[Music] Niamh: Welcome to In the Loop Tales of the
Blade, where we dive into the fascinating and often humorous history of figure skating. Let’s welcome this week’s hosts. Evie: Hi, I’m Evie and I literally cannot
wait to talk about this week’s topic, I’m practically bouncing up and down with excitement
right now! I’m on twitter at @doubleflutz. Niamh: Hi, I’m Niamh and I have zero idea
of what we’re going to be talking about today, so I am ready to learn. You can find my twitter @rivrdance. Evie: Okey-dokey Niamh, ready to learn things
that you have no clue about? Woohoo, it’s learning time! Niamh: I am, I’ve been out of school for two
months now. Evie: Well, we’re going to get you back into
that back to school spirit, because we’re going to learn things… For the people who don’t know, because this
is only our fourth episode: this is our new history series, where one person explains
to the other person an interesting tidbit of figure skating history, and we can all
learn some things and hopefully have a bit of a joke about them. So, today’s episode: this topic actually comes
from an article I read just a couple of nights ago, it’s an article from the Smithsonian
Magazine, written by Michael Waters. It’s all about the history of ice rinks. So Niamh, just to start this off, how much
do you know about how ice rinks are made? Niamh: (laughing) I know about TCC’s rink
and that’s it, not to expose myself… Evie: Wow (laughing). Well, most modern ice rinks are constructed
in one of two ways. For more permanent rinks like TCC’s rink,
or major training bases or arenas where they have permanent ice surfaces it’s usually concrete
that’s got coolant pumped into it, and then they layer layers of water over the top that,
which then freeze and make ice surfaces. And then there are temporary rinks, where
you’re going to an event at an arena that does other things and that doesn’t have a
permanent ice surface: they lay out plastic tubing that pumps coolant through it and then
they spray water over the top of that. Niamh: Oh, okay. Evie: But obviously this kind of cooling technology
is pretty – I wouldn’t say new, but it’s something that had to be developed over time. So knowing this, how do you think ice rinks
were originally constructed in, say, the Victorian era? Niamh: Literally the only thing I can think
of is, like, lakes in the middle of the Canadian winter… Evie: Well, you’re not that far off actually! Because the majority of ice rinks that were
used at the beginning of the sport were in fact outdoor rinks, usually on the surfaces
of lakes or ponds. But this wasn’t a good thing for the sport
if you were training to be an athlete because in average 18th century England, for example,
there were only 18 days a year where you could skate. All the other time the ice wasn’t thick enough
or it was summer. Niamh: I’m just thinking of now, growing up
– because Ireland is a lot colder than England, and we get snow maybe once a year, if that. Evie: Yeah, it’s very rare that you get a
long stretch of days where the conditions are correct for skating. So obviously if you were a figure skating
athlete in the late 18th century and you were looking to go places, you would probably want
to move somewhere with a much colder climate. That’s why a lot of British figure skaters
used to train in the Swiss Alps, because there were a lot more days where you could go skate
out on a lake! Niamh: If you want snow in Europe, you go
to Switzerland. Evie: Exactly! But there’s still the whole problem of, you
know, the existence of summer. And the fact that there’s no way to skate
on ice during those months. There’s only a couple of days a year in most
European countries where you could actually go out and skate, because all the other times
the conditions weren’t correct for the ice surfaces. So there’s a gap in the market – something
needs to be created so that people can skate all year round. And so a British inventor named Henry Kirk,
in December of 1841, announced that he had created the first ever synthetic ice rink,
the first ever ice rink that could be operated at all times of year no matter the weather. If it was the middle of the summer you could
still go out and you could skate on it. This was a really big deal. Niamh: In the London heat wave… Evie: It’s the middle of the London heat wave:
go out, go skate on this fake ice! And I say fake ice because really it wasn’t
made of ice. Okay, let’s have a guess – have a wild stab
at what kind of ingredients they would add to make this fake ice. Something that would be suitable for figure
skating on. Niamh: The only thing I can think of is, like,
gelatine? Evie: Well, you’re not that far off, honestly. You’re a couple steps to the left of what
