearly ten years her junior) in 1919. The couple lived on Eaton Terrace in Chelsea during the roaring twenties. Muriel's husband was perhaps better known for his spiritualist ghost photographs and 'aura camera' than his books "Man's Unknown Journey" and "Mystery Of Ourselves".
Muriel and Staveley later settled at Cheswick Farm in Meath Green, Horley. Staveley served as an air warden during World War II. Muriel passed away on June 22, 1947 at the age of sixty-eight. Some nineteen years later, an unrelated skater also named Muriel Harrison claimed the Gail Keddie Trophy for figures and free skating at the Paisley Ice Rink in Scotland. Sadly, the contributions to figure skating history of Muriel, a woman who missed being the first World Champion by one year, have gone completely ignored for decades.
The most successful Canadian women's figure skater during the Edwardian era was without a doubt Aimée Frances Haycock. The second youngest of Mary (LaFontaine) and Richard Haycock's six children, Aimée was born September 30, 1884 in Ottawa, Ontario. She grew up in a devoutly Roman Catholic household. Her father worked with Canada Life Assurance Company and the whole family were members of the Minto Skating Club during its early days.
In 1906 at the age of twenty-one, she became the second woman to win the Canadian Championships. The following year, there was a fire at the Minto Skating Club's rink that necessitated the cancellation of the Championships, but she returned in 1908 to win the Waldo Trophy for "best lady skater in the capital", as well as the pairs and fours with her brother Ormonde Butler Haycock, a three-time winner of the men's title.
Aimée's competitive career ended in 1910, when she married Thomas Attwood Davies, the son of Sir Louis Davies, a former Chief Justice Of Supreme Justice Of Canada, Deputy Governor-General Of Canada and Premier of Prince Edward Island. Her husband 'T.A.' worked as a Dominion Land Surveyer in Alberta and later, with the Department of the Interior. The couple had three sons and a daughter. One of her sons was named after her brother Ormonde. Sadly, Aimée became a widow in 1931 when T.A. passed away unexpectedly at the age of fifty.
Though she retained her membership at the Minto Skating Club for life and skated recreationally for many years after she her Canadian titles, Aimée devoted much of her life to other activities. She was an active member of the Royal Ottawa Golf Club and the Ladies Guild of St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church. During World War II, she served on executive board of the Ottawa branch of the Red Cross. To aid in the War effort, she organized knitting classes and made over one hundred sweaters and pairs of socks to send overseas to those on the front lines. Sadly, she suffered a heart attack and passed away suddenly on June 8, 1946 at the age of sixty-one, her pioneering work as one of Canada's first women's 'fancy skating' champions all but forgotten.
Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger
"You probably have never seen a better pair... than Miss Hübler and Mr. Burger. They are an unequal pair - he a tall figure, she hardly. It is admirable how cleverly in this pair the difference of size is used. They prefer dances where the lady has to slip under her partner's arm. Their program is clever and wonderful... a swinging and spirited performance that was rewarded by great applause." - "Neues Wiener Tagblatt", 1907
Heinrich Burger was born May 31, 1881 and grew up in Munich, the capital of Bavaria. He learned to skate at the Münchener Eislauf-Verein in the late nineteenth century. In his youth, he excelled as a competitive speed skater but it wasn't long before he shifted his focus to figure skating. In 1901, he placed second in the junior men's category at the 1901 German Championships in Troppau. At that same competition, he had his first taste of competitive pairs skating.
Heinrich Burger's first pairs partner Wilhelm Zenger
Teaming up with a male partner, Herr Wilhelm Zenger, he defeated two non-similar teams - Fräulein Menta Jarmer and Herr Anton Bennek and Fräulein Else Bartel and Emil Schindler - to win the pairs competition.
During the years that followed, Heinrich achieved great success as a singles skater, winning three medals at the World Championships, three German senior titles and a silver medal at the 1905 European Championships in Bonn behind Austria's Max Bohatsch.
Photo courtesy Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig
Unable to ever manage to defeat Ulrich Salchow or Gilbert Fuchs, Heinrich again shifted his focus. This time he teamed up with a beautiful woman by the name of Anna Hübler, who was born on January 2, 1885 in the same city and trained at the same club on the same tiny one hundred and twenty-five by fifty foot artificial ice rink.
In Irving Brokaw's book "The Art Of Skating", Heinrich explained, "Our pair-skating was not originally planned for competitions. We used to skate our several dances according to the music and, little by little, by the insertion of various single figures, developed a programme."
Anna and Heinrich's self-choreographed program consisted of spirals, glides, changes of edge, round ice dance patterns and symmetrical and corresponding figures. Heinrich believed, "Steps must be taken in the quickest time, and absolutely uniform. Further, during the skating the lady should keep exactly the same pace as the gentleman. Nothing looks uglier than for the gentleman to drag his partner behind him... At the end of a programme either a straight line or a spiral is now mostly skated. The performance of either results in a more or less beautiful position. This produces an exit similar to an exit on the stage. Most skaters, however, leave out of sight the fact that there is something very important missing... the curtain. On the stage the performer is at the final pose withdrawn from view of the public; upon the ice however, this does not occur, and, through this lack, these exits lose their effect and therefore cannot be justified. The amateur skater is by no means required to make a stage finish. The programme must on the face of it, have a visible finish, but to this end simpler means will suffice. Every finishing pose challenges applause, but this skating to the gallery I believe we should leave to professionals."
Hübler and Burger's winning program from the 1910 World Championships in Berlin
To say that the German team's exuberant yet calculated displays were a huge hit with the judges would be an understatement. At the 1908 World Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia, twenty-three year old Anna and twenty-six year old Heinrich were the unanimous choice of all five judges and became the winners of what the ISU now recognizes as the first official World Championships in pairs skating.
That October, Anna and Heinrich headed to London for the figure skating competition held at Prince's Skating Club as part of the Summer Olympic Games. Again, first place scores across the board. Heinrich became the first man from Germany to win an Olympic medal in figure skating; Anna became the first woman from Germany to win an Olympic gold medal period.
After winning an international pairs competition held in conjunction with the 1909 European Championships and a second World title in 1910 in Berlin, Anna and Heinrich retired from competitive figure skating undefeated. After serving in the first World War, Heinrich became a lawyer and remained involved in figure skating as a judge. Anna took to the stage as a soubrette at the Stadttheater Bremen and the Munich Kammerspiele and married businessman Ernst Horn in 1918. She became involved in the management of his department store Stachus and mail order warehouse Horn in The Karlsplatz in Munich.
Heinrich passed away on April 27, 1942 and Anna forged on in the business world, playing an instrumental role in the rebuilding of her both of her husband's businesses after World War II ended. She was awarded the Cross Of Merit, 1st Class by the Federal Republic Of Germany in 1969 and passed away on July 5, 1976 in Munich. Twenty years after her death, she was featured on a German postage stamp.
Anna and Heinrich were both inducted posthumously into the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 2014. They remain the first names on the list of champions in pairs skating at both the Olympic Games and World Championships; an ironic choice considering that they never planned for their pairs skating program to be skated competitively.
"Practically to make good form secondary to a painful striving for mere accuracy of place (which enforces ungraceful contortions of head and shoulders, and in which a perfectly worthless stagnation point is attainable) is a complete perversion of real artistic skating, at the expense of grace and ease of position." - Gustav Hügel, "Outing" magazine, October 1900-March 1901
Born in Vienna in 1871 - not long after Johann Strauss II debuted his famous "Blue Danube" waltz - Gustav Hügel was the son of a rather infamous Hungarian born politician, writer and book dealer named Eduard Hügel. Gustav's father ran a very successful bookstore on The Herrengasse and served as founder and editor of the newspapers "Wiener Stadt-und Vorstadt-Zeitung" and "Konstitutionelle Vorstadt-Zeitung". Eduard Hügel once found himself embroiled in a bitter court battle with the brother of Johann Strauss II himself. The judge deemed he'd criticized Strauss' brother unfairly in one of his articles and he was ordered to print a retraction and pay a fine.
Eduard Hügel wasn't easy on his son. Before he was even ten, Gustav was 'trained' daily in military fighting drills. When he first took to the ice at the age of twelve at the Wiener Eislaufverein and showed more interest in the science of skating than the art of war, his father was none too pleased... at first.
Special Figures created by Gustav Hügel
Young Gustav earned his father's respect through hard work. He became so obsessed with the fine art and science of carving out intricate designs on the ice that he often arrived at the Wiener Eislaufverein early in the morning and stayed late into the night. Coached by Leopold Frey, Gustav won his first competition, the junior men's event at the European Championships in Vienna in 1892, by over twenty-five points over Emil Ritter von Meisner. That same year, he placed a creditable sixth in the senior men's event. The following year, his military obligation ended and he was able to devote his time fully to skating.
By 1894, he had won the joint German/Austrian senior men's title, a junior competition in Frankfurt and finished second in the European Championships behind Eduard Engelmann Jr. Gustav's coach, Leopold Frey, had been one of the great Jackson Haines' disciples and he was greatly inspired by the legacy of 'Great American Skating King' to make a mark on the sport from a young age. Adapting Franz Schöller's Schöller-Schritt pattern dance by adding women's steps, he turned the Tenstep into a dance for two.
In the years that followed, Gustav travelled throughout Europe at his father's expense, competing in a seemingly endless series of figure skating competitions and picking the brains of the best skaters at many Swiss resorts and even the Palais de Glace in Paris. He finished third in a Special Figures competition at Yusupov Gardens in Russia and second at the 1895 European Championships and 1896 World Championships, then won his first of four World titles at the 1897 World Championships in Stockholm. This victory was particularly significant in the fact that he defeated Sweden's Ulrich Salchow in his home country with an all-Swedish judging panel. After losing his World title the following year in England to Henning Grenander, he rebounded in 1899 to reclaim his World title on the strength of his free skating.
Top: Gustav Hügel at the 1899 World Championships. Bottom: Gustav Hügel skating in Switzerland in 1901.
At the 1900 World Championships in Davos, he again bested Salchow in an extremely close contest. Salchow had eight more points, but three of the five judges ranked Gustav first. In the January 15, 1902 issue of "The Tatler", a writer using the pseudonym 'C.K.S.' recalled, "It was on the Eisbahn at Davos in February, 1900, that I saw... perfection of ease and grace in the meeting of Hügel of Vienna and Salchow of Stockholm in the world's figure-skating championship... A sight for the gods in all truth." After winning his fourth World title the following year, Gustav retired from the competitive figure skating world.
Known for the intricacy of his Special Figures and the difficulty of his free skating performances, Gustav's contributions to the sport were considerable. Along with George Zachariades, he was considered the inventor of the 'deep Pirouette'. German author George Helfrich described Hügel as a most musical skater who often performed to march music in his 1922 book "Kunst des Eislaufs". In "The Windsor Magazine", George Wood proclaimed, "Herr Hügel is remarkable for his grace and dash... his 'spin' is world-renowned." The spin Wood referred to was the corkscrew, which Gustav made something of a trademark.
Gustav's programs often included one-foot upright and sit spins, three jumps, figure eights and clever combinations of dance steps that were timed perfectly to his selected music. George Henry Browne raved about his "famous dance steps, spectacles, brackets and loops... his corkscrew spin on bended leg, coiling around it the unemployed held in both hands, and finishing with a pirouette on the toe, all at a tremendous speed. [His] field steps embraced rockers, brackets, counters, cross Mohawks, and other difficult steps, done at high speed, in rapid succession, mingled in bewildering and effective fashion."
In Browne's book "The 'New' Skating", Gustav offered some sage advice on skating a well-balanced free skating program: "Try to arrange your program with regard to harmonious effect and variety; avoid repeating too often figures consisting of the same kind of movements. Combine short, quick steps with longer curves, to avoid tediousness to spectators and judges. See to it that before and after each difficult figure some easy one is interposed, such as a grapevine, dance step, and so forth, in order that, when nearing the end, the skater may not show signs of fatigue. In dance steps, never make more than one round of the same kind; make only two or three eights of the same kind. The various steps should take the skater over the entire surface; and Special Figures should be skated as near the center as possible."
