M975.61.144 | A Skating Scene

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A Skating Scene
E. J. Whitney
1850-1860, 19th century
23 x 35 cm
Gift of Mr. Charles deVolpi
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Genre (188) , Print (10661)
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Keys to History

With the spread of leisure pursuits came questions as to which were good and which were bad. How did one define a good pastime? Or identify a bad one? The answer was at once simple and complicated. The most highly valued pastimes were formative, enriching, elevating, or contributed to spiritual growth. Conversely, the bad ones -- those that appealed to the emotions, inflamed passions and included violence -- were seen as threatening and accordingly denounced. Nonetheless, activities like skating, normally considered healthy, sometimes flew in the face of convention and social norms. Drawing and maintaining a line was no easy matter.

Cincy Aron, A History of Vacations in the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 35-36

Gilles Janson, Emparons-nous du sport : Les Canadiens français et le sport au XIXe siècle (Montreal: Guérin, 1995), pp. 120-121.

  • What

    Skating was a very accessible sport, widely practiced by children and adults alike.

  • Where

    Skating rinks, or ice rinks, were areas swept clean of snow on frozen lakes, ponds or rivers.

  • When

    Skating became very popular in the 1860s, when manufactured metal-bladed skates came onto the market.

  • Who

    This scene of a woman pursued by a horde of men was no doubt shocking in its day, judging from the onlookers' astounded expressions.