was actually used. Henry Kirk tried to emulate the feeling of
ice using a mixture of materials and included in this mixture were salt, copper, aluminium
and… hog’s lard. Literal hog’s lard – the fat from a hog – to
make it slippery enough to skate on! Niamh: Who’s sitting in their kitchen one
night thinking, “Oh, I know what I’ll do, I’ll make some fake ice using hog’s lard!” Evie: Obviously Henry Kirk thought that. So here’s your ingredients: “30-50 feral hogs
–” I’m not even going to… it’s such a bizarre thing! And you know what the crazy thing is? The fact that this apparently worked really
well. When he opened the Glaciarium, which was the
first ever artificial ice skating rink in the world, it opened to rave reviews and people
kept commenting about the fact that the ice was really good – that they could skate as
easily as if it were real ice! I’m just sitting here going, “Mhmm, nothing
like a nice hoggy ice surface…” Niamh: I’m just imagining Nathan Chen quadding
on hog’s lard… Evie: I petition for this to be a new thing,
when ice quality is really bad at a competition we should all just go, “Hmm, should’ve used
more hog!”. I think it would work, I think it would catch
on! Niamh: We should get Gabb to do a banner for
IdF. Evie: “Add more hog! Add more hog! Bring back the hog’s lard 2k19!” Niamh: At the 2022 Olympics… Evie: Skating is missing something, and that
something is hog’s lard on the ice. Niamh: That will fix the ice issue! Evie: That should be a new event each season,
where there’s a kind of World Team Trophy, a casual competition at the end of the season
but instead of skating on normal ice they skate on this fake ice with hog’s lard on
it – I’d pay to watch that competition. Niamh: Junior Synchro Worlds is in the UK. I think we know what needs to happen. Evie: There you go, you know what to do! But yeah, on June 8, 1844 the first artificial
ice rink opened in London. Everyone thought it was a massive success,
in fact even England’s Prince Albert visited and was so taken with it that apparently he
began to enquire about purchasing one for one of his own estates. Niamh: I’m just imagining Buckingham Palace
having an ice rink in the winter. Evie: The newspaper that was reporting this
said, “It is not improbable that a frozen lake will become as general to the mansions
of the affluent as an orchard or a fish pond.” You know, that’s a pretty big statement right
there: “in 10 years’ time every fancy person will have a rink in their backyard made of
pig fat and… metal”? And I’ve got some very exciting news for you,
Niamh. Niamh: Yes? Evie: I have some text from a poster for the
Glaciarium. Niamh: Please! Evie: I’m reading this directly from the poster
that was advertising the rink. I need to put on an old-timey voice and put
some effects over it so it sounds like I’m speaking on old radio. Here we go, this is what the poster says:
“The proprietor of the Glaciarium feels it in his duty to apprize the Public that,
the Metropolis will assuredly be visited on Thursday, the 25th of January, 1844, with
the most Extraordinary Thaw ever witnessed in this country or any other; and he, therefore,
takes the earliest opportunity of awakening the Public to the pending Calamity, and thus
prevent disappointment to those who have not had good fortune to see this admitted Wonder
of Novelties – The only one in the world: and, although the beautiful Lake of Lucerne
is now fast frozen – the Mountain, rocks and trees, covered with snow – and the Glacier
of ice, down which the venturous skaters descend with astonishing rapidity, is solid, yet all
must, on the fast approaching dreaded 25th of January, “dissolve- and, like the baseless
fabric of a vision, leave not a wreck behind.” Skaters and astonished skeptics are therefore
invited, whilst the opportunity offers, to witness this wonderful discovery… A band of music will perform during the four
days of the cattle show on the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th December- and, in the evening, the
usual Promenade Musicale, led by Mr A Sedgewick. For the accommodation of visitors, there will
be an entrance from the cattle show to the artificial ice.” And thus ends the poster of 1844. My dramatic reading of said poster. Niamh: All figure skating events should come
with a promenade musical with a cattle show. Evie: Oh, I know. They were advertising the fact that all the
ice surfaces will thaw in late January but it doesn’t matter because we have a fancy
artificial ice rink that can go all year around so you should maybe visit them before this
cattle show. In the transcript, I’ll write it up exactly
how it is in the poster because they randomly capitalized different words like calamity. It’s just randomly capitalized. It really makes for a good Stan twitter post. The whole thing. It’s just so good. Niamh: If stan Twitter was alive in the 18th
century. Evie: The fact that there is a cattle show
right next to the artificial ice rink… Niamh: That’s what you need at worlds. If you’re paying two thousand pounds for
tickets; you need a cattle show. Evie: Honestly, the direct entry onto the
ice right from the cattle show is so convenient. They listed the prices for admission at the
bottom of the poster, and for skating, I think it was one shilling which converted to today’s
money was about three pounds which is a bargain! Niamh: That’s good! Evie: I know right! I wish I could skate for that cheaply. But yeah. After that the press stopped reporting on
the ice rink around the 1850’s. All reports kind of dried up. There was an article in 1893 from James Digby
who was the founder of the National Skating Association in England and he explained that,
while the design of the rink drew everyone’s curiosity, at the end of the day the ice was
not as suitable as actual ice would have been for skating. It “felt firm under the foot, cut up somewhat
like ice under the skates, but overtaxed the energies of the most robust in the art of
disporting themselves on it.” Kirk’s use of hog’s lard in his synthetic
ice proved unappealing—even the most eager ice skaters “soon tired of the smelly ice
substitute.” He also said that because the ice surface
used hog’s lard apparently it smelled really bad. Niamh: Somehow I can imagine Evie: Nothing like a nice sweaty pig rink
for a figure skating competition. Niamh: To wake you up. Evie: So yeah. The Glaciarium fell out of fashion presumably
because no one wanted to continue skating on that slippery, smelly, lard ice. But it was actually revived in 1876 by a man
named John Gambee who brought something new to the table in terms of ice rinks: actual
ice. Niamh: Who would have imagined? Evie: Shocking. Who would have guessed. He actually created a set of pipes containing
coolant which used ammonia which kept the natural ice on top of it intact. It was the first kind of iteration of the
same kind of process we use today to make ice rinks. After that, there was a boom in construction
for artificial ice rinks because they were like “Oh crap! This actually works. and it’s not smelly like a hog rink! This is a real rink with actual ice! Niamh: And we’re not using animal lard. Evie: Yaaaaay! Niamh: A win for vegans worldwide. *laughter* Evie: Yes all of the vegans in the Victorian
era! yes! Niamh: Vegans’ first win. Evie: But yeah they were built all over the
world. There were even some in Australia and then
there was (to much fanfare) a couple of them opened in Paris. According to a journalist for The New York
Times, when the first of the rinks opened in Paris in May of 1876, “The place was crammed
to suffocation and yet thousands of ladies and gentlemen on foot and in carriages continued
to arrive. With no way to enter through the doors, enterprising
visitors began to climb the scaffolding outside the rink, then leapt in through the windows. Meanwhile, “crowds below persisted in besieging
the doors. At times there was a fearful crush, and ladies
were carried fainting out of the crowd. Many persons had their arms and legs injured.” Which is honestly…that kind of hype we need
in figure skating in our days *laughter*. Niamh: I mean stuff like that has happened
in football. Evie: Just imagining the fact that everyone
is like “It’s the opening night of this ice rink! We must all go to it. It’s the newest craze! The newest fad! We must all go and see if it looks like everyone
else in Paris had the same idea. Whatever shall we do? Well we’re going to climb through the window
of course!”. Niamh: You’d think there would have been more
exciting things to do in Paris *giggles*. Evie: Nah nah! It’s a new rink! It’s y’know fancy! It’s may, it’s nearly summer so we must go
see this ice! Niamh: It’s not made out of hogs lard. Evie: And it’s not made out of hogs lard. Thank god for that! But apparently this kind of mania surrounding
ice rinks wasn’t taken up everywhere. Apparently skaters in the US were particularly
against the building of artificial ice rinks. In 1846 (this was before the ammonia chilled
ice rinks were created, during the hogs lard period of ice rinks), There was a US skater
wrote an editorial for a magazine and he said, “If shut up within the enclosures of the Rotunda
of London, where the artificial Skating Pond was originally formed, we should hardly expect
a person to experience the same enjoyment which is found on one of our American rivers