German skating historian Matthias Hampe recalled, "For the 1896 Worlds in St. Petersburg, he was greatly handicapped because, having travelled fifty hours, he arrived just one day before his performance... At the Worlds in 1897 in Stockholm (Sweden) he had his first great triumph in spite of having pulled a tendon just a week earlier... At the Worlds in 1896 the Strauss-Valse 'Wiener Blut' was the musical foundation for his performance... As was customary at that time, Hügel pursued another sport in the summer. From the age of eighteen, he had been an active cyclist, for which he won more than twenty prizes. He was reproached for violating the strict rules of the amateur-paragraph by being sponsored by a bike manufacturer and then winning prize money... Hügel was also a journalist and even while actively pursuing skating, he wrote headlines for the 'Wiener Allgemeine Sportzeitung', which was not unusual for those days. The subjective judgement of the competitors and the judges did, however, cause unsportslike debates, quarrels and controversy which ultimately led to the muzzle decree issued by the International Skating Union."
After retiring from the competitive side of sport, Gustav ran a sporting goods establishment in Vienna called "North Pole" and remained involved in figure skating his entire life. He judged the men's, women's, pairs and Special Figures competitions at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games in and later coached at the Wiener Eislaufverein, Park Lane ice rink in England and in Switzerland, where he lived for much of his latter life. In 1956, T.D. Richardson recalled, "I knew him well, and as a matter of fact I got him his first professional teaching job, at Engelberg in Switzerland in 1923 when, like to many Viennese, he found his fortune gone - after the First World War. Gustav was the first great exponent of quick-moving, intricate dance steps, quite a number of which he showed me, and which I have explained in my books and handed in. Today, in a very advanced form, they may be seen in championships and shows and, although their speed and variety is something to wonder at, every now and then the original movements of Hügel may be picked out."
Photo courtesy Wiener Eislaufverein
After devoting his entire life to a sport that captivated him, Gustav suffered a heart attack and passed away in Vienna on April 6, 1952. He may not have attempted quadruple jumps, but then again... that's not really what figure skating is all about.
Phyllis and James Henry Johnson
Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive
"Any pair who wishes to become thoroughly proficient in this branch must be prepared for a long and arduous elementary training; this is absolutely essential. The old saying, 'Practice makes perfect,' perhaps, is more applicable to pair-skating than to any other form of sport." - Phyllis and James Henry Johnson, "The Art Of Skating", 1910
Photo courtesy BIS Archive, Johnson Family Collection
The daughter of Mabel Jane (Bremner) and Sir Peter Wyatt Squire, Phyllis Wyatt Squire was born December 8, 1886 in the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells, England. In her youth, her well-placed family divided their time between a ten-bedroom house on Avenue Road and her grandparents' estate, The Ryepeck at Shepperton.
Phyllis' father was an 'analytical, wholesale and manufacturing' pharmaceutical chemist with Squire & Sons in Mayfair, which were chemists and druggists to Royal Family for half a century. He penned the annual "Squire's Companion To The Latest Edition Of The British Pharmacopedia" and was one of the pioneers of punting on The Thames. Her older sister Mabel and her future husband Theodore Michel (Michael) Mavrogordato won the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Championship in 1912. Mabel won the bronze medal in women's indoor tennis in the 1912 Summer Olympics.
The son of Elizabeth Orme Scarlett (Litler) and James Henry Johnson, James 'Jim' Henry Johnson was born September 12, 1875 in Southport, Lancashire. His father, who hailed from the village of Lostock Gralam in Cheshire, owned the Abram Colliery in the Wigan Coalfield, which employed one thousand, five hundred men. James was the youngest of at least nine siblings and his older brothers all worked for the family business. The Johnson's lived in a large home on Albert Road and (like the Squires) were well off enough to employ a small staff of live-in servants. James' father passed away in 1897, leaving a fortune of over three thousand pounds (nearly four hundred thousand pounds today) to James' older brothers William, Edmund and Alfred and James a stake in the family business.
Phyllis and James both began skating during the late Victorian era in London's new artificial rinks - the Niagara, National Skating Palace and Prince's Skating Club. They both learned to skate in the English Style, and weren't converts to the Continental Style until some years later when they began wintering in St. Moritz. Prior to teaming up with James, Phyllis had already amassed an impressive roster of achievements. In 1899, she and her first partner finished second in a 'hand-in-hand' skating competition in Brighton to a then-unmarried Madge and Edgar Syers.
In 1900, Phyllis passed the National Skating Association's first-class test, within a year of her passing the silver medal. At the age of thirteen, she made history as the youngest woman to achieve this honour. In 1901, she and German skater Martin Gordan took second place to Madge and Edgar Syers at an international pairs competition in Copenhagen and from 1902 to 1904, she won the Challenge Shield in combined figures, skating on H.D. Hoffman's team. In 1903, she finished second in the Benetfink Challenge Cup, an individual English Style championship. The following year, she won the Cup, defeating a field of men. In 1903, she made history as the first woman to compete for the English Bowl at Davos. After placing second three years in a row, she finally won the prestigious English Style event in 1906. She also finished second in the Holland Bowl in St. Moritz in 1904. She was an also a regular in the popular valsing contests at Prince's. Though she danced with famous Swedes Henning Grenander and Harald Rooth, it was with Dundee's John Keiller Greig that she took first prize... competing against no less than forty-seven other couples. James, by the far the less accomplished of the two, was better known for his service on the Committee of Edgar Syers' Figure-Skating Club than his mastery of the 'twice back and forward and inside off pass and forward'.
Phyllis and James married on December 3, 1904 at St. Paul's Church in Hampstead. They took up residence in an upscale flat on Gloucester Terrace near Hyde Park. Nine months later, their first of two children, a daughter named Jeanne, was born. When they were abroad competing, Jeanne stayed with her grandparents at The Ryepeck in Shepperton and was doted on by a nurse.
In 1906, Phyllis and James finished third in an international pairs competition held in conjunction with the European Championships in Davos and won a pairs championship at Prince's. The following year, they narrowly lost to Germans Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger in international pairs competitions held in Berlin and Davos. Phyllis placed second to Elsa Rendschmidt in the women's event in Berlin as well.
Phyllis and James Henry Johnson. Right photo at the 1909 World Championships, courtesy National Archives Of Norway.
In February 1908, Phyllis and James won the pairs title at the International Free Skating Competition in Davos defeating Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger and finished second to them at the first officially recognized World Championships in pairs skating in St. Petersburg. That autumn, they won the first Olympic silver medal in pairs skating at Prince's, defeating Madge and Edgar Syers. James, a member of the National Skating Association's Council, served on the Special Olympic and Rink Committees which organized the competition, as did a number of the British competitors. He also acted as a steward to the judging panel.
Phyllis and James Henry Johnson. Photos courtesy BIS Archive (top) and Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive (bottom).
In 1909, Phyllis and James won the World Championships in Stockholm, held in conjunction with the Nordic Games. The following year, they placed a disappointing third in Berlin - seemingly the victims of an all-German judging panel. They regained their World title in Manchester in 1912, where Phyllis also won her first of three consecutive World medals in singles skating. In 1914, Phyllis and James claimed the first British pairs title in Edinburgh, winning the Johnson Trophy which they donated.
Having served as a member of the National Skating Association's Council for many years, James was no stranger to the 'behind the scenes' of the sport. He served on the Association's sub-committee governing the Swedish Cup and as a first-class judge was selected to judge the pairs event at the 1914 World Championships. During The Great War, the National Skating Association made a groundbreaking decision, fueled by the need to invigorate the ranks of male judges, many of which were getting on in years or called up for service. Phyllis and Mrs. W. Coats were appointed as the first two female judges in Great Britain. BIS historian Elaine Hooper noted, "Mrs. Coats judged mainly Scottish tests but Phyllis judged at Prince's, Manchester Ice Palace and went up to Scotland as well."
By the end of the War, James' health was declining and Phyllis, not done with skating just yet, teamed up with an Argentine born skater named Basil Williams. At the 1920 Summer Olympic Games in Antwerp, she placed fourth in singles and took the bronze in pairs. She remains to this day one of oldest female Olympic figure skating medallists in history, having won her medal at the age of thirty- three. The following year, she won her final competition - the Swedish Challenge Cup - which was then a co-ed British Championship for both men and women. She'd previously finished second in the event to both Basil Williams and Arthur Cumming prior to the War. Elaine Hooper remarked, "It was a great achievement to have - not only having been British Champion in both the English and the International Styles, but to have done so competing against men!"
Left: Phyllis Johnson at Prince's Skating Club. Right: Phyllis and James Henry Johnson in Scandinavia. Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.
Phyllis' unflinching choice to compete against men wasn't the only evidence that she was a forward-thinking woman during a period when suffragettes and flappers were changing the course of history. With a nod to progress, she controversially placed T.D. and Mildred Richardson first in 1923 when they performed what was later dubbed shadow skating. Elaine Hooper noted, "Captain T.D. Richardson recalls that Phyllis once thoroughly shocked an audience by skating in a competition in a green velvet outfit that barely covered the top of her boots, which gave her more movement. It is not mentioned whether she was corseted or not but she was a fairly bohemian lady so I suspect not."
Left: Phyllis Johnson and Muriel Wilson skating at Regent's Park. Right: Phyllis Johnson.
Phyllis and Dorothy Greenhough Smith were also regulars on the squash courts. The January 28, 1922 issue of the "Illustrated Sporting And Dramatic News" mentioned, "Mrs. Johnson, who also won the Davos skating bowl in 1906, is quite a brilliant squash player, with a wholly delightful style. She possesses a knowledge of the game and an ability to play it unsurpassed by any other lady player... Her success in the last Queen's Club handicap was fairly easily won and stamped her as being in a class by herself."
Photos courtesy BIS Archive, Johnson Family Collection
Sadly, James passed away in Paddington on November 15, 1921 at the age of forty-six, just two years after Phyllis' father, leaving Phyllis a small fortune of fourteen thousand pounds. After his funeral at Aughton, he was remembered not only for his skating prowess, but as "a keen fisher, a good shot, and a really good fellow."
At the age of thirty-eight, Phyllis remarried to Henry Waite, ten years her senior, at the Protestant Episcopal Church in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Henry was an insurance agent with the Companhia de Seguros Marítimos e Terrestres. During the twenties and thirties, Phyllis frequently travelled by steamship from South America to Brazil, but continued to serve as a skating judge when she could. Henry Waite passed away in 1948 in Rio and Phyllis moved to France for a time. She later returned to England and lived out her final years in Clarence Nursing Home in Tunbridge Wells, passing away December 2, 1967 at the age of eighty. Phyllis and James were posthumously named as 'Legends' in the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 2017.
Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive
"Figure skating can interpret music better than ballet. Ballet is danced with small steps, whereas skating has the flowing movement and 'soft knees' which can interpret the flow of music." - Lili Kronberger, "Skating" magazine, 1965
The youngest child of Janka (Kreisler) and Miksa Kronberger, Elza Lili (Elizabeth) Kronberger was born November 12, 1890 in Budapest, Hungary. Her father was a wealthy Jewish lumber merchant.
She started skating at the Városligeti Műjégpálya at the age of seven as a member of the Budapesti Korcsolyázó Egylet (Pest Skating Club). Her trainer was a Bosnian man named Vittor Seibert. According to a feature in the February 1997 issue of "Skating" magazine, she credited "his training for her ability to skate on uneven outdoor ice surfaces with strength, good balance and deep edges."
Although Madge Syers is well remembered for 'competing against the men' during this era, she wasn't the only one. Lili often competed against men in domestic competitions at the Városligeti Műjégpálya and like Syers never found herself 'at the top of the podium' when she did.
Left: Anna Hübler, Elsa Rendschmidt, Elna Montgomery and Lili Kronberger. Right: Lili Kronberger.
Making her international debut at the 1905 Nordic Games in Stockholm, Sweden, Lili finished an impressive second to Great Britain's Muriel Harrison. The following year at the first official World Championships for women in Davos, Switzerland, she placed a close third behind Madge Syers and Austria's Jenny Herz, a feat she repeated the following year in Vienna. She also gave an exhibition at the second national competition of Romania in Cluj that winter that drew a large crowd.
When Madge Syers retired from competition after winning gold and bronze medals at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games in London, Lili won her first of four World titles in Troppau ahead of Germany's Elsa Rendschmidt. A proud account of her win from the February 2, 1908 edition of the Hungarian newspaper "Vasárnapi Ujság" proclaimed that Lili was "like a weapon of war. We rub our eyes when [we watch] the world champion in the framework of a fancy, bright-eyed, rosy countenance, still half child. In the slenderest heavy robe and spurred boots, Lili Kronberger should be recognized for the glory of her World Cup crown... In beating down her rival [with] every genius edge, her success was only the latest triumph, but not the first. At the end of the tournament, the Hungarian anthem [played] and the Hungarian flag [was flown] triumphantly. It is always a comforting, gratifying thing when the nation triumphs. Lili Kronberger has earned us this pleasure. It is fitting that we thank her." Uncontested the following year, she defended her World title in front of a hometown crowd at the Budapesti Korcsolyázó Egylet.
