There are times when I spot something and I know that considering buying it puts me in a place where I’d rather not be. That place would be in over my head. Such was the case with these Barney and Berry skates. I spotted them at Metrolina earlier this month and was tempted, but was so intimidated by what I did not know that I walked away from them.
Note: Walking away from an item of interest at a flea market is not recommended. It can lead to heartache and disappointment. I know this for a fact.
I assume that old ice skates must be pretty common in the northern states and in Canada, but I rarely see them here in the South. But I did keep thinking about them, as I was pretty sure they were from the 1920s or maybe the 1930s.
After meeting Marge I mentioned to her that I’d seen a pair of older skates but that I knew nothing about them. She, being a northern mid-westerner, gave me a crash course in skates. I would have taken her over to see them, but I was afraid she would think I was crazy for wanting to buy them. Truth is, they looked pretty rough.
As you can see, I did go back for them. I’ve spent the past weeks cleaning them and I’m happy with the results. I’m not a trained conservator, and I can’t always work up to the standards that a large institution might, but my rule for cleaning and preserving is that I do not make any changes that cannot be reversed. Leather dye might have removed all the appearance of scratches, but dye is not reversible. Instead I opted for a good leather conditioner.
The biggest problem was with the metal lace eyelets. They were very tarnished and gunky. I almost went crazy cleaning each one. I removed the laces (which look to be original to the boots), washed them, and re-laced the boots after all the eyelets were cleaned. Finally, I stuffed the boots with cotton fabric to give them shape.
They are not perfect, but that’s not what I want. The skates were used but not so much that they were in poor condition. They are nice and sturdy, and are actually still wearable. Note the bit of rust on the blades. I decided to leave it, as buffing would have also removed the silver finish that had been applied when the skates were made.
I also did not clean that little buckle you see. I may go back and give it a light buff.
Thankfully the skates were marked by the maker, Barney and Berry of Springfield, Massachusetts. After a bit of digging, I did turn up a bit about the company. The manufacture of skates by Everett H Barney began in 1864. According to some sources, he invented the metal clamp-on skate, a product that was the mainstay of the business. They also made roller skates and signal cannons for yachts.
EH Barney was a well-known figure around Springfield. He was himself an accomplished skater, and he was often seen near his Forest Park home, skating on the Connecticut River and a skating pond he built in the park. Unfortunately Barney was judged insane in 1913, and died in 1916. He left the bulk of his assets to the city of Springfield, with directions that his property was to be added to Forest Park. The Barney skating pond still exists and is open for skating,
From what I have read, skates with the boots attached were first manufactured around 1920. That, of course, would put my skates after that date. Another clue is that the Barney and Berry company was acquired by Winchester, probably in 1919. I’ve seen 1920s ads showing skates that were labeled with both names, but I’ve also seen post 1920 ads and catalogs with just the Barney and Berry name. My guess is 1920s. Any thoughts?
Correction: 1864 (not 1964) was the beginning date of the EH Barney skate manufacture.