Skip to main content

Rolling Artifacts

March 2023
1min read

We are, among other things, a nation of museums, museums enough, it seems, to satisfy just about any whim or interest, no matter how arcane. Just riffling through the fifty-four hundred entries in a recent edition of The Official Museum Directory , we came across the following: the Tumbling Waters Museum of Flags (Alabama), the Musical Instrument Museum (Minnesota), the Museum of Systematic Biology (California), the Museum of Dentistry (California), the Raggedy Ann Antique Doll and Toy Museum (New Jersey), and even something called the World’s Smallest Museum (in Texas, oddly enough).

And it will soon be necessary to add to this list one more item: the National Museum of Roller Skating. As we noted in “Roll Around,” an article that appeared in our June/July 1980 issue, roller skating as a popular sport began in the 1860’s when James Plimpton invented the four-wheeled “rocking skates” which enabled the wearer to control his movements (with practice). After that, roller rinks abounded, and recreational roller skating became a pastime for millions of Americans—and today includes such permutations as roller discos and the Roller Derby.

That is a respectable spread of history, and to commemorate it the Roller Skating Rink Operators Association and the United States Amateur Confederation of Roller Skating, both headquartered in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1980 came up with the notion of creating a museum. It will open formally in Lincoln on April 14 (James Plimpton’s birthday), 1982, and will include, according to Roller Skating Business magazine, “skates, boots, plates, wheels, toe stops, accessories, costumes, uniforms, periodicals, books, films, music, photographs of industry leaders and competitive personalities, patches, decals, posters, post cards, rink and competitive memorabilia—all the elements of our history that should be protected for future generations.”

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "December 1981"

Authored by: Edna P. Gurewitsch

An Intimate Memoir

Authored by: Lt Angélus T. Burch

A World War I soldier writes home about the Christmas holiday in his hospital, "one of the merriest, happiest seasons of my life"

Authored by: Ben Yagoda


Authored by: Peter J. Powell

A Cheyenne Self-Portrait

Authored by: Dane A. Penland


Authored by: The Editors

The Vigil That Put an End to Slavery

Authored by: T. H. Watkins

History by a Dam Site

Authored by: Allan L. Damon

The Facts Behind the Current Controversy Over Immigration

Authored by: The Editors

A photographic portrait of Lake Placid, New York, in the pre-Olympic Age

Authored by: Charles R. Ritcheson

What really happened when Thomas Jefferson met George III

Featured Articles

Often thought to have been a weak president, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or the political fallout.

Rarely has the full story been told how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.

A hundred years ago, America was rocked by riots, repression, and racial violence.

During Pres. Washington’s first term, an epidemic killed one tenth of all the inhabitants of Philadelphia, then the capital of the young United States.

Now a popular state park, the unassuming geological feature along the Illinois River has served as the site of centuries of human habitation and discovery.  

The recent discovery of the hull of the battleship Nevada recalls her dramatic action at Pearl Harbor and ultimate revenge on D-Day as the first ship to fire on the Nazis.

Our research reveals that 19 artworks in the U.S. Capitol honor men who were Confederate officers or officials. What many of them said, and did, is truly despicable.

Here is probably the most wide-ranging look at Presidential misbehavior ever published in a magazine.

When Germany unleashed its blitzkreig in 1939, the U.S. Army was only the 17th largest in the world. FDR and Marshall had to build a fighting force able to take on the Nazis, against the wishes of many in Congress.