Historically, what has made Lili incredibly significant was her introduction of a specific competitive free skating program set to music. She did so at the encouragement of her husband, Dr. Imre (Emmerich) von Szent-Györgyi - the President of the Budapesti Korcsolyázó Egylet (Pest Skating Club), ISU referee and future honorary ISU President - and on the advice of Hungarian composer and philosopher Zoltán Kodály.
At the 1910 World Championships in Germany, Lili again squared off with Elsa Rendschmidt (this time on her competitor's home turf) and came out on top, her musical performance a hit. Dr. Frederick Liedmann, secretary of the Budapesti Korcsolyázó Egylet, described her performance in Berlin thusly: "The orchestra begins to waltz of Waldteufel, with soft melodious music... Miss Kronberger starts a second time to defeat the lady champion [of Germany] ... [with] crossed arms of a beautiful spiral that all can imagine surpassed [Rendschmidt]. She has completed the program, the entire audience is expressed his displeasure that [music] is similarly never heard. The only criticism is crowded." Yet, this well to do woman from Budapest wasn't beloved by all. She was always dressed to the nines, which some found ostentatious. In 1984, The Hungarian Trade Union News claimed that "her compatriots looked upon her as rather an eccentric, a sort of fanatic lady." Historical accounts hint coyly hint of her 'background' being the reason she didn't compete at the 1908 Summer Games, modern Hungarian newspapers claim that she faced criticism at home solely because she was more successful than Hungarian male athletes and not all judges were altogether keen with the whole marriage between music and movement. Judging from some of the incongruous evaluations of "choreography" these days in PCS scores, many still aren't. That's a whole other can of worms.
Perhaps most famous of Lili's efforts to set choreographed free skating to music was her final trip to the World Championships in 1911. Nigel Brown's wonderful 1959 book "Ice-Skating: A History" noted, "In 1911, the reigning lady Champion of the World... came to the World Championships in Vienna, bringing with her from Budapest a military band, specially for accompanying her free-skating programme. This marks a very important point in the story of skating, for [Lili] realized that a free-skating programme should interpret the music chosen, which was essential in such skating. [Lili] skated to ['Les Patineurs'] and her interpretation of the music allied to her skating skill was much admired."
Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive
Showing great sportsmanship, Lili reportedly allowed her teammate Zsófia Méray-Horváth use of her band as well. This alliance allowed her to win with seven places and two hundred and eighty- ix points to von Meray's fourteen places and two hundred and eighty-six points, well ahead of bronze medallist Ludovika Eilers of Germany. Following the 1911 World Championships, twenty-one year old Lili retired from competition to focus on her husband and start a family, passing the torch on to her equally successful teammate.
However, that's not where the Lili Kronberger story ends. Although the Hungarian and World Championships were cancelled during World War I, in December 1917 Lili quietly considered making a comeback. In December 1917, the Hungarian newspaper "Huszadik Szadad" reported, "Lili Kronberger Szent-Györgyi, who has not [competed] for two or three years, is [restarting] serious trainings. Every morning at half past 8 o'clock, she has been great out there on ice and is conscientiously preparing for the [competitions]." Ultimately, this comeback never came to fruition, most likely due to the fact that the World Championships didn't actually return until 1922. Could you imagine training every morning for four years to try and come back to defend a title you last won ten years ago? Timing just wasn't on Lili's side and it's a shame, because it would have been fascinating to see how she adapted her musical style to compete against the likes of Herma Szabo.
Speaking of Herma Szabo and the twenties, Nigel Brown pointed out the "curious fact that after Lili's experiment musical interpretation did not receive the important place it should have among the leading skaters that were to follow. For more than three decades music remained in the background of free-skating programmes, with only weak attempts at musical interpretation, generally the work of musically gifted performers such as Karl Schäfer, the brilliant Viennese World Champion, who was an accomplished violinist."
So you're probably wondering... Lili Kronberger, Hungarian Jew living in Europe during World War II. How did that all work out? She was fortunate enough to have friends in high places. Her brother-in-law was none other than Albert Szent-Györgyi the Hungarian physiologist who discovered Vitamin C and won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1937. As the Magyar Országos Véderő Egylet (Hungarian National Defence Association) gained control of Hungary, Albert Szent-Györgyi helped many Jewish friends escape from the country for a time. It's no stretch to presume that his sister-in-law was most likely one of those people as she did survive the war. We do know that she did become a mother.
Judit Jósza statue of Lili Kronberger
In 1965, Lili was interviewed for "Skating" magazine in America by Freda Alexander. She recalled her work with Zoltán Kodály in developing a system of setting skating moves and steps to specific notes in musical compositions and praised compulsory figures and outdoor skating. She also stressed that the ideal in free skating should be to present a program where triple jumps were included judiciously, only to enhance the program's artistic impact. I absolutely love that so many decades later, this four-time World Champion who had survived two World Wars and seen the sport evolve in such a different direction held to her ideals and still dreamed of skating returning to the artistic roots she helped sow.
Passing away at the age of eighty-four on May 21, 1974, Lili was posthumously inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall Of Fame in 1992 and the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1997. Her medals are in the collection of the Hungarian Jewish Museum and Archives and the plaque and medal commemorating her induction to the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame is in the possession of the Museum of Physical Education and Sports in Budapest. Lili's unique and important role in skating history lives on in every note that is skated to.
"Free skating cannot but infect the masses with its emotional vigour; not merely can it evoke certain associations for them, but it can create artistic images with a thematic (psychological or social) content. For this reason figure-skating can regard as being nearly at the same level as choreographic art." - Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin
Nikolay Aleksandrovich Kolomenkin was born January 8, 1872 in the Khrenovoye, a small village in the Voronezh Governorate of the Russian Empire. He was the son of Alexander Nikolaevich Kolomenkin, the Director of the Voronezh Plant of Agricultural Machines and Evgenia Vladimirovna Kolomenkin. He had two sisters, Elena and Maria.
Nikolay first took up skating 'for his health' as a young child on a pair of handmade wooden skates, teaching himself how to balance by wrapping towels around his feet to weigh them down. His mother brought him his first real pair of skates upon returning from a trip to Moscow. His parents divorced when he was ten and his mother took him and his two sisters to live in St. Petersburg. His mother remarried and Nikolay devoted much of his free time to athletic pursuits. He played tennis, football, and hockey and swam, skiied and shot pistols, but figure skating proved to be his greatest love.
Unfortunately, in Tsarist Russia, sportsmen of working class origins were often denied membership in official sporting clubs (for gentlemen) and attempts at organizing working class sport societies were often aborted due lack of competitors and facilities. Nikolay's stepfather managed to obtain a letter of recommendation from Vyacheslav Sreznevsky, the chairman of the St. Petersburg Society Of Ice Skating Amateurs, which gained Nikolay admission to the exclusive club of skaters who practiced in the Yusupov Gardens on Sadovaya Street. It was there he was mentored by Alexei P. Lebedeff and Alexander Nikitich Panshin, two of Russia's earliest figure skaters of note. Not long after in 1893, Nikolay began studying in the Department of Natural Sciences of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics at St. Petersburg University.
When Nikolay made his skating debut in 1896, he assumed the name Nikolay Panin. Historian John Daniel Windhausen noted, "Russian society was not unique at the end of the 19th century in casting a condescending eye upon sports competitors. And so, because participation in skating matches might besmirch his family name, he chose the pseudonym. As one writer put it: 'Even the word sportsman,' even partcipation in any kind of sporting contest was often regarded as a humiliation for persons of the gentry status and incompatible with their status in life.' But what should this matter to the young Kolomenkin, the would be hero of the toiling masses? Unless, of course, his was not a toiling family. Certainty eludes, but the evidence thus far makes Panin a likely representative of the more leisurely strata." One contemporary Russian article, without citing primary sources, suggested that 'Panin' wasn't a pseudonym at all, and was instead the last name of Nikolay's stepfather... an upper class man from St. Petersburg. This suggestion would make a great deal of sense. In Tsarist Russia, the participants in organized sporting competitions were often gentlemen from the upper classes. Other athletes of the period who came from working class backgrounds, such as speed skater Nikolay Vasilyevich Strunnikov and cyclist Mikhail Diakov, were hailed as 'working class heroes' in the Russian press. No similar distinction was ever made for Nikolay, so it seems probable that his stepfather's class gave him some sense of social standing by association.
In 1901 at the age of twenty-nine, Nikolay succeeded his teacher Alexander Nikitich Panshin as Russian Champion, winning his first of several titles. Two years later when the World Championships were held at his home rink as part of St. Petersburg's two hundredth anniversary, he took the silver medal behind Ulrich Salchow. The following year, he finished third to Salchow and Max Bohatsch at the European Championships in Davos. While competing, he actually taught skating to several of his Russian peers free of charge.
Nikolay didn't enter international competitions again until 1908. That January, he finished second to Ernst Herz at the European Championships in Warsaw. The following month, he defeated Ulrich Salchow at a competition for the Alexander Panshin Memorial Cup in St. Petersburg. As part of Russia's first five-man delegation at the Summer Olympic Games that autumn, he entered both the men's singles and Special Figures. In the prior event, he narrowly lost the figures to Salchow in a three-two split of the judging panel and withdrew from the event, either due to illness or in protest (a topic of long-standing debate) but struck gold in the Special Figures, making history as his country's first Olympic Gold Medallist in any sport.
Panin's Special Figures at the 1908 Summer Olympic Games
Though much was made of the fact that the panel was stacked in Salchow's favour in the men's event as there were two Swedish judges and Henning Grenander and Gustav Hügel were his friends, it should be noted that when Nikolay won the Special Figures, the judging panel was exactly the same... and they placed him first by over ten points. Greco-Roman wrestlers Nikolai Orlov and Oleg Petrov also won medals in London, and the successes of Panin and the wrestlers catapulted Russia's entries from five to one hundred and seventy at the 1912 Games in Stockholm.
Though figure skating was contested at the 1912 Summer Olympics, Nikolay made history as the first Russian athlete to participate in two different Olympic sports. An accomplished shooter, he had won an international contest in Paris after winning Olympic gold in 1908. He won twenty-three Russian titles in pistol and military combat revolver shooting from 1906 and 1917 and finished an impressive eighth of twenty-one entries in the fifty meter pistol shooting competition in Stockholm. The 1912 Olympics would prove to be his final appearance as a competitor in a major international sporting competition. He acted as a judge at the final pre-War World Championships in figure skating, held in Helsinki in 1914.
During the Great War, Nikolay served as secretary of the Russian Olympic Committee and continued to serve as a skating instructor. His pupil Xenia Caesar won one of the only known figure skating competitions held during the War in Russia in 1915. He survived the Russian Revolution of 1917 and subsequent famine, where times were so bleak in St. Petersburg that people were forced to eat grass, dirt, leather harnesses and their own pets. Some even resorted to cannibalism.
As the dust settled, Nikolay worked in the organization of universal education in Russia and the rebuilding of his country's early figure skating schools. In 1933, he was invited to teach at the State Institute Of Physical Culture. It was there that he organized the Soviet Union's first elite figure skating school, which was transformed into the Higher Coaching School Of Figure Skating In 1935. In addition to several textbooks on science and physical education, he published translations of the ISU's rules translated into Russian and developed guidelines by which the Soviet Union's figure skating championships would be held. Incorporating a translation of one of T.D. Richardson's books, he penned "The Art of Skating: Skating: History, Theory, Methods and Techniques of Figure Skating" in 1938, which was approved as the first Soviet textbook on the sport. Among his students during this period were Pyotr Chernyshev, Petr Orlov and Raisa and Alexander Gandelsman.
A year after the outbreak of World War II, seventy year old Nikolay was named an Honored Master Of Sports Of The USSR. He was the first figure skater to ever receive this distinction in the Unified Sports Classification System of the USSR. When he received this special honour, he was on the Eastern Front training students and partisan fighters from the Red Army hand-to-hand combat, grenade throwing, skiing, obstacle courses and guerrilla warfare. He was evacuated during the Siege Of Leningrad but returned in 1945 to teach at the Research Institute Of Physical Culture.
Left: Bust of Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin. Right: A pair of Nikolay Panin-Kolonenkin's skating boots.
