Monadnock Moments No. 40: The Long Reach Skates

In April of 1886, the Keene Manufacturing Company began the manufacture of ice skates in the company plant at South Keene.  James A. Whelpley was the manager of the firm.  Two Keene men, Clement J. Woodward and William S. Hale were president and treasurer, respectively.

Mr. Whelpley was the inventor of the Long Reach Skate that was marketed across the country. An 1893 catalogue for the company pictured 20 different models ranging from 60¢ to $6.00 per pair.  These skates were not like ice skates of today, however.  The skater did not slide their foot into the skate, but fastened the blades to their own shoes.

The 1893 catalog claimed that the skates were “superior to all others, and absolutely without rival on the market.”  At about this time G.D. Philips of New York won the championship of amateur skaters of the United States wearing Long Reach Skates.  In a letter to Mr. Whelpley, Philips stated that, “I must admit that my success in the championship races is largely due to the use of your Long Reach Skates.  I have tried all kinds of Speed Skates, . . .but can get more speed with less waste of power out of yours.  In my opinion they are…altogether the best skate in the market.”
Despite this glowing testimonial, the Keene Manufacturing Company closed five years later.  It is not known what problems arose for the company, but Mr. Whelpley left Keene, presumably taking his patents elsewhere to resume production of the Long Reach Skates.