Speed skater Hugh Palliser

Hugh Palliser skating toward the camera circa 1904 (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The speed skater circa 1905 stood out as an other-worldly figure, his gear and garb nearly as outlandish as now.  Here is Hugh Palliser, a gifted amateur skater, manifesting the transformation that a trending obsession with speed brought on.  His clothing, his hat, his skates, his stance: all set him off from the skaters around him, who were out only for recreation.

His simple tunic, tight woolen leggings, and practical beanie register how science was changing the centuries-old sport of skating.  Hugely popular as a late-nineteenth-century pastime, skating was developing a more serious side, as passionate competitors like Palliser pondered how to apply the new principles of efficiency to the business of getting across the ice.

The speed skater shunned the bulky street clothes his contemporaries were wearing.  For the sake of speed, he donned a minimalist outfit that one step away from wearing nothing.  Equipment manufacturers like Spaulding were also producing new kinds of skates, whose blades were engineered with speed in mind.  American skaters had begun looking beyond their nation’s boundaries, racing against Europeans and Canadians, and forming a cosmopolitan fraternity that fostered a flow of innovation.

Champion speed skater Morris Wood

Palliser skated for the Euclid School in Brooklyn, NY, then one of the nation’s top speed-skating teams.  His teammates included national champion Morris Wood, Allen Taylor, and ‘Gus’ Stolz.  All four appeared as poster-boys for their sport in Spaulding Athletic Library’s 1904 How To Become a Skater, which preached the gospel of speed to a new generation.

Images: from this source and this.
This is the eighth in an occasional series of posts on ice-skating.

Lincoln at 52

Lincoln stands on a platform with an enormous flag draped on the rail and before a crowd of spectators and an armed guard.
In November 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States.  By the time he turned 52, on February 12, 1861, the Union was crumbling.  The day of his inauguration, March 4, had yet to arrive. Continue reading

Hawaii from above

The day after our trip to the end of the road, we took a shuttle from our hotel to a heliport, climbed into a helicopter, and flew over the part of north Hawaii Island where King Kamehameha was born in the mid-eighteenth century.  (Click on images to see them alone.)

aerial view down a steep-sided ravine toward the Pacific Ocean.
Of course, he wasn’t a king in those days.  He was just another islander, albeit a special one, growing up in a rugged, roadless region, a region that remains mysterious and inaccessible today. Continue reading


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