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.
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 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
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
"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
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."
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
LORDS AND LADY'S MAIDS
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.
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."
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.
'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.
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."
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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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."
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.'"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
A QUESTION OF GENDER
"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
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.
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.
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.
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 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."
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.
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.
DRESSED TO THE NINES
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."
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.
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.
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".
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.
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."
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."
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."
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.
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
"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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
"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
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.
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.
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."
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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."
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
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
George Henry Browne
"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!
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."
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
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.
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. They had oodles of money and didn't have any children. 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.
Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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!"
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."
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."
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.
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.
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."
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|
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.
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.
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.
"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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!"
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'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.
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.
The Summer Olympic Games
1908 - Ulrich Salchow
1908 - Madge Syers
1908 - Anna Hübler and Heinrich Burger
1908 - Nikolay Panin-Kolomenkin
World Figure Skating Championships
1901 - Ulrich Salchow
1902 - Ulrich Salchow
1903 - Ulrich Salchow
1904 - Ulrich Salchow
1905 - Ulrich Salchow
1906 - Gilbert Fuchs
1907 - Gilbert Fuchs
1907 - Ulrich Salchow
1908 - Ulrich Salchow
1909 - Ulrich Salchow
1910 - Ulrich Salchow
European Figure Skating Championships
1901 - Gustav Hügel
1904 - Ulrich Salchow
1905 - Max Bohatsch
1906 - Ulrich Salchow
1907 - Ulrich Salchow
1908 - Ernst Herz
1909 - Ulrich Salchow
1910 - Ulrich Salchow
The International Pairs Figure Skating Championship
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 - Anne Ewan
1906 - Aimée Frances Haycock
1908 - Iris Mudge
1910 - Iris Mudge
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 - 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
1903 - Sir Evan Gwynne Gwynne-Evans
1904 - Sir Evan Gwynne Gwynne-Evans
1905 - Sir Evan Gwynne Gwynne-Evans
1906 - D.J. Mooney
1907 - D.J. Mooney
1908 - Eustratius Emanuel 'Mavro' Mavrogordato
1909 - Eustratius Emanuel 'Mavro' Mavrogordato
1910 - D.J. Mooney
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
Ladies Challenge Cup:
1906 - Miss Moysev
Houghton Challenge Cup:
1907 - Paul Arin
1908 - D.J. Mooney
1909 - D.J. Mooney
1910 - H.L. Davies
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
1908 - Elna Montgomery
1909 - Valborg Lindahl
1910 - Eva Lindahl
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
Albert Chipman Smith d. January 23, 1901
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
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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