Yummy! Back when ice skating was FREE FOR ALL in Worcester!

The Worcester Historical Museum

30 Elm St., Worcester

for more information, visit www.worcesterhistory.org

A GREAT PLACE TO TAKE THE KIDS DURING SCHOOL VACATION WEEK!

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From the Worcester Historical Museum:

Ice skating comes to Worcester!

University Park Circa 1920 ( 2007.27.11)
Main South’s University Park, circa 1920

When a wave of enthusiasm for group sports swept America in late 1850s, ice skating became instantly popular.

It was the first recreational activity for both men and women to be promoted commercially and civically, and it was accessible to a broad sector of the population.

The [Worcester] Commission of Public Grounds began allocating funds for preparing lakes and parks to support this “exhilarating and healthy exercise” and also hosted skating parties.

The exhilarating pastime was made possible from December 20th to February 15th, at Worcester’s Elm, Green Hill, North, University, East, Crompton and Greenwood parks, by removing the snow with horses and large scrapers.

Elm Park (1912) OVS
Elm Park, 1912

The surfaces were kept in a smooth condition by using an ice planer throughout the day and sprinkling with water after 9 o’clock pm.

It is a conservative estimate that 108,000 availed themselves of this pleasure. – John H. Hemingway, Report of the Park Commissioners, 1908

Skating parties!

Worcester and surrounding towns hosted many skating parties attended by thousands.

Newspapers announced dates, times, train schedules, and ticket prices.

Train ticket prices varied depending on location, but averaged between 15 and 25 cents round trip.

Extra trains ran as needed.

Crowds included people from all ranks and races.

Vernon Hill Playground - c.1920 (2007.27.9)
Skating at Vernon Hill park, circa 1920
 
Two trains, numbering twenty one cars were required to convey the party … again was the pleasant sight of all classes, occupations, and colors, uniting heartily in a common recreation.
Daily Spy, February 13, 1858

 
The skaters had a merry time last night on Salisbury Pond, both sexes were largely represented there. If there had only been a moon, those present wouldn’t have complained if the thermometer had gone from 14 degrees down to zero.
– Daily Spy, December 14, 1859
 
Worcester businesses noticed the extreme popularity of ice skating and soon tried to capitalize.

Winslow Ad  1877
Winslow ad, 1877

Samuel E. Winslow Ice Skating Company To test the market.

Worcester residents and brothers Seth and Samuel Winslow made 25 pairs of skates as a sideline to their machine jobbing business in 1857. They sold 19.

The next year they sold 2,500 pairs!
 
After Seth died in 1871, Samuel bought his interests, moved from the Merrifield Building to a new factory on Mulberry Street, added roller skates to the line, and expanded sales to Europe and India.

He incorporated as Samuel Winslow Skate Manufacturing Company in 1886.

By 1889, its 200 employees turned out 1,200 pairs of skates daily — 40 styles of ice skates and 15 styles of roller skates ranging in price from 15 cents to $10.

In 1894, Samuel’s son, “Colonel” Samuel Winslow, took over. At the onset of the Great Depression, but Matthew Manufacturing Company bought it and continued production until 1959.
 
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LET’S EMBRACE ALL CLASSES AND RACES, WORCESTER! IT’S THE ONLY WAY WE CAN BECOME GREAT AGAIN!

FREE THE WORCESTER COMMON ICE OVAL!
– R.T.