“The history of roller derby traces the evolution of roller skating races into a unique sport which has undergone several boom-and-bust cycles throughout most of the twentieth century” (Roller Derby History).
The growing community of roller skaters was growing by the day. This ultimately led to endurance challenges as early as 1884. A skater named Victor W. Clough set a world record when he skated one hundred miles in under ten hours in Geneseo, Illinois. Just one year later in Madison Square Garden, New York thirty six skaters joined up for one of the largest endurance races recorded. The race was six days long and resulted in two deaths! The two men that won, William Donovan and Joseph Cohen, died shortly after the end of the race. The result from the deaths led to a law that these endurance races can be no longer than four hours.
By 1935 the rise of roller races were becoming bigger. Leo Seltzer, who was the man who created walk-a-thons, read in an article that at least ninety three percent of Americans have gone roller skating at least once in their lives. While discussing the article with other citizens at a local restaurant Seltzer was challenged to invent a sport that had to do with roller skating. Seltzer jotted his ideas into the worn table cloth; by the end of the brain storming Seltzer had decided to join the popular six-day bike races and roller skating.
By August of 1935 Seltzer had created his own event and named it ‘Transcontinental Roller Derby’. This event was more than a month long and began at the Chicago Coliseum. “It was a stimulation of a cross country roller skating race in which twenty five two person male/female teams circled a wooden oval bank track. The team would skate around the floor thousands of times for eleven and a half hours a day to cover the equivalence of three thousand miles (the same amount of miles equal from Los Angeles and New York)” (Roller Derby History). Each team was indicated by different colors this also showed them where they were imaginarily located on a map. The rules were simple: you must have at least one person from your team on the track otherwise you’ll face disqualification. Sixteen teams dropped out of the race due to exhaustion and injury, but nine teams met the finish line. The winners of the race were able to hold the lead for the final eleven days of the race
After that first event held by Seltzer, roller derby grew to be very popular. Over ten thousand people would attend an event like this and they were willing to pay twenty five cents at the door so Seltzer decided to take the Transcontinental Roller Derby on the road. Seltzer reportedly purchased a portable track for the skaters that cost about twenty thousand dollars. The contestants of the races were the winners of the elimination races held at the first Transcontinental Roller Derby; by September of 1935 the association already had three thousand members, each paying two dollars for each event in over one thousand six hundred rinks around America.
By early 1936 Seltzer had picked some of the best skaters and made a travel team out of them. These skaters only had to skate for eight hours a night and were asked to engage in ‘jams’. At specific times the skaters had to do a five minute sprint over the course of the race.
Massive collisions and crashes would occur as the other skaters would try to break through the group and lap the rest of the people (these skaters are known as jammers). During one race a sports writer named Damon Runyon asked Seltzer to maximize the contact between athletes (hitting, tripping, pushing, slamming others against the outside barriers and elbowing). Seltzer was hesitant, but agreed to test this out. The people loved the new rules!
Later in this sport more things began to change. There were five teams of two separated in to factions or certain things for each person to do with different colors for each job (black, white, or green colors). Every fifteen minutes ten more people would trade in and begin the race. This is where roller derby began!