Roller skating on a drum
Late 19th century
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Music hall acts were often developed from popular sports. Roller-skating became all the rage in the late 19th century. The first roller-skates had been invented by Joseph Merlin who demonstrated them in London in 1760. He sailed across a ballroom playing a violin, but, unable to turn or stop, crashed into a mirror at the side of the stage and caused himself considerable damage. It was not until 1863 that a new design took off and soon people were roller-skating all over Western Europe. Like ice skating, it was a sport that could be enjoyed by women as well as men.