It’s that time of year. Skating rinks are open, the weather is brisk, northern landscapes are shrouded in white. Time to bundle up, grab your skates and get out there. The ice is waiting. While these 14” long steel strap-on skates may not look like much, they were perfect for the Lindquist family of Little Falls. With four rambunctious boys, it’s hard not to image the hockey-style runner blades being in constant use for much of the winter. Thor, Karl, Alan and Rolf must have kept their parents, Bertil and Frances, hopping. The skates are part of a collection of items donated by Thor to the Morrison County Historical Society in 2003 on behalf of his mother, Frances, after her death on February 3rd. Thor’s father, Bertil, had died many years earlier, in 1965.
Obviously meant for an adult foot, these skates were most likely purchased around 1957 when the family moved to Little Falls, Minnesota, from Detroit, Michigan. Frances and Bertil were married almost twenty years earlier, on July 26, 1938, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and lived in various locations throughout their married life. In August, Bertil was offered a job at an airplane manufacturing company in Linkoping, Sweden, which enticed the newly married couple to move overseas. The family returned to the United States in 1940 because of World War II. While the United States did not enter the war until the next year, Sweden’s next-door neighbors, Denmark and Norway, were invaded by Germany on April 9, 1940.
Skates have been around for thousands of years and originally consisted of leg, shank or rib bones from animals such as reindeer, ox, horse or elk. The bones were attached to the wearer’s foot with a leather strap or thong. All-steel skates like the Lindquist’s were introduced to the world in 1850 by E. W. Bushnell of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Lindquist’s polished, nickel-plated steel skates were from the Union Hardware Company of Torrington, Connecticut. According to the Torrington Historical Society (https://www.torringtonhistoricalsociety.org/), the company was founded in 1864 and manufactured only ice skates until 1905. That year the company added steel fishing rods to its manufacturing portfolio and by 1913 it had also added fishing reels.
Hopefully these skates will inspire you to get out, enjoy the fresh air and participate in a winter activity, whether it be skating or not. In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have seasons, even winter. May they last!
– Ann Marie Johnson
This article first appeared in the Morrison County Historical Society newsletter, Vol. 34, No. 1, 2021.