Queen Victoria still ruled when the 1898 World Figure Skating Championships were held at The National Skating Palace in London. Only the third World Championship event to be staged, it was called “Wonderful” by The Illustrated London News and included just five competitors since only a men’s event was contested.
More than 120 years have passed since that February 15 in London, but controversy prevailed even then over results. At the 1898 World Championships, the silver and bronze medalists contested the results, claiming that gold medalist Henning Grenander of Sweden had been awarded first place as a result of biased judging. Their complaint would be among the first of many to be made over questionable results in the fine art of figure skating.
[The event] was called “Wonderful” by The Illustrated London News and included just five competitors since only a men’s event was contested.
Shown in the gallery is a watch fob, a popular item during the 19th century and a piece that would have been suspended from a gentlemen’s pocket watch chain. The diamond-shaped fob, made of metal, features crossed skate blades at the center and a blue enamel-filled banner that seems to float over them. Two eight-pointed star polygons rest above the designation “London 1898.” The star polygons were symbolic in many different ways during the Victorian era and were used heavily in jewelry, military badges, public service medals, and sports items. “NSA” (for National Skating Association) adorns the top of the fob while “ISU” (for International Skating Union), enclosed in a shield, anchors the bottom. The design and balance of the fob is exceptional, showing both dimension and style.
It’s easy to imagine this fob attached to a handsome pocket watch chain, serving as a visual reminder of the time the wearer came to London to enjoy the World Figure Skating Championships. Disregarding, of course, the contested results.
Enjoy 19th Century London. 1898.