Ice, Ice, Skating – Gliding into the New Year

As a native Texan, I have always regarded winter sports with a healthy amount of both respect and fear. However, an exception to this innate mindset was made every four years with the performance of the Winter Olympics. For those few weeks, I was awed by the grace of the figure skaters, the fearlessness of the luge racers, and the gravity-defying feats of snowboarders in the half-pipe. With the winter season in full swing here in Illinois, and the 2022 Winter Olympics just around the corner, the IDHH would like to feature a staple winter sport: ice skating. 

Ice skating is believed to have developed in Scandinavia as early as 1000 BCE, using skates initially made from the bones of elk, oxen, reindeer, and other animals. While it is not exactly known when metal blades were introduced in the construction of ice skates , Dutch paintings from the 17th century clearly depict skaters gliding along on metal blades. Gaining in popularity as a recreational pastime in the 1800s, the activity eventually reached North America and a number of skating clubs were established in major cities in the Northern Hemisphere. Toward the end of the century, the sport would be indelibly changed in 1876 with the creation of the first rink using artificially frozen ice –  the Glaciarium in London. The artificial ice rink in Madison Square Gardens opened soon after in 1879 and the innovation of creating artificial rinks led to the rise of various skating sports and a desire for ice shows as popular entertainment. Eventually, ice skating would make its debut in the 1908 Summer Olympics, with speed skating to follow as an event at the first official winter games in 1924. 

Whether a newcomer to skating or a veteran of the ice, please enjoy a few of our favorite ice skating items from the collection:

Ice skating rink. 1960. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College.
Al Sherer, ice skating, Bloomington-Normal, IL, 1944. February 17, 1944. Photographed by Gladys Mittelbrusher. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection, 1940-1945. Courtesy of the McLean County Museum of History.
Flooding skating rink, 1946. December 17, 1946. Photographed by Phyllis Lathrop. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection, 1946 – 1949. Courtesy of the McLean County Museum of History.
Ice-Skating Line – 1937. 1937. University of St. Francis. Sharing Our Past, A Visual History. Courtesy of University of St. Francis.
Slough. 1920. Benedictine University. John Jochman Album. Courtesy of Benedictine University.

Want to see more?

Visit the IDHH to explore other items related to ice skating.

Looking Back While Moving Forward: The North Suburban Library District Local History Collection

To ring in the new year, the IDHH is pleased to feature the North Suburban Library District Local History Collection, one of our oldest collections, from the North Suburban Library District (NSLD). Opened in 1944 by the North Suburban Woman’s Club, the North Suburban Library District serves Machesney Park, Roscoe, and Loves Park with branches in Loves Park and Roscoe. Fifty years after opening, the North Suburban Library District Local History Collection began taking shape when the Friends of North Suburban Library group formed a local history committee. From an 1869 assessor’s book for the town of Harlem to photographs taken in 2001 of the NSLD Loves Park branch building, this collection illuminates the humble beginnings of the communities that surround Rockford, Illinois as well as important developments in this area over the past 150 years. 

Local landmarks such as the River Lane Outdoor Theater and Kiddieland amusement park in Loves Park are included in the collection and provide a sense of recreation and entertainment in the metropolitan area. A particularly distinctive addition to the collection are images from the telephone operators’ strikes in 1945-1948, a series of strikes over the span of three years in which “telephone girls” picketed against the Illinois Bell Telephone Company, including a walkout of more than 16,000 telephone workers across Illinois and Indiana in November 1945. These demonstrations ultimately won the workers better wages and advancement opportunities, and the images of these demonstrations offer a glimpse at traditionally unseen workers and speaks to the power of workers’ unions at the time. 

With such vibrant items in the collection, we hope you enjoy revisiting the North Suburban Library District Local History Collection as much as we do! Here are a few of our favorite items from the collection:

Kiddieland roller coaster. 1952. North Suburban Library District. North Suburban Library District Local History Collection. Courtesy of the North Suburban Library District.
Rockford Interurban Trolley Car, North Second Street. n.d. North Suburban Library District. North Suburban Library District Local History Collection. Courtesy of the North Suburban Library District.
River Lane Outdoor Theater. 1949. Photograph by Bobbie Lusk. North Suburban Library District. North Suburban Library District Local History Collection. Courtesy of the North Suburban Library District.
The Illinois, Rock River steamer excursion boat. circa 1912-1913. North Suburban Library District. North Suburban Library District Local History Collection. Courtesy of the North Suburban Library District.
Roscoe’s first rural mail wagon. circa 1909. North Suburban Library District. North Suburban Library District Local History Collection. Courtesy of the North Suburban Library District.
Roscoe, Illinois, veterinarian, Dr. Baldwin. circa 1899. North Suburban Library District. North Suburban Library District Local History Collection. Courtesy of the North Suburban Library District.
Telephone operators on strike, Loves Park, Ill. circa 1945-1948. North Suburban Library District. North Suburban Library District Local History Collection. Courtesy of the North Suburban Library District.

Want to see more? 

Browse the full North Suburban Library District Local History Collection on the IDHH. 

For additional information about the North Suburban Library District and its history, visit the Local History section of the NSLD website.

To view digitized historical issues of the area’s local newspaper, The Post Journal/Monday Morning Mail, visit the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection.