This Week in History
The Acme Skate and Canada's Favourite Pastime
For the week of Monday, January 26, 2015
January 26, 1834, is the birth date of John Forbes, the inventor of the world-famous Acme Skate. His invention changed the way Canadians thought of ice-skating and sparked the country’s love of ice.
Forbes was born in England and as a child immigrated to Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his father. As a young man, Forbes worked as a clerk at the local hardware company of David Starr & Sons, which sold sports equipment, including ice-skates. Skates in the mid-19th century were typically made of wooden blocks with iron blades that were strapped and screwed to the skater’s boot. Such skates had many design flaws. The wood was prone to splitting, straps frequently came loose, and the screws painfully cut into skaters’ heels. Wanting to make skating more enjoyable, Forbes experimented to improve the design.
Forbes’s design made winter sports more comfortable for the recreational skater. With shorter skate blades it also improved competitive performance whereby skaters could make stronger strides, increase speed, and take sharper turns. The invention of the Acme Skate popularized ice-skating and hockey on both indoor and outdoor rinks, at home and abroad.
Starr Manufacturing Company was designated a National Historic Event in 2007 for its role in establishing ice-skating and hockey as Canada’s primary winter recreations. These pastimes continue to be enjoyed throughout the country, including on the world’s largest skating rink, the Rideau Canal National Historic Site, or at the Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site.
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