by Shannon Baxter
This is the eighth in a series of articles featuring Dartmouth’s Starr Manufacturing Company. Established as a nail factory in 1861, Starr Manufacturing soon began making its famous Starr skates and selling millions of pairs around the world from 1863 to 1939. The plant also played an important role in the sale of the first hockey sticks and excelled in other areas such as the production of the golden gates to Halifax’s Point Pleasant Park.
During my project, I have stumbled across many a pair of skates that have interesting stories connected to them. However, there is one pair of skates that continues to hold my fascination, despite having found little to no information about them.
These skates at first appear rather unassuming. The black boots are made of leather like many of the ones in our collection. However, the first note of interest is that while they are indeed Starr skates, they do not have the usual name that the blades are given by the factory.
Another point of interest is the thickness of the blade. The blade is considerably wider than the other blades. These are sturdy skates that would ideally help keep their owner better balanced than skates with thinner blades.
These factors raise questions, and they are answered in the simple line that was written in the skate’s original cataloging sheet:
“Starr Skates custom made for wounded/disabled WWI Soldier.”
To me, as someone who studied history, this was a fascinating comment to find in the records. Naturally, it also sparked more questions: who was the soldier? How did he manage to get these skates custom made? Unfortunately, the records have been vague and at this time I have been unable to uncover more about the original owner of these skates. Despite this, I believe it is important to include them here as a blog entry. They are proof that Starr Manufacturing Co., was very aware of the hardships that befell soldiers during the First World War, and it is likely this was a local man, maybe even an employee before traveling overseas to join the front lines. We can only speculate. But I believe it is safe to say that whoever this soldier was, he must have been delighted to have the opportunity to continue to skate once he returned home. A comfort after witnessing the horrors of war.
Want to keep reading? Check out Shannon’s next article in the Starr series, Anyone’s Game: Ladies Ice Skates, for Pleasure and for Hockey and previous article here.