Jamaica Pond ice-skaters, 1859

A crowd of men, women, and children skate under a cloudy sky.

In the 1850s, a rage for dancing and ice-skating swept America.  Both the ball room and the surface of an icy pond offered antebellum northerners a way to escape the stiff conventionality of everyday society and discover different ways of moving and being.

This beautiful old print, a 1859 view of skaters on Jamaica Pond outside Boston, captures this well.  Look closely and you may see a lady with a hockey stick.

The hazards of the ice justified the suspension of some proprieties.  Top hats flew as gentlemen lost their dignity.  Beneath the ladies’ long, voluminous skirts, their calves and ankles were plainly showing.  Shocking!

While some women in the picture are wearing the floor-length skirts typical of the time, others are wearing shorter skating skirts which were more novel, freer and more daring.

Image: from this source.  Click to enlarge.

This is the first in an occasional series on ice skating.  Click forward to see the others.