I have wondered since I was a small child how ice skating ever came to be. I mean, really, who would think to strap some metal blades under their feet to get around on the ice? I finally decided to do some looking into ice skating history, and this is what I found.
The exact origin of ice skating is unknown. Archaeologists have found evidence of ice skating in primitive times in Northern Europe. These skates were made out of bone and strapped to the feet. It is believed that these skates were made so that people could quickly cross large areas of frozen water. Early bone skates did not have edges, and people used sticks to propel themselves, much like ski poles can be used today.
The first steel bladed skates with actual blades were invented by the Dutch in the 1400's, or possibly the 1500's. Different skate makers experimented with the height and width of the blade, and the ability to push off and steer was refined to the point that sticks were no longer necessary. Skaters could push off and glide without sticks. The skates from this period are very much like the skates we have today.
Early figure skating consisted of skating in figures, living patterns in the ice. A figure eight that was skated leaving an eight behind is an example. This is where the name figure skating came from. Figure skating continued in this fashion throughout the 1700's until a new influence in the mid1800's
Jackson Haines is credited with combining dancing and skating into modern figure skating. Haines lived in the mid1800's. He had a background in ballet and dance. Just prior to the Civil War, dance and skating became very popular. Haines had the perfect background to combine dance and skating, and thus figure skating was born. Haines spread the idea of dancing on ice by traveling throughout Europe and demonstrating his skills. Soon, Europe had figure skating associations popping up throughout the continent.
Figure skating associations finally formed in the US during the 1920's. The associations were able to define moves and hold competitions and championships. Held in public ice arenas, the competitions went on to promote the sport. Today's associations help to certify and educate instructors as well as publishing competition guidelines. Television and media appearances have further popularized figure skating, an athletic combination of dance and skating.