Nikolay passed away on January 19, 1956 in Leningrad, less than a month after his eighty-third birthday. The following year, his city began holding the Panin Memorial figure skating competition. In 1993, Russia issued a fifty ruble gold coin celebrating Panin and their country's first Olympic gold medal. In 2008 - the one hundredth anniversary of his feat - Russia's figure skating federation issued a commemorative medal and unveiled a bust in his likeness at the Academy Of Figure Skating in St. Petersburg, which was to be named after him. In 2009, Nikolay was posthumously inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame.
Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive
"I am a student of the others more than I am a teacher." - Ulrich Salchow, "Kalmar", February 7, 1910
"Salchow has practically stood alone. One might say he is in a class by himself. It is nearly impossible to catch him in a bad or unnatural position, no matter what he is skating, whether in compulsory figures or free skating." - Edward S. Hirst, "Winter Sports Review", October 1911
Photo courtesy World Figure Skating Museum And Hall Of Fame
I think it's a safe bet to assume that when most people hear the name Ulrich Salchow, their immediate thought is "he was the guy that invented the Salchow jump"... and guess what? You're right. However, his larger than life role in skating's history is nothing short of complex - full of incredible achievements and thought-provoking contradictions. Olympic Gold Medallist, ten time World Champion, nine time European Champion and ISU President are just the tip of the iceberg.
On August 7, 1877 in Copenhagen, Denmark, John William and Elisabeth Kathrine (Rye) Salchow welcomed Karl Emil Julius Ulrich Salchow into this world. After attending grammar school in Copenhagen, young Salchow moved to Stockholm, Sweden in 1890 with his Danish parents and, according to the 1902 edition of "The Sketch: A Journal of Art and Actuality - Volume 37", started skating the same year, representing the Stockholms Allmänna Skridskoklubb (SASK). After but one year of learning the full schedule of compulsory figures, he won his first club competition at the age of fourteen.
In her study of Swedish skating history "Svensk Konståkning Under Etthundra År", Gertrud Olsson noted, "The first Swedish championship in figure skating took place on April 10, 1895 at Nybroviken ice in Stockholm. The competition was at that time divided into three disciplines: compulsory figures, self-chosen characters and [freestyle]. Ulrich Salchow won in figure skating and a gentleman named Borgh won in [freestyle]. The race thus ended in a draw. Someone Swedish Champion could thus not be. Only two years later, in 1897, could Mr. Salchow defeat Thiodolf Borgh, and he then won his first Swedish championship. It was also the last."
Left: Gustav Hügel and Ulrich Salchow. Right: Ulrich Salchow.
During this same era in the late nineteenth century, Ulrich was also quickly making quite the name for himself internationally. In 1896, he joined Henning Grenander in a demonstration of the Continental Style at National Skating Palace in London and the following year after winning the Swedish title, he entered his first international competition - the 1897 World Championships in his home city - and finished second in a field of six behind Gustav Hügel. The next year, at the age of twenty, he won his first European title in Trondheim, Norway.
In 1899, both the European and World Championships were held in Davos, Switzerland less than a month apart. In the January event, Ulrich impressed the judges so much that they placed him ahead of World Champion Gustav Hügel but the next month, an all Swiss panel opted for the elder skater.
Photos courtesy Swedish Olympic Committee (left), Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive (right)
In a later personal letter to American skating pioneer and author George Henry Browne, Ulrich wrote, "One day in January 1899, when I first came to Davos and saw [Ernst] Fellner and [Martin] Gordan training in the distance, their posing with arms and legs and head, and their white gloves, struck me so comically that I couldn't help laughing. Heaven be praised, this style is a thing of the past." Ulrich was referencing the constant battle between the English and Continental Styles playing out at the International Skating Club Of Davos during that era, of which his fellow competitor Edgar Syers was all too familiar.
1900 was more than likely a frustrating year for Ulrich, as he once again beat Gustav Hügel at the European Championships but filled the role of runner-up at Worlds. In the latter competition, again at Davos, he held a slight lead to his Viennese competitor of 1183 to 1115 points, but lost to him in the free skate. In his book "A Handbook Of Skating For Use On The Ice", George Henry Browne explained, "Hügel won because three judges out of five ranked him first, although Salchow led him by eight points! Hügel was superior in his specialties, which were his far more dance steps, spectacles, brackets and loops, jumps from IF to OB, and OB to OF, and his corkscrew spin on bended leg, coiling around it the unemployed held in both hands, and finishing with a pirouette on the toe, all at a tremendous speed. The field steps embraced rockers, brackets, counters, cross mohawks, and other difficult steps, done at high speed, in rapid succession, mingled in bewildering and effective fashion. Salchow's field figures were slower, consisting of spread-eagles, jumps, and chain threes; he did the Grenander 8 skated by Callie Curtis in Hamburg, Salchow's Star, the Engelmann star... and he jumped from an OF, turned twice in loop, 1 1 ft. the air, and came down on OF." Browne's detailed analysis, particularly of his jump, would suggest that claims of Ulrich's athleticism in his younger years were not exaggerations.
In January 1901 in Vienna, Ulrich lost his European title to World Champions Gustav Hügel and Gilbert Fuchs, finishing for the first time in any international competition third and last. It must have fired him up though, as the following month he finally succeeded in winning his first World title over Hügel in front of a home crowd in Stockholm and claiming the prize for "The Best Figure Skater" in St. Petersburg, Russia, defeating Fuchs.
With the 1902 European Championships cancelled due to an unseasonably balmy January, Ulrich rolled into London the following month to defend his title... this time famously competing against the first woman to enter the World Championships, Madge Syers. "The Sketch: A Journal of Art and Actuality, Volume 37" noted derogatorily, "This year, as last, won the World's Championship for figure-skating, though it must be acknowledged he won more easily from his fair competitor than he has ever done from those of his own sex."
However, local reports of the 1902 European Championships suggested that Madge Syers had actually outskated Ulrich. Gertrud Olsson noted, "Two of the best skaters, Hügel and Fuchs from Austria, were intended not [to skate]. As usual, it was only men who were invited to the World Cup. Salchow went through the entire rulebook and nowhere was it found that the ladies were not allowed. So he secretly notified the talented Mrs. Syers the roster. This gave King Edward VII and all other notables [a chance to] see Mrs. Syers exhibit so cleverly her programs that brought her to second place."
One of Ulrich's exhibition in Switzerland, which was detailed fully by George Henry Browne, gives you a really good idea as to what he included in his programs: "Salchow's free-skating program at Davos, January 18, 1903, began with a ROF rocker jump to ROB; then a jump from LOB to RIF; the Engelmann star; IF three, back pirouette, OB three eight; once back and jump, a complete revolution in the air; a march, ROF rocker and LOB three and RIB counter, rocker, and repeat; IB rocker, change, spread-eagle; another rocker march; spread eagle jump, complete revolution; rocker counter continuous spectacles, with rhythmic swing of free foot to music; another march, ROF rocker change IB loop change OB counter of three and LIB three and repeat; more intricate march steps that I could not identify from the 'side lines', the program ending with the Jackson Haines spin - a ROF flat-foot spin with figure 4 bend clear down to the ice, straightening up again while revolving at a rapid pace, and finishing with a pirouette on the toe."
An important thing to keep in mind here in this description of Ulrich's program is that he was doing the Salchow jump back in (at least) 1902. Many secondary, uncited sources erroneously repeat that he first performed it in 1909. This would have been the same program he skated to win his second World title in 1902 in London.
Left: Max Bohatsch, Per Thorén and Ulrich Salchow. Right: Muriel Harrison and Ulrich Salchow.
In 1904, Ulrich claimed the European and World title in the same year for the first time and began working as a journalist for "Dagens Nyheter" (Daily News) in Sweden, a position he'd hold until 1912. He had already wrote for the Associated Press Of America under the pseudonym 'Ten', a practice he'd continue for the next twenty-five years. In 1905 came a fifth consecutive World title; in 1906 a fifth European title. By this point, he must have been running out of shelf space back home in Stockholm.
1907 was a busy year for Ulrich, He began a two year stint as a correspondent for the "New York Herald" and a three year term as chairman of the Swedish Velociped Association and penned the instructional skating book "Handbok i Konstakning pa Skrids", translated into German, French and several other languages. Again, at the top of his game, claimed the European and World titles back to back. I don't know about you, but if I was a skater entering any of this competitions and saw him on the roster, by this point I'd probably be like "I'm out!"
In early February of 1908, Ulrich headed to St. Petersburg, Russia to compete for the Alexander Panshin Memorial Cup. He lost to Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin, the celebrated Russian Champion who had only finished second at that year's European Championships.
Photos courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive
That autumn, Ulrich made history in London by winning the first Olympic gold medal in men's figure skating, but his behavior at Prince's Skating Club has been a topic of debate for well over a century. The late John Daniel Windhausen, a respected scholar who specialized in Russian and Soviet studies, alleged, "Salchow exhibited behavior unfitting for a champion and demonstratively shouted criticisms of [Nikolay] Panin's form. Hoping to undermine the self control of the rival from Russia, Salchow continued his bombastic verbal assaults so that Panin's side was constrained to protest. But Salchow relentlessly maintained his psychological attack while the chief judge did not summon him to order. Even so, Panin seemed to perform perfectly. The results, however, were not in his favor." Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin lost the school figures and withdrew from the men's event, but won the Special Figures, which Ulrich pulled out of. Newspapers from the men's respective countries both reported that the men pulled out from the events the other won due to illness, but as the events were held within hours of one another, it seems highly unlikely.
Photos courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive
Following his Olympic win, Ulrich (of course) won another a World title, because that's what he did. 1909 and 1910 brought him four more European and World gold medals to add to his stash.
Although Ulrich invented the Salchow jump and was a largely competent free skater in his day, he really was a specialist in school figures. In the documentary "ISU: 100 Years Of Skating 1892-1992", ISU historian Benjamin T. Wright remarked, "The irony of Salchow is the jump is what he is remembered for. He was not a good free skater. He was far better as a figure skater and what he was really well known for in his day was the Salchow rocker, which is the form of rocker in which you put the foot behind after the turn."
Many critics and fellow competitors from his day lauded Ulrich for his correct arm positions in figures, but criticized him for making his figures so large. George Henry Browne noted that "Fuchs takes Salchow to task for this method of enlarging his threes; but Salchow told me he learned it from Fuchs. [He] skates the largest figures, makes, for example, a bracket eight with the turns sixteen yards apart... A stop, though very brief, is also apt to be made by Salchow in the middle of his loop, from which he tears out in order to make the second curve as big as the first, or even greater... I have just said that the rocker skated in the Engelmann-Salchow style is easier to do if the skater has a vigorous swing, and also the bigger he skates. This applies especially to this style; but in general it is easier to skate rockers big and at a pace, because you can more easily overcome the strong rotation of the body, and more easily conceal the false swing established. That's the reason why Salchow skates so big. He draws the second curve out very straight from the turn, at the same time stretches the free foot pretty wide from the starting foot, until he has overcome the false swing, which he conceals by stiffening up very straight. You can hear his vigorous action on the ice and see it also in the snow rolled up in his print. Therefore I repeat, the less audible the better: for if the rocker is skated right, after the turn the swing and the direction of the curve are in complete harmony, the print is scarcely visible, and the skater glides quite inaudibly on his edge." Interestingly, Edgar Syers noted in 1904 that Gustav Hügel copied Salchow's technique on his counters and rockers when he saw that he was getting more points for it.
Top: Ulrich Salchow competing at the 1909 World Championships. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine. Bottom: Ulrich Salchow demonstrating a rocker.
1911 marked the first of seventeen years that Ulrich would serve on the board of National Sports Confederation in Sweden and the tenth and final occasion he competed in (and won) the World Championships. His record, by the way, still stands to this day in men's singles skating.
Ulrich Salchow and Gösta Sandahl
Although Ulrich had aspirations of defending his Olympic title at the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, a lack of artificial ice in the country meant that a skating competition could not be accommodated. He did return to win his ninth and final European title in Norway in early February of 1913 ahead of Hungary's Andor Szende and Austria's Willy Böckl.
Retiring from competition, Ulrich finally found time to devote to his writing, work with Marconi and the many sports committees he sat on. 1917 proved to be a particularly unusual year in his life though. While he began his first of three terms as chairman of Sweden's Skating Association, his brother William, a writer living in Denmark, was exiled from the country due to unemployment. We can certainly theorize that he may have come to his brother for help.
Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive
In the meantime, Ulrich travelled to North America on writing assignments and found himself - by route of Nova Scotia - in the midst of some pretty hefty political intrigue. John Hohenberg's book "Foreign Correspondence: The Great Reporters and Their Times" sets the scene: "Lenin's hammer blows against the Menshevik war policy kept up all summer in the Petrograd Soviet and echoed elsewhere in Russia. One by one, his exiled associates rejoined him for the struggle they all knew was coming with the moderate government. The most important of all, Leon Trotsky, who for years had wavered between the Bolshevik and Menshevik wings, left his newspaper, Novy Mir, in New York and boarded a Swedish-bound ship in Brooklyn. He was taken off at Halifax by British Intelligence officers but told a fellow-passenger, Ulrich Salchow, an AP correspondent bound for Sweden, that he would be in Stockholm soon. Within three weeks, he called on Salchow, as he had promised. Asked how he had done it, he remarked: 'Easy, I merely told them how I was going back to Russia to end the revolution and throw the force of Russia back into the war wholeheartedly against Germany.' He went to Petrograd to do exactly the opposite." You can't make this stuff up!
In 1919, Ulrich helped found the Swedish Boxing Association and served as the organization's first chairman, a position he held until 1932. Perhaps energized from his time in the boxing ring, he furnished an unexpected comeback in time for the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium.
Left: Ulrich Salchow with the Crown Prince Of Sweden. Right: Ulrich Salchow executing a figure. Photos courtesy Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.
Leaving his post as chairman of the Swedish Skating Association due to the obvious conflict of interest, the forty-three year old Swede was able to manage a second place finish in the school figures behind Gillis Grafström, but it was anything but close. Nursing an injury, Salchow finished fifth in free skating and for the first time in his career off the podium in fourth. It was certainly a disappointing swan song to an incredible competitive career, but huge props to him for going for it.
Bror Meyer, Ulrich Salchow and Harry Swanson. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine
Left: Ulrich Salchow and one of his colleagues at the Nordic Games. Right: Business advertisement pertaining to Ulrich Salchow's concern in radio.
Ulrich, ever the sportsman, also found time for cycling, yachting and bobsleigh races. Beginning in 1922, he lead the board of Swedish Radio. In 1923, he returned for his second term as chair of the Swedish Skating Association and two years later became President of the International Skating Union, a post he held until 1937 and took very seriously.
Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine
Ulrich had attended his first ISU Congress as a delegate in 1905, when he was still competing. He was nominated for re-election in 1937 but, though he ran uncontested, didn't receive a single vote. He was defeated in a non-confidence coup of write-in ballots.
Left: Ulrich Salchow at the 1932 European Championships in Paris. Photo courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France. Right: Sonja Henie and Ulrich Salchow. Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years".
Ulrich also somehow found time to serve for eleven years as chairman of Allmänna Idrottsklubben professional sports club in the Stockholm area, which hosted facilities for hockey, bandy, tennis, athletics, soccer and badminton. In 1931, he married dentist Dr. Anna-Elisabeth Bahnson.
Top left: Ulrich Salchow at the height of his skating career. Top right: Barbara Ann Scott and Ulrich Salchow dancing at the Grand Hotel in Stockholm after the banquet at the 1947 World Championships. Photo courtesy "Skating World" magazine. Bottom: Ulrich Salchow and his skating trophies in 1947. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine
After living an incredibly full life, Ulrich passed away at age seventy-one in Stockholm, Sweden on April 19, 1949. He was interred in Norra begravningsplatsen in Stockholm. Posthumously, he was among the first group of inductees to World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1976 and prior to his wife's death in 1998, she instituted an annual scholarship in Ulrich's name awarded to one promising young Swedish skater each year.
Reflecting on his figure skating career, historian Gertrud Olsson remarked, "Ulrich Salchow's figure skating results have primarily been attributed to his mental strength, his power of concentration and will to win. His skating was marked by force and security, more than artistic sophistication. His only problem was that when the ice was a little too small then his figures could be very large." T.D. Richardson again referred to contrasts: "When as a young man I first saw Salchow, I was impressed by his lithe strength and control. Later on he became mannered and pedantic, which one can well understand after such tremendous success. He was, moreover, a man of forceful personality and character, which was given full scope when, in the many years between the two wars, he continued to exert unchallenged influence on the sport as President of the International Skating Union; and whether one liked his rule or not, it must be admitted that he was the last of the great Presidents."
Madge and Edgar Syers
Photo courtesy World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame
"Many Englishwomen have become remarkably proficient, equal, indeed, to any but the very best of the other sex. Skating is an exercise particularly appropriate for women; it requires not so much strength as grace, combined with a fine balance, and the ability to move the feet rapidly. In these qualifications a woman has often the advantage, particularly in our own country, as Englishmen are usually inclined to be rather slow and heavy skaters." - Madge Syers, "The Book Of Winter Sports", 1908
Edgar Morris Wood Syers was born March 18, 1863 in Brighton, Sussex. He was the son of Morris Roberts Syers, for many years a colonial merchant, and Caroline (Brimbley Taylor Moffatt) Syers, a widow. His grandfather, who passed away before he was born, lived at the historic Boughton House in Cheshire. His uncle, G.R. Port, was the Rector of Grafton Flyford in Worcestershire.
Edgar grew up with his parents and older brothers George and Frederick on Dulwich Road in Battersea, London. When he was six years old, his father (for many years a colonial merchant) became the new proprietor of The Oxford, a legendary music hall which had burned to the ground in an 1868 fire. Sadly, under Edgar's father's management, The Oxford was again badly damaged in a second fire. He passed away at Amphion near Evian Lake, Geneva, France in June of 1876 at the age of fifty-eight when Edgar was only thirteen years old, leaving behind a sizable fortune of some forty thousand pounds. Not long after his father's death, Edgar was sent away to study at Fowey Grammar School. As a young man of means, he devoted much of his time to artistic and intellectual pursuits and meetings at the Elthorne and Middlesex Lodge and United Grand Lodge of England Freemason Members.
On September 16, 1881, six months after Edgar's eighteenth birthday, Florence Madeleine 'Madge' Cave was born. She was (at least) the tenth child of Edward Jarvis Cave and Elizabeth Ann Chapman.
As a ten year old, she lived at Portland Square in London in a well-appointed household that employed a butler, cook and two housemaids. Her father, who hailed from Leicester, was a bricklayer turned speculative builder and a director of the Hampstead Electric Supply Co. Through his work in developing middle class flats, shops and mansion blocks in London during the late Victorian era, Madge's father shrewdly amassed a considerable fortune through his property empire but went bankrupt in 1900 after a series of failed business deals and loans he couldn't make good on. The Cave family were forced to downsize and let two of their servants go. Two of Madge's older brothers also suffered considerable financial setbacks. While all of this was going on, Madge's father was living a double life. He had a second family on the go in Hanover and waited only a month after Madge's mother's passing to marry Pauline Bretzfelder, the mother of another ten of his children, in 1909.
Left: Madge Syers. Right: Martin Gordan, Edgar Syers and Ernst Fellner in Davos. Photo courtesy Stadsarkivet Stockholm.
Three years before her father's financial collapse, Madge and her sisters Haidee and Hilda took up ice skating, a 'fashionable amusement' of the Victorian upper class. She soon proved an exceptional English Style figure skater, earning three medals of the National Skating Association and winning the 1899 Challenge Shield in combined skating.
It was during this period that Madge's paths crossed with the tall, athletic Edgar, then the Joint General Secretary of the National Skating Association. An opinionated, change-minded young man in his thirties, Edgar had passed the Association's English Style figure tests on both ice and rollers and placed in the top three in a handful of outdoor speed skating races in the fen country. He also spent considerable time in Switzerland, where he enthusiastically took to the Continental Style. With the goal in mind of converting Britons to the freer, 'new' style of figure skating, he was lobbying to host the World Championships in London as early as 1895. The year prior, he had helped convince the powers that be at the National Skating Association to move their headquarters to London - a move that drastically changed the course of the Association's history. Had it remained in Cambridge - the heart of fen (speed) skating, things may have been quite different.
In 1899, Edgar recalled, "The writer had often urged the National Skating Association of Great Britain to apply for permission to hold the World's Championship in London, but some diffidence was felt by the Committee of that body owing to the fact that few of them were conversant with the foreign methods of judging. When [rule changes were adopted by the ISU in 1897] that difficulty disappeared, and permission to hold the  championship was applied for and obtained... [It was] a complete success... H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, a patron of the N.S.A. was present, and took a keen interest in the skating, making a request that each competitor should have an opportunity of exhibiting his special programme." Only one British skater entered, but four Brits - three Englanders and a Scot - consented to act as judges. The event was a huge success, both from an attendance and critical standpoint. Just as Edgar hoped, there were many new Continental converts, among them Madge.
The following winter, Edgar penned an article penned for the "Badminton Magazine Of Sports And Pastimes" in 1899, arguing that British skaters should start participating more in the ISU's competitions. "Some of our elder skaters are said to object to all forms of competition; to them I would indicate that skating is the sport least likely to suffer by the introduction of competition," he wrote. "Skaters as a class must be men of considerable leisure and means, for a great amount of time devoted to persistent practice is necessary to enable an intending competitor to skate accurately the more difficult of the compulsory figures, apart from the time and patience which must be devoted to elaborating the individual programme or free figures... The foreign skating associations are anxious to see us; the English love of sport and fair play is recognized everywhere, and an accredited English representative would be sure of a most hearty welcome."
In Davos in 1899, Edgar put his money where his mouth was and made his debut in the World Championships. The tall, athletic Briton won the bronze medal by default, finishing third of the three competitors. Later that same winter, he and Madge made their debut as a pairs team, winning a competition in 'hand-in-hand' skating in Brighton.
The following year, Edgar and Madge headed to the European Championships in Berlin, where they finished second to an Austrian pair and Edgar won the junior men's class of competition. They celebrated their early successes by making their on-ice partnership an off-ice one, marrying that spring.
During the same stretch that Madge and Edgar got married and started entering skating competitions as a pair, Madge took up a hobby that wouldn't have been considered by some as 'appropriate' for a woman of her social standing - shooting. In the summers of 1898 and 1899, she claimed first and third prizes in clay pigeon shooting contests for women organized by the Middlesex Gun Club as part of their Annual Ladies' Day. The prize for first place, reported "The Sketch" in July of 1899, was "a pair of mother-of-pearl gilt opera glasses." Fittingly at a time when shooting live targets was falling out of favour, Madge and Edgar were both members of the Royal Society for the Protection Of Birds.
In January of 1901, Edgar was one of the founders of the Figure Skating Club for Continental Style skaters, based at Prince's Skating Club. That winter, he finished second at one of Great Britain's first competitions in the Continental Style and he and Madge travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark, where Madge won her first international women's title and the couple their first international pairs title.
The following winter, Edgar encouraged Madge to enter the 1902 World Championships in London, where she famously finished second to Ulrich Salchow. The ISU hadn't even given consideration to a woman entering one of their international figure skating contests, and her entry forced the sport's governing body to fiercely debate the rights of women in figure skating... several years before the first large procession or demonstration by the National Union Of Women's Suffrage Societies was even held.
In 1905, Madge won the Duchess Of Bedford's Cup at the first Prince's Skating Club competition. She won again in 1907. Both times she defeated men. When the first ISU Championship For Ladies, later recognized as a World Championship, was held in 1906, Madge was the winner. She went on to win the 1907 World title and the first Olympic gold medal in women's figure skating in 1908. She also twice won the Swedish Challenge Cup, defeating a host of talented male skaters including Edgar. Six years after her Olympic win, Will Cadby recalled Madge as a skater who glided "in wreaths of curves over the ice with perfect grace and unerring exactness of execution, like 'a sea bird on the wing'. One has the same keen sense of enjoyment as when watching a Russian ballet." The Official Report Of The 1908 Summer Olympics described her as being "in a class all by herself."
As a pair, Madge and Edgar also won Olympic bronze in 1908, along with a slew of international competitions throughout the Continent during the Edwardian era. The pair retired from competition after the 1908 Summer Olympics, owing to Edgar's declining health. He was forty-five at the time of his Olympic medal win, making him one of the older figure skaters in history to acheive such an honour. They continued to skate together for pleasure at the skating resorts of Switzerland in the years leading up to The Great War. A presumably lost 1914 kinetograph of the duo in Wengen may have been the couple's final performance together.
Edgar Syers. Photos courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archive.
