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Lincoln, Nebraska’s National Roller Skating Museum showcases the sport’s 200 year history in America

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Tom Wilmer
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Boot roller skates started to become popular in the 1940s and of course the Texans had to add their mark to the sport.

Before the advent of COVID correspondent Tom Wilmer visited the National Museum of Roller Skating in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The director at the time offered fascinating insights about the history and diversity of roller skating and its connection with Lincoln, Nebraska.

The very first roller skate was patented in 1819. The first iteration of roller skates had inline wheels designed to mimic ice skates.

Skate designs started to evolve in the 1860s with the introduction of the quad skate.

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National Museum of Roller Skating
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Traveling roller skating rinks were popular across America in the first half of the 20th Century,

The boot skate was first introduced in the1940s. Odd and unusual skates are popular attractions at the museum. Unusual skates on display include skates for horses, birds and bears.

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National Museum of Roller Skating, Lincoln, Nebraska
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Roller skating mid 20th Century

The four main types of skating include roller derby, figure skating, roller hockey and speed skating.

In the early days of roller skating rinks, music was performed by live bands, but eventually the organ became the common musical accompaniment at skating rinks.

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Tom Wilmer
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skating couple mid 20th Century.

Children skating displays, including Girl Scout and Boy Scout skating merit badges are popular with the kids.

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Tom Wilmer
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Cross country skate on display at the National Museum of Roller Skating in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Traveling roller skating shows (much like the Ice Capades) and traveling rinks were popular in the 1940s and 50s

The National Museum of Roller Skating showcases the world’s largest collection of roller skating artifacts and ephemera.

Support for Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer is provided by Nashville's Big Back Yard economic initiative focused on rural communities in the southwest quarter of Tennessee and the Shoals Region of Northern Alabama.

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Tom Wilmer produces on-air content for Issues & Ideas airing over KCBX and is producer and host of the six-time Lowell Thomas award-winning NPR podcast Journeys of Discovery with Tom Wilmer. Recorded live on-location across America and around the world, the podcasts feature the arts, culture, music, nature, history, science, wine & spirits, brewpubs, and the culinary arts--everything from baseball to exploring South Pacific atolls to interviewing the real Santa Claus in the Arctic.
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