Although skating was born in Europe, Americans can be proud of the fact that figure skating, as we know it today, traces its origins directly back to an American - Jackson Haines - who was born in New York in 1840 and died in 1875 in Finland (popular folklore holds that he caught pneumonia during a raging blizzard he encountered while traveling by sled from St. Petersburg to Stockholm; in reality his death was attributed to tuberculosis).
Just before the Civil War, a skating craze, accompanied by a dancing craze, swept America, and during this time, Haines leapt into the limelight with his daring combination of both skating and dance. He was a true revolutionary, for in a country where figure skating had laboriously developed a stiff and rigid style, the free and expressive movements of his virtuoso performances were frowned on, if not actually condemned.
Haines claimed to be the champion of America in 1863; however, at that time many self-proclaimed "championships" were held without any legitimate or official claim to the title, so Haines' title cannot be substantiated. At any rate, the continued cool reception given to him in his own country prompted him to go to Europe, where he was warmly and enthusiastically received. When he arrived in Vienna, he received the warmest reception of all; he was an immediate success. Little wonder, in the home of the graceful Viennese Waltz! It was here, as a direct result of his pioneering performances, that the so-called "International Style of Figure Skating" was born. It wasn't until many years later - in the first decade of this century - that this style finally came home to America.
Although local skating clubs had been formed and competitions held since the middle of the 19th century, the sport functioned informally, and some years were to pass before the formation of the United States Figure Skating Association in 1921 (now known as U.S. Figure Skating). Only then was the machinery established that has...
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