Madge and Edgar's passion for - and success at - sporting pursuits wasn't limited to figure skating. Edgar was one of the founders of the Ski Club Of Great Britain and served as the organization's first President. He also held badges for speed and roller skating from the National Skating Association; she excelled at horseback riding. In the summers, both Edgar and Madge enjoyed shooting, fishing, bicycling and spent time travelling England's rivers and canals by canoe.
Madge and Edgar penned three winter sports, their most successful being "The Art Of Skating (International Style)", which was published in 1913. Madge also wrote a series of articles for "Every Woman's Encyclopedia". Around the same time, Harrod's department store started selling a skate model called The Syers Skate in their name.
Madge also achieved considerable success at a second sport - swimming. The October 1917 issue of "The Swimming Magazine" noted, "For swimming Mrs. Syers also had great interest and love, and like all skaters on open water ice early recognized the value of teaching of the Royal Life Saving Society. As a member of the Bath Club in the years 1905, '6 and '7 she was successful in winning the Ladies' Championship Shield, in which, in addition to graceful swimming and diving, there are Life Saving tests. It was Mrs. Syers' aim to perfect herself in any pastime she favoured, and in swimming she exhibited that gracefulness and accuracy of style which had made her so renowned as a skater. Diving also appealed to her, and in 1911, when the Royal Life Saving Society promoted its first National Graceful Diving Competition for ladies, the trophy was won by Mrs. Syers, who gave a magnificent display."
Whereas Madge was widely praised for her athletic prowess, Edgar wasn't exactly beloved in skating circles. In November 1904, he abruptly resigned as Secretary of the National Skating Association's Ice Figure Committee. Within a matter of months, he relinquished his position on the Council. Thus began an almost decade long power struggle between him the National Skating Association brass. Historian Dennis Bird recalled, "He seems to have become exasperated with the NSA, preferring to run things his own way. Although he continued to act as a judge until 1913, he played no other part in the Association, and he took to writing highly critical letters to the British and German press. This infuriated his former colleagues, as did his attack of Dr. G.H. Fowler as Britain's chief delegate to ISU Congresses. The most serious confrontation came in 1907, not in England but in Switzerland, where Syers' favourite International-style figure-skating was not much practised. The main club there was the St. Moritz Skating Association (SMSA), founded in 1891 and affiliated to the NSA. The SMSA were just thinking of forming an International-style branch when Syers pre-empted them by founding a new 'St. Moritz International Skating Club', with the 2nd Earl Of Lytton as President and himself as Secretary. There were not enough British skaters at St. Moritz to justify two separate clubs, and the SMSA felt they had a right of seniority. They were particularly annoyed because they had recently wined and dined Edgar and Madge Syers, who had skated an exhibition for them. Indignation knew no bounds when Syers applied to affiliate his club direct to the ISU, just as though they were a national governing body. The dispute rumbled on for two years. Eventually the SMSA triumphed, and took over the upstart club in 1909." A modern recollection of the events that transpired in St. Moritz in 1909 penned by Harry Stone offered slightly different collection of the situation: "The National Skating Association experienced its moment of truth in St. Moritz. They had spent years dithering over admitting the Continentals as a special section of the Club. But they had a traitor among them: In 1907 Edgar Syers stole a despicable march by announcing from London that he had formed a British club for the Continental stylists. The English School were furious. Not only had they been outmanoeuvred but Syers was not even a good skater. It was widely recognized that it was his wife, Madge, who carried him through all the pair championships they had won. With Prince's as his base, the uppity Edgar had acquired an almost unassailable position for his new fangled association. He had successfully inveigled the prestigious sporting Earl of Lytton into accepting the presidency. To add insult to injury, Syers had pre-empted the National Association and had already lodged an application for international status. Within two years the National Skating Association had planned a terrible revenge. After protracted negotiations, Edgar Syers was coerced into agreeing to an amalgamation. A meeting to forge the link was held at the Kulm Hotel. There the English school made sure of their triumph. While passing a motion congratulating the secretary E.E. Mavrogoradato for 'the care and trouble he had taken,' no mention was made of Edgar Syers. As a final indignity, he was not even voted onto the committee." One of Edgar's final 'appearances' in the minutes of the National Skating Association was a letter of complaint about the "inferior" banquet and lack of hospitality at the 1912 World Championships in Manchester.
Madge and Edgar skating in Wengen in 1914. Photo courtesy Elaine Hooper, BIS Archive.
In the height of The Great War on August 22, 1917, Madge gave birth to a daughter who lived less than twenty-four hours. On September 9, 1917 - only eighteen days later - Madge passed away at the age of thirty-five at her home at St. George's Way, Weybridge, Surrey of heart failure caused by acute endocarditis and blood poisoning... common complications from childbirth in the days before properly sterilized instruments, good hand-washing practices, anaesthesia and antibiotics. She left behind a considerable estate which with inflation would be considerably over one hundred thousand dollars today. Edgar's lovingly penned poem "To My Lady's Skates", served as a tribute: "The praise of glove, of fan, or shoe, full many a ode relates; May not my muse, with theme more new, Commend my Lady's Skates? Eff little feet to guide these blades my Mistress fair provides; And, sweetest of our glacial maids, On them serenely glides."
Madge Syers pointing towards the heavens
Four years after Madge's death, Edgar remarried to twenty-four year old Eva Victoria Critchel and stepped away from figure skating entirely. He earned something of a reputation for sending snooty letters to the editor correcting this trivial detail or that and passed away in the Berkshire market town of Maidenhead on February 16, 1946 at the age of eighty-two, less than a year after the armistice that ended World War II. Madge was posthumously inducted to the World Figure Skating Hall Of Fame in 1981. Though an Olympic Medallist, Edgar never received the same honour as his wife, nor was he given an Honorary Life Membership with the National Skating Association by his peers before his falling out with the organization.
Herbert Ramon Yglesias
"It must always be remembered that what constitutes good form is a matter of opinion. When watching a good skater do not imagine that his way is the only way. One of the great charms of ﬁgure skating is the scope it gives for individuality; and every skater should aim to develop his own genius." - Herbert Ramon Yglesias, "Figure Skating", 1905
Born May 14, 1867 in Brighton, Sussex in the Parish of Wandsworth, England, Herbert 'Hector' Ramon Yglesias was the youngest son of Lydia Rebecca (Beale) and José Ramon Yglesias, a successful Spanish wine merchant. His uncle was the artist Vincent Philip Yglesias. He grew up on Rusholme Road, Putney. Newspaper accounts suggest that his upbringing might have been a little chaotic at best: "The Cambridge Independent Press", on February 9, 1878 reported that "Alfred Mowlam, baker, was charged by Lydia Rebecca Beale Yglesias, with violently ringing the bell of her dwelling-house, and using violent and abusive language and threatening to obtain a ladder, in at the bed-room window." Whatever the circumstances of his childhood might have been, we know that Herbert graduated from Trinity College with a degree in law in April 1891 and started practicing as a lawyer.
It was around this time that Herbert began to make a name for himself as a sportsman, enjoying moderate success in the Gay Nineties as a tennis player. In 1891, he made it to the semi-finals of a competition in The Hague, Netherlands and later competed domestically at the Middlesex and Essex Championships and the Colchester Championship. While at university, he'd started dabbling in figure skating and in (as many British skaters did) making annual trips to Switzerland, he became remarkably proficient in the sport and developed a great fondness for the Continental Style. Like Edgar Syers, he praised this 'new' Style to anyone who would listen. Living at home with his mother until his 1909 marriage to Enid Mary Dean, he devoted much of his free time to studying the sport.
After being awarded a certificate from the International Skating Club Of Davos, he penned the book "Figure Skating" in 1905 as an educational manual for skaters wishing to free the shackles of the rigid English Style and acquaint themselves with the Continental Style. His stance on skating was remarkably progressive for the era. He praised Canadian skaters and Edgar and Madge Syers alike, was all for change in skating fashion and criticized British skaters for focusing overly on the practice of school figures to the detriment of free skating: "Our beginners practise school figures too much, with the result that their curves and style become cramped, and they fail to learn at an early age the power to move lightly and swiftly over the ice... It must be remembered that school figures are the 'scales,' not the object and end of figure skating; and every effort should be made, from the beginning, to learn steps and combinations, and skate simple curves in field."
After medalling at the 1905 and 1906 British Championships, Herbert decided to put his passion and knowledge for skating to good use as a judge and official. In 1907, he sat alongside Gustav Hügel and Ulrich Salchow on an ISU Committee devised to change the factors of difficulty for compulsory figures. His first international judging assignment was the 1905 World Championships in Stockholm, where Salchow was the victor in front of a hometown audience. However, in an attempt to put his money where his mouth was, he made the unusual decision to enter the 1908 Summer Olympics in London at age forty and compete against Salchow. He withdrew midway through the school figures in the midst of the whole skirmish in a distant last place and clearly out of his element.
Herbert Ramon Yglesias judging at the Nordic Games.Photo courtesy Sveriges Centralförening för Idrottens Främjande Archive.
Herbert's international judging career saw him act as Great Britain's judge at the 1920, 1924 and 1928 Olympic Games and at several European and World Championships spanning three decades. His decisions were at times controversial. Though (as mentioned before) quite progressive in his views, he dispelled any illusion of national bias when in 1924, he gave low marks to both British pairs who introduced the new art of shadow skating to their programs. Captain T.D. Richardson later mused, "I knew Mr. Yglesias very well. He was one of the most direct and splendid men that ever put on a skate. He was never afraid to express his opinion very strongly because he was a man who felt very strongly. He was the opposite of the sycophant and in consequence he was not always popular... Had he been in skating today, when more than ever, skating tends to come under the direction of the 'good committee man', who knows all about the rules, and little about the sport, I fear his position would not have been a very comfortable one."
Retiring as an international judge in the late twenties after serving for three years on the ISU Judges Committee, Herbert was given an Honorary Lifetime Membership to the National Skating Association in 1929, having served as secretary of the organization's Ice Figure Committee for several years. He oversaw three new editions of his 1905 book before passing away on August 20, 1949 in Putney Hill, London, England at the age of eighty-two. His legacy as one of the earliest and most vocal supporters of the Continental Style in England at a time when that would have been quite unpopular in some circles is admirable.
THE END OF AN ERA
King Edward VII died at the age of sixty-eight at Buckingham Palace on May 6, 1910, having suffered several heart attacks and severe bronchitis in the last months of his life after a lifetime of heavy smoking. Over four hundred thousand Britons filed through Westminster Abbey to pay their respects during the two days his body laid in state and a who's who of "royalty and rank" - perhaps the largest gathering of European royalty ever, in fact - attended his funeral. Edward was succeeded by his son George V, who reigned over England and the Commonwealth during the turbulent Great War years, the roaring twenties and The Great Depression.
Funeral procession for King Edward VII
As the Georgian era began, before the world became consumed by war, King George V's comptroller sent a letter to the National Skating Association's President Hayes Fisher informing him, "His Majesty is graciously pleased to become a patron of the NSA." And so, a royal tradition that started with King Edward VII continued. To this day, the reigning monarch has always been the National Skating Association's patron. Ever since, royalty and skating royalty have been connected through shared history. CHAMPIONSHIP WINNERS
Advertising poster for the 1904 European Championships in Davos
The 1901 Championship was held in conjunction with that year's Nordic Games, but was a separate competition from the contest for the Nordiska Spelens Prize, which was won that year by Oscar Holthe. The 1905 Championship was held in conjunction with that year's Nordic Games, but was a separate competition from the contest for the Nordiska Spelens Prize, which was won that year by Bror Meyer. European Figure Skating Championships
The 1902 and 1903 European Championships, both slated for Amsterdam, were cancelled due to weather conditions.