or lakes.” They were very much like “Yes, skating outside
just surrounded by nature – that’s the real American way of skating!” Niamh: Listen America just because you’re
bitter that England controlled you for awhile… Evie: I mean, if I saw the hogs lard rinks
and I had some nice lakes I would probably go “Yeah I’m cool over here. This one doesn’t smell. I think I’m just going to be fine. You guys… it’s a really good try, maybe
take a couple more stabs at it and when you come up with something that maybe isn’t as
smelly then come back to me.” Niamh: Well yeah but unlike Canada, England
doesn’t have minus sixty degree weather. We have to make do with the hogs. Evie: We have to make do with the hogs! But yeah after awhile, after the ammonia based
cooling rinks started taking off in Europe, America got quite a lot of them. By the end of the 19th century the US would
have actually hundreds of them that would be able to facilitate skating year round. Obviously the hogs lard rinks were nowhere
to be seen past that time. It was firmly modern day, well not really
but olden day good old ammonia based cooling systems for our artificial rinks. And that’s the story of how the first artificial
ice rinks were created in figure skating. Niamh: I say we have like a two hundred year
throwback and make one last hogs lard rink. Evie: Let’s do it honestly. Let’s get a bunch of people together. We get a bunch of hogs. Get some salt. Certainly got plenty of salt. Niamh: In the Loop team meet up . Evie: The weirdest meet up ever! All of us will gather all together and ITL
will collectively make one last hogs lard ice skating rink. Niamh. Yes. Evie: So did you find that interesting, Niamh
? Niamh: Why was the first thing they thought
of hogs lard ? Evie: I mean it was a fat. It was slippery. You need to try and simulate the feeling of
ice being slippery. Niamh: To be fair the first thought that comes
to mind when I think of fat isn’t a hog. Evie: Might’ve just been the most accessible
thing for him to have gotten in large quantities. Because I can’t see anyone wanting it. It might’ve been weird but hey- Niamh: It did work. Evie: Let’s get…actually no let’s take your
advice let’s get a gelatin rink. Make a big jelly rink. How’s that ? Niamh: Yes please. Evie: That’d be fun! But yes, that was the entire tale of the Victorian
era ice rinks. Not quite as wild as some of the other stories
we’ve had on Tales of the Blade but this article just made me laugh so much that I had to turn
it into an episode. There couldn’t have been a universe where
I hadn’t joked about this. That was my conclusion that I came to. Niamh: I want to see the article. Evie: Well there will be a link to it in the
episode description of this episode and the transcript as well. I’ll link it there for anyone to read. There are also some accompanying pictures
on the article, including a picture of the poster that I did the dramatic reading from. Niamh: Ooooh. Evie: So yes it’s a very good read. I highly recommend it if people want to read
further all about ice rinks. Niamh: For the beginnings of stan twitter
grammar. Evie: Exactly! Evie: Thank you so much for listening, we
hope to see you guys all again for our next episode! Niamh: if you ever come across any more funny
topics you’d to see us cover on Tales of the Blade, please let us know through all
of our different contact sites including our website inthelopodcast.com or on Twitter or
Tumblr. You can find us on Youtube, iTunes, Google
Play, Stitcher and Spotify, or basically anywhere else you can find your favorite podcasts. Evie: If you enjoy the show, and want to help
support the team, please consider making a donation to us on our ko-fi page. All the donations we collect go directly back
into the podcast in some form or another, whether that’s through website hosting fees
or improving our equipment in order to produce the podcast and we’d really like to give
a huge thank you to everyone who has supported us thus far. We really appreciate it. Niamh: You can find the links to all our social
media pages, our ko-fi, and so much more on the website. Evie: If you’re listening on iTunes, please
consider leaving a rating and a review if you enjoyed the show, we really appreciate
that. Thanks for listening, this has been Evie – Niamh: and Niamh. Evie: See you soon guys! Niamh: Bye! Don’t skate on too many hogs! Evie: Bring back hog rinks ! Bring back hog
rinks! Bring back hog rinks…

Tales of the Blade – 19th Century Rinks
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One thought on “Tales of the Blade – 19th Century Rinks

  • August 17, 2019 at 11:42 am



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