The Day Jackson Haines, The Father of Figure Skating, Visited Chatham

Despite there being no indoor rinks in Chatham at the time, in February of 1863, Jackson Haines came to Chatham and wowed onlookers.

Haines was a touring skater from New York City, and according to Chatham newspapers at the time, he earned the adoration of local fans with his “slippery feats.”

Haines, who was 23 at the time, skated on the Thames River, putting on a display for fans who lines the banks.

By many, he was called and considered the “father of figure skating” for his innovations. These included accompanying music to performances. Prior to music, a ‘caller’ would provide instruction to skaters of what steps and moves to complete next.

To enable his jumps and artistry, Haines also became forerunner in how skates were bound to boots. He chose not to strap his skates to his boots, but rather screwed his skates directly to his boot for added stability.

He also invented the sit spin, one of the fundamental spins in many routines.

His style was different than the rigid English version of figure skating. It involved dance, evoking his ballet background, spins, and jumps.

Despite Haines winning the 1864 National championship, he was laughed out of the country for his style, and chose to move to Europe, where he continued to pioneer a new International style of figure skating, which has become commonplace today.

He settled in Vienna, Austria, where he performed with orchestras and bands playing traditional composers while Haines continued to explore the artistry ofskating.

Less than a decade after he skating on the Thames River in Chatham, Ontario however, Haines sadly passed away after contracting tuberculosis and pneumonia in Finland in 1875

A century after his death, Haines was inducted into the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame and United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame.

In the 1800s, many notable athletes passed through Chatham. This also included United States National Champion John O’Connell. O’Connell came to the new Chatham Skating Rink, which was owned and built by brothers Charles Hea and Edward Hea. He skated here for crowds in 1884.

Since that time, Chatham has seen our own share of championship skaters, including Sandra Tewkesbury, Chris Bourne, and Shae-Lynn Bourne.

These skaters however, would not have had the opportunity to perform with the artistry, and innovation the sport now welcomes without Jackson Haines.

By Ian Kennedy /

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