The Ladies Championship Of The International Skating Union
1906 - Madge Syers
1907 - Madge Syers
1908 - Lili Kronberger
1909 - Lili Kronberger
1910 - Lili Kronberger
All of these Championships were later deemed to be World Championships by the ISU. The International Pairs Figure Skating Championship
1902 - Madge and Edgar Syers
1903 - Christa von Szabó and Gustav Euler
1904 - Madge and Edgar Syers
1905 - Mizzi and Otto Bohatsch
1906 - Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger
1907 - Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger
1908 - Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger
1909 - Phyllis and James Henry Johnson
1910 - Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger
The 1908, 1909 and 1910 Championships were later deemed to be World Championships by the ISU. The 1905 Championship was the pairs competition at that year's Nordic Games. The competitions from 1902 to 1907 that went unrecognized as World Championships by the ISU were held in London, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Stockholm, Munich and Vienna. The Nordic Games
1901 - Oscar Holthe
1905 - Bror Meyer
1909 - Karl Axel Holmstrom
1905 - Muriel Harrison
1909 - Elsa Rendschmidt
1901 - Christa von Szabo and Gustav Euler
1905 - Mizzi and Max Bohatsch
1909 - Gösta Sandahl
Though both the 1901 and 1905 World Championships were held in conjunction with the Nordic Games, they were considered a separate class of competition. The above listed winners competed in separate categories for 'the International Amateur Figure Skating Championships for the Nordiska Spelens pris'. The International Prize Of Dr. Karl Korper von Marienwert
1907 - Max Rendschmidt
1908 - Anton Steiner
1909 - Karl Ollo
1910 - Werner Rittberger
1909 - Jenny Herz
1910 - Elsa Rendschmidt
1910 - Ludovika Eilers and Walter Jakobsson
1908 - Hans Mayringer
This open international event was announced in the autumn of 1906 in honour of Dr. Karl Korper von Marienwert, one of the Wiener Eislaufverein's founders, as part of the celebration of the club's fortieth anniversary. It was held annually in conjunction with other events. In 1907, it was held during the World Championships in Vienna. Other years, was held along with speed skating races. An interesting footnote about the 1909 women's event is that Jenny Herz and Elsa Rendschmidt actually tied. The judges broke the tie by essentially forming a jury which agreed on a unanimous winner. Third and fourth that year were Anna Hübler and Zsófia Méray-Horváth.
International Championships of the Copenhagen Skojtelöberforening
1901 - Erik Lagergren
1901 - Madge Syers
1901 - Madge and Edgar Syers Canadian Figure Skating Championships
1905 - Ormonde Butler Haycock
1906 - Ormonde Butler Haycock
1908 - Ormonde Butler Haycock
1910 - Douglas Henry Nelles
1905 - Katherine Haycock and Ormonde Butler Haycock
1906 - Katherine Haycock and Ormonde Butler Haycock
1908 -Aimée Frances Haycock and Ormonde Butler Haycock
1910 - Lady Evelyn Grey and Ormonde Butler Haycock
1908 - Rideau Skating Club (Lady Evelyn Grey, Aimée Frances Haycock,
Ormonde Butler Haycock, Fred Anderson)
1910 - Earl Grey Club of Montreal (Iris Mudge, Jeanne Chevalier, A. Richardson, Errol V. Hall)
1910 - Lady Evelyn Grey and Dudley Oliver
The Canadian Championships were not held in 1907 and 1909. The 1907 event was cancelled due to a fire at the Minto Skating Club's rink. Toronto Skating Club Competition
1908 - A.R. Martin
1908 - Mrs. Bingham Allen
The 1908 marked the very first 'intramural' competition for members of the Toronto Skating Club, which was officially formed in 1895. The Club came up with their own scoring system. Davos Waltzing Contest
1906 - George and Margaret Bland Jameson
This was an informal waltzing contest held at Davos in January of 1906, judged by Edgar and Madge Syers, Phyllis Johnson and Mr. Rankine.
Championships Of America
1901 - Arthur Gaetano Keane
1904 - W.F. Duffy
1905 - Arthur Gaetano Keane
1906 - Irving Brokaw
1907 - Edward Bassett
1909 - Arthur G. Williams
The Championships Of America have not been recognized in the modern day as U.S. Championships by the U.S. Figure Skating Association, which hadn't been formed yet. This event was not held in 1903, 1908 or 1910. The 1909 event in Cleveland was opened up to Canadian skaters and billed as the International Fancy Skating Championship. The competitors (all men) had to skate no less than seventeen different figures and free skating elements that year.
International Free Skating Competition
1908 - Andor Szende
1908 - Zsófia Méray-Horváth
1909 - Muriel Harrison
1908 - Phyllis and James Henry Johnson
This competition was held in Davos on February 8 and 9, 1908 and in St. Moritz on February 3, 1909. It consisted of free skating only, with skaters allotted three minutes. The 1908 event had separate categories for men, women and pairs while the 1909 event was a mixed event for men and women. The prize was furnished by Colonel Woodward, who also donated the Woodward Cup. St. Moritz Skating Association Free Skating Competition
Singles (Men and Women):
1909 - Miss Richmond Browne
This competition was held in St. Moritz on February 6, 1909. The event consisted of free skating only, with performances limited to ninety seconds. Skaters who had competed for the Bandy and Woodward Cups or Engadine Challenge Cup were ineligible. The Villars Golden Skate
1907 - B.O. Osborne
This competition was held as part a winter sports week in Villars that included toboggan and ski races, a curling contest and English Style figure skating competition. The event was both organized and judged by Edward Frederic Benson, one of The Sports Club Of Villars' founders. There were four competitors and the winner received the Villars Golden Skate, as well as a pair of English skates with their name and the date of the competition engraved. Senioren-Laufen
1909 - Jenny Herz
When the 1909 World Championships were held in Budapest, Lili Kronberger won unopposed because all of her top rivals opted to compete in a separate 'Senioren-Laufen' class instead of the main competition, perhaps operating under the belief that competing against Kronberger in her home country wouldn't have boded well. Jenny Herz won this event, followed by Elsa Rendschmidt and a young Zsófia Méray-Horváth.
Challenge Shield For Combined Figure Skating
1902 - H.D. Hoffman's team
1903 - H.D. Hoffman's team
1904 - H.D. Hoffman's team
This was a competition organized by the National Skating Association for combined skating in the English Style. Phyllis Johnson (then Squire) was one of the skaters on one of H.D. Hoffman's winning teams. The event, which in the Edwardian era was always skated for outdoors, was not held in 1900 and 1901 and from 1905 to 1910 due to warmer weather. C.E. Bell's team held the title in 1898 and 1899; a team from the Combined Figure Skating Club was victorious when the event resumed in 1911. Commemoration Cup
1902 - Einar de Flon
This was a Continental Style competition held as a one-off in conjunction with the 1902 World Championships. International Waltzing Championship
1902 - Gladys Duddell and French Brewster
This was a large, informal, one-off waltzing competition held at the National Skating Palace in conjunction with the 1902 World Championships. Waltzing Contest At Gymkhana In Aid Of The Queen Alexandra Sanitarium
1907 - Gwendolyn Lycett and Max Rendschmidt
Despite an "abnormal snowfall", this gymkhana in support of a sanitarium that housed those suffering from tuberculosis was held on the public rink at Davos in January of 1907. In addition to the waltzing contest, there was a hoop race and exhibitions were given by Phyllis and James Henry Johnson, Madge and Edgar Syers and George Vail. St. Moritz Waltzing Championship
1908 - Muriel Wilson and F. Bramson
1909 - Gwendolyn Lycett and F. Bramson
This event was held as part of a fundraiser for the St. Moritz Toboggan Club that included toboggan, potato and wheelbarrow races, a costume contest and figure skating exhibitions. Muriel Harrison and Ulrich Salchow gave a demonstration of pairs skating at the 1909 event. Benetfink Challenge Cup For Single Skating In The English Style
1902 - Frank G. Fedden
1903 - H. Morris
1904 - Phyllis Squire
This outdoor English Style competition was not held from 1905 to 1910 due to mild weather. It resumed in 1911 and was won by Alan J. Davidson. At the 1904 event, Phyllis Squire defeated H. Morris by an impressive fifteen points. Championship Of Great Britain In The International Style
1903 Madge Syers
1904 Madge Syers
1905 Horatio Tertuliano Torromé
1906 Horatio Tertuliano Torromé
1907 John Keiller Greig
1908 Dorothy Greenhough Smith
1909 John Keiller Greig
1910 John Keiller Greig
These competitions, now recognized as the first British Championships, were open to both men and women and billed , "For The Swedish Challenge Cup, Which At The N.S.A. Commemoration, In 1902, Col. Balck, President Of The I.S.U. presents to the N.S.A. in the name of the [SASK]." The first two events were simply deemed as championships for The Swedish Challenge Cup. In 1905, the title was styled as The Championship Of Great Britain In The International Style. Open Championship Of The Russian Empire In The Art Of Skating
1901 - Ulrich Salchow
This event was held at the ice rink at Yusopov Gardens in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was an open international event where skaters vied for the title of "The Best Figure Skater" in Russia. Ulrich Salchow bested Gilbert Fuchs by only three points. Nikolay-Panin Kolomenkin finished third, ahead of three other Russian skaters. Kunstlaufen für Damen
1904 - Elsa Rendschmidt
This women's event was held at the Berliner Schlittschuhclub on January 16, 1904 at the same time the European Championships for men were being held in Davos. All three competitors were German. Internationale Kunstlaufen
1905 - Anton Steiner
1905 - Frau and Herr Beranek
1905 - Max Rendschmidt
Several other international competitions were held in conjunction with the 1904 World Championships for men in Berlin, Germany. There were two pairs events - one classed as Jubiläums (anniversary) that has been included under the ISU Championship For Pairs and another classed as Internationale Kunstlaufen that's listed here. There was also a junior class for men. Preis des Berliner Eispalast (Internationalen Senioren Damenkunstlaufen)
1908 - Elsa Rendschmidt
1909 - Elsa Rendschmidt
1910 - Elsa Rendschmidt
This event was part of an annual winter sports week hosted by the newly-opened Berliner Eispalast in Germany. The 1910 event was held in conjunction with the European Championships for men. Internationalen Kunstlaufmeeting
1909 - Ludovika Eilers and Walter Jakobsson
On December 14 and 15, 1909, a series of speed skating races at the Berliner Eispalast was concluded with a waltzing contest. Future Olympic Gold Medallists Ludovika Eilers and Walter Jakobsson won, followed by Elsa Rendschmidt and Werner Rittberger. It was the only time Rendschmidt and Rittberger competed as a duo.
The Alexander Panshin Memorial Cup/Internationalen Damenkunstlaufen
1908 - Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin
1908 - Lili Kronberger
This was the only competition where Panin-Kolomenkin managed to defeat Ulrich Salchow. It was held in February of 1908 in conjunction with the World Championships for pairs skating. Second and third in the women's event were Elsa Rendschmidt and Elna Montgomery. The Figure Skating Club Competition
Senior (The Duchess Of Bedford's Challenge Cup):
1904 - Madge Syers
1905 - Madge Syers
1906 - John Keiller Greig
1907 - Madge Syers
1908 - Dorothy Greenhough Smith
1909 - John Keiller Greig
1910 - Dorothy Greenhough Smith
Junior (Her Grace's Challenge Cup):
1904 - Muriel Harrison
1905 - Mrs. Kellie
1906 - Dorothy Greenhough Smith
1907 - Gwendolyn Lycett
1908 - Herbert J. Clarke
1909 - Arthur Cumming
1910 - Kenneth Macdonald Beaumont
1906 - Phyllis and James Henry Johnson
1907 - Phyllis and James Henry Johnson
Junior Pairs (Count de la Feld Trophy):
1906 - Rosalind and Daisy Dugdale
1907 - The Richmond Browne Sisters
1908 - The Richmond Browne Sisters
1910 - Lady Cadogan and Arthur Cumming
1908 - Miss Wilkinson and C.M.G. Howell
1909 - Phyllis Johnson and John Keiller Greig
1910 - Miss Somerville and W. Neilson
Children Under 15 (Marquis de Mouzilly St. Mars Cup):
1908 - Mildred Allingham
These Continental Style competitions (first held in 1904) were organized by Prince's Skating Club, with prizes donated by the Duchess Of Bedford and presented by the Duchess and Lady Helen Vincent. Both the senior and junior events were open to both men and women and consisted of both school figures and free skating. The waltzing contest consisted of a preliminary round where couples had to waltz an eight around chairs, after which a large group of couples was dwindled down to five. In 1905, Ulrich Salchow acted as the referee and Henning Grenander judged. In 1910, two French skaters (Louis Magnus and Francis Pigueron) competed. The senior pairs event was not held from 1908 to 1910; the junior pairs not held in 1909.
Ottawa Skating Club Amateur Challenge Trophy:
1909 - Miss Trelawny (with handicap), Dorothy Greenhough Smith (highest marks)
These contests, of which the records listed here are incomplete, was held at Prince's Skating Club and only open to club members. Both the junior and senior events were open to both men and women. Senior skaters could compete for a maximum of two hundred and seventy-six points; juniors ninety. The Duchess Of Bedford presented prizes for all of these events. In the waltzing contest, each couple had to waltz around an eight, at the center of which there were two chairs. In 1910, thirteen couples entered. French Figure Skating Championships (International Style)
Web resultsChampionship Of France (International Style)Men:
1908 - Louis Magnus
1909 - Louis Magnus
1910 - Louis Magnus
1909 - Yvonne LaCroix
1910 - Anita Del Monte
Novice Contest In Figure Skating
This event was organized by the National Amateur Skating Association and held at the St. Nicholas Rink in New York City in March of 1902. Six men, none of which had previously won a 'fancy skating' championship, competed.
