Road-Skates from the 19th Century
I was listening to music and reading The War of the Worlds last night while
waiting for some data crunching to finish when I happened to read, "We men,
with our bicycles and road-skates, our Lilienthal soaring-machines, our guns
and sticks and so forth, are just in the beginning of the evolution that the
Martians have worked out."
Huh, wait, what's that? "Road-skates" in an H.G. Wells novel from the 1890s?
Well yes, there are; and unlike the Martians (as far as we know) there actually
were real road-skates (hyphenated, just like the "heat-ray" used by the invaders
to incinerate much of southern England) that were sold and worn in Victorian
I even thought about putting this aside for six weeks and posting it on April 1st
to make it look even more suspicious. But it checks out. There's a very
perceptive and entertaining 1898 review and trip report with them online. Says the author, "My first endeavors to acquire the graceful art of road-skating were distinctly grotesque, and afforded the keenest possible enjoyment to some dozens of interested spectators."
Read more and see more pictures here:
As an aside, there are lots of bicycles in the book too, a whole bunch of them.
Wells was a cycling fanatic and said that he chose locations for scenes in the
story while riding in the area around Woking where he lived. It's not hard to picture him coming up with the idea of the Martians using various mechanical devices to augment their diminished bodies as he pedaled along, meditating on
his bike as accessory for his own body.
And part of my interest in the novel comes from realizing that if the Martians
were to come to earth today and land in the location described in the book,
in the sand pits of Horsell Common, the buildings of McLaren Racing and the
McLaren Technology Center would be among the first destroyed by their fiendish