Written by: Jared Welsh- Collections Assistant
I recently had the privilege of researching a pair of old ice skates that the museum had acquired. These skates are quite unlike ice skates that you would see today, they consist of a metal blade and a small wooden platform that you would secure to the bottom of your shoes with leather straps.
When accessioning a new item into the museum’s database we are supposed to write down as much detail about the item as possible. With this pair of skates, I initially had very little information to go off of. The paper that accompanied the skates indicated that they were from the 1860s, that’s all the information I had.
I wanted to see if I could find just a bit more information about the skates and, well, I did.
After carefully examining the skates I found a small mark stamped into each
blade that read “PB HEERENVEEN”. This
was the clue that would lead me down a rabbit-hole where I would learn more about antique Dutch ice skates that I ever thought I would.
I typed “PB HEERENVEEN” into google and I found two websites that provided me with the information I was looking for. One is in English, iceskatesmuseum.com, and one is in Dutch, schaatshistorie.nl. Thankfully google translate was able to help me by translating the Dutch website.
Here’s what I found. The skates are not from the 1860s, they are actually from the 1930s. The skates were manufactured by NV Friesche Schaatsenfabriek, a company founded in 1934 by Pier Bos and his Brother-in-law, Siebe Geertsema. “PB” stands for Pier Bos and “HEERENVEEN” is the town in the Netherlands where Bos and Geertsema had their factory. The company enjoyed rapid growth through the 1930’s and employed about 40 people by 1940.
During the Second World War Bos and Geertsema supported the National Socialist Movement in the Netherlands (Nationaal-Socialistische Beweging in Nederland, NSB for short). The NSB was a Dutch fascist political party that collaborated with the occupying German forces and was supported by the Nazi Party. After the defeat of Germany and the end of the Second World War in Europe the NSB was outlawed and many of its members were arrested.
Bos and Geertsema were arrested and convicted after the war for their involvement with the NSB. Their punishment was 3 years in prison, and they were denied electoral rights for 10 years. The conviction of both Bos and Geertsema meant that Pier Bos’s son, Klaas Bos, would take over management of the company. The company would continue to produce ice skates until 1955, shifting focus to other products.
If you look closely at the wooden base of one of the skates you can see
t he remnants of the label. Although not visible on this skate, the label features an image of a woman skating in front of two flags, the flag on the left features Pier Bos’s initials, “PB”, and on the left is the flag of Friesland, the Dutch province where the skates where made. Below this image is a text in the Frisian language and a text in the Dutch language.
When I first picked up these skates, I was not expecting to learn quite so much about them. Initially I was hoping to just find out more about the provenance of the skates. I am happy to say that I found that information, plus a little bit more.