1902 - William Valentine Professional Figure Skating Championship Of The Niagara Skating Rink
1901 - Karl Aufholz
Organized by the management of the Niagara Rink as a last minute replacement for the 1901 World Championships in London, which were moved to Stockholm following the death of Queen Victoria, this event was Great Britain's first professional figure skating competition. The Holland Bowl
This was an annual English Style competition held in St. Moritz, then Davos, then St. Moritz again. St. Moritz Junior Championship
Mixed English Style:
1909 - Miss Carpenter
Mixed Continental Style:
1909 - Miss Woodward
1910 - Miss Jekyll
'Handicapped' contests for junior skaters ( in both the English and Continental Styles were held in St. Moritz on January 4 and 5, 1909. A similar contest for Continental Style skating was held on January 6, 1910. The term 'handicapped' meant the event was "open to those members who have not passed the lower test" of the St. Moritz Skating Association. The judges were lenient in their scoring, taking into account the skaters inexperience. There were twelve competitors in 1910 and the third place finisher (behind two experienced women) was a twelve year old boy named Master K. von Eynern. Innsbruck Championship For Combined Skating
1909 - Mr. Power, Mr. Carpenter, Mr. Cumberlege and Mr. Makins
A competition for combined skating in the English Style held in Innsbruck, Austria prior to a bandy match on January 10, 1909. Skaters were "arranged with a view to equality" by the organizers of the event - in essence assigned to each four - and required to skate six figures. Bandy and Woodward Cups
1909 - John Keiller Greig
1910 - Arthur Cumming
1909 - Gwendolyn Lycett
1910 - Basil Williams
1910 - Hon. Irene Lawley and Basil Williams
Competitions for the Bandy Cup (men), Woodward Cup (mixed) as well as a valsing competition were held in January 1909 and 1910 in St. Moritz, Switzerland during gymkhanas. These were contests in the Continental Style. Finishing second and third in the Valsing Contest were Olympic Medallists Arthur Cumming and Ulrich Salchow, skating with partners Lady Cadogan and Mrs. Littlefield. Prizes for these events were furnished by donations from the St. Moritz Bandy Club.
International Championship In Speed And Figure Skating
1907 - Karl Ollo
This event was held in Finland's Viipuri Province and open only to men. Vyborg Challenge Shield
1909 - Karl Ollo
This event was held in Vyborg, then part of Russian Finland, in 1909. The prize was a silver challenge shield presented by N.D. Borajinoff. What made this particular event unique was the fact that school figures weren't included. The competition consisted of two parts - Figure combinations (Special Figures) and free skating.
The Grindelwald Skating Club Competitions
Bernese Oberland Challenge Cup:
1906 - Paul Arin
Boss Challenge Cup (teams of three):
1906 - Paul Arin, Rev. Prebendary Gaye and Mrs. Davis
These were English Style competitions held at the Bear Hotel in Grindelwald. Skaters were given a list of rockers, brackets, counters and combined figures they were required to skate around oranges at the very last minute. "The Field" noted that the 1910 event was skated in "unfavourable conditions both of ice and weather."
The Engadine Challenge Cup
1907 - Kenneth Swan
1908 - John Keiller Greig
1909 - John Keiller Greig
1910 - John Keiller Greig
This was an English Style competition held in Celerina. The Lytton Challenge Cup
1909 - Winifred Brine
1910 - Margaret Doris Raworth (later Mrs. Leonard Alexander Mouat Jones)
This was a Continental Style competition for women held in Wengen. The prize was furnished by The Earl Of Lytton and Edgar Syers acted as one of the judges.
The English Bowl
1901 - A.L. Linn
1902 - Frank G. Fedden
1903 - Sir Evan Gwynne Gwynne-Evans
1904 - Sir Evan Gwynne Gwynne-Evans
1905 - Sir Evan Gwynne Gwynne-Evans
1906 - Phyllis Johnson
1907 - Clive Leese
1908 - Captain E.C. Halton
1909 - Robert Readhead, Jr.
This was an annual English Style competition held in Davos, sometimes referred to simply as The Davos Bowl.
Damenlaufen des Internationalen Schlittschuh-Clubs Davos
1906 - Elsa Rendschmidt
This women's competition hosted by the International Skating Club of Davos was held in conjunction with the Davoser Eislaufmeeting, a three-day series of speed and figure skating contests. Verbandskunstlaufen für Damen
1906 - Elsa Rendschmidt
A precursor to the German Championships for women, this event was held in Munich on February 3 and 4, 1906. Elsa Rendschmidt, the 1908 Olympic Silver Medallist in women's singles, defeated Anna Hübler, the 1908 Gold Medallist in pairs skating. Austrian Figure Skating Championships
1901 - Max Bohatsch
1904 - Max Bohatsch
1905 - Max Bohatsch
1906 - Ernst Schilling
1907 - Ernst Herz
1908 - Anton Steiner
1909 - Anton Steiner
1910 - Fritz Kachler
This event was not held in 1902 or 1903. Women's and pairs championships weren't formally held until 1913. Finnish Figure Skating Championships
1908 - Sakari Ilmanen
1910 - Walter Jakobsson
This event was not held in 1909. German Figure Skating Championships
1901 - Wilhelm Zenger
1903 - Ludwig Niedermeyer
1904 - Heinrich Burger
1905 - Karl Zenger
1906 - Heinrich Burger
1907 - Heinrich Burger
1909 - Gilbert Fuchs
1907 - Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger
1909 - Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger
This event was not held in 1902, 1908 and 1910. A women's championship wasn't formally introduced until 1911.
Hungarian Figure Skating Championships
1901 - Tivadar Meszléri
1903 - Jenő Márkus
1904 - Sándor Urbáry
1905 - Sándor Urbáry
1906 - Sándor Urbáry
1907 - Sándor Urbáry
1908 - Lili Kronberger
1909 - Lili Kronberger
1910 - Lili Kronberger
This event wasn't held in 1902 but was open to both men and women. A pairs championship wasn't formally added until 1928. Russian Figure Skating Championships
1901 - Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin
1902 - Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin
1903 - Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin
1904 - Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin
1905 - Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin
1906 - Fedor Datlin
1907 - Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin
1908 - Fedor Datlin
1910 - Karl Ollo
This event was not held in 1909. Women's and pairs championships were not formally added during the Edwardian era. Norwegian Figure Skating Championships
1901 - Oscar Holthe
1902 - Oscar Holthe
1903 - Oscar Holthe
1904 - Johan Peter Lefstad
1905 - Oscar Holthe
1906 - Oscar Holthe
1907 - Harry Paulsen
1908 - Harry Paulsen
1909 - Harry Paulsen
1910 - Harry Paulsen
1906 - Hertha Olsen and Finn Schiøtt
1907 - Mimi Grøner and Carl Eriksen
1908 - Alexia Schøien and Yngvar Bryn
1909 - Alexia Schøien and Yngvar Bryn
1910 - Alexia Schøien and Yngvar Bryn
A women's championship wasn't formally added until 1912.
Nybroviken School Winter Sports Competition
1902 - Edith Tidlund
Pairs (Similar and Mixed):
1902 - Edith Tidlund and Märta Johnsson
This was a multi-sport winter sport competition held in Stockholm, Sweden. Swedish Figure Skating Championships
1902 - Jakob Andrén
1904 - Richard Johansson
1905 - Per Thorén
1906 - Bror Meyer
1907 - Per Thorén
1908 - Richard Johansson
1909 - Richard Johansson
1910 - Richard Johansson
This event was not held in 1901 and 1903. A pairs championship wasn't formally introduced until 1912. BIRTHS AND DEATHS
Frank Zamboni Jr. b. January 16, 1901
Olga Orgonista b. February 22, 1901
Chauncey Bangs b. February 28, 1901
Roger Turner b. March 3, 1901
Otto Kaiser b. May 8, 1901
Eduards Gešels b. May 17, 1901
Andrée (Joly) Brunet b. September 16, 1901
Bruce Mapes b. August 16, 1901
Sherwin Badger b. August 29, 1901
Anita de St. Quentin b. November 13, 1901
Herma Szabo b. February 22, 1902
Pierre Brunet b. June 28, 1902
George Braakman b. October 30, 1902
Kathleen Shaw b. January 15, 1903
Armand Perren b. March 21, 1903
Lilly Scholz b. April 18, 1903
Mary (Littlejohn) Adams b. May 26, 1903
Ian Home Bowhill b. May 27, 1903
Marcus Nikkanen b. January 26, 1904
Georges Gautschi b. April 6, 1904
Christen Christensen b. September 17, 1904
Dr. James Koch b. October 2, 1904
Randi Bakke b. October 29, 1904
Josef Vosolsobě b. January 3, 1905
Helmut Rolle b. January 6, 1905
Louise Contamime b. January 27, 1905
Maude Smith b. May 9, 1905
Freddy Mésot b. May 25, 1905
Lewis Elkin b. June 21, 1905
Ernst Baier b. September 27, 1905
George Greenslet b. August 12, 1906
Margaret Lavander (Rodas Shaw) Mackenzie b. August 18, 1906
Frederick Goodridge b. September 2, 1906
Emília Rotter b. September 8, 1906
Karl Zwack b. September 11, 1906
Thornton Coolidge b. October 11, 1906
Fritz Wächtler b. October 13, 1906
Walter Arian b. November 5, 1906
Ercole Cattaneo b. December 3, 1906
Helene Michelson b. December 8, 1906
Reginald Wilkie b. 1907 (date unknown)
Nate Walley b. January 4, 1907
Tatiana Tomalcheva b. January 21, 1907
Eddie Shipstad b. February 16, 1907
Gail Borden II b. February 19, 1907
Leopold Maier-Labergo b. March 19, 1907
George Hill b. April 24, 1907
Egbert Snell Cary Jr. b. April 28, 1907
Louise Bertram b. May 30, 1907
Rosalie Knapp b. June 26, 1907
Donald B. Cruikshank b. July 16, 1907
Mollie Phillips b. July 27, 1907
Melitta Brunner b. July 28, 1907j
Karen Simensen b. August 26, 1907
Yvonne de Ligne b. September 19, 1907
Hildegarde Švarce b. September 29, 1907
László Szollás b. November 13, 1907
Constance Wilson b. January 7, 1908
Nils Lindgren b. February 18, 1908
Alfred Eisenbeisser b. April 7, 1908
Ilse Hornung b. April 10, 1908
Leslie Cliff b. June 9, 1908
Paul von Gassner b. June 16, 1908
Ryuichi Obitani b. September 4, 1908
Cecil Smith b. September 14, 1908
Ruth Mack b. December 9, 1908
Idi Papez b. February 7, 1909
Karl Schäfer b. May 17, 1909
Otto Gold b. May 18, 1909
Adolf Schima b. May 24, 1909
Montgomery 'Bud' Wilson b. August 20, 1909
Al Richards b. October 3, 1909
Robert van Zeebroeck b. October 31, 1909
James Lester Madden b. December 13, 1909
Gladys Hogg b. January 14, 1910
Lucian Büeler b. March 28, 1910
Frances Claudet b. April 12, 1910
Rupert Whitehead b. April 16, 1910
Fritzi Burger b. June 6, 1910
Sergei Pavlovich Vasiliev b. June 10, 1910
Irina Timcic b. September 4, 1910
Edel Randem b. September 11, 1910
Margaret Bennett b. September 17, 1910
Cliff Thaell b. December 4, 1910
Fritzi Metznerová b. December 16, 1910 Deaths
Albert Chipman Smith d. January 23, 1901
Callie C. Curtis d. June 16, 1903
Alexander Nikitich Panshin d. November 4, 1904
George Hamilton Gibson d. January 7, 1908
Henry Leonard Ellington d. June, 1908
Henry Eugene Vandervell d. September 13, 1908
Thomas William Coke, 2nd Earl of Leicester d. January 24, 1909
William H. Bishop (alias Frank Swift) d. March 7, 1909
Captain John Miner d. July 10, 1909
Austin Fleeming Jenkin d. April, 1910
His Majesty King Edward VII d. May 6, 1910
Sir William Brampton Gurdon, M.P. d. May 31, 1910
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