“Moonlight Skating” in Central Park, 1878

This painting, by John O’Brian Inman, depicts a lovely nighttime scene at the lake in Central Park, with Bethesda Fountain in the background.

Ice skating became hugely popular in the second half of the 19th century. Skating clubs formed, and tens of thousands of New Yorkers would show up during prime winter days at the lakes of the city’s new parks.


Central Park officials had a way of letting skaters know when it was safe to go on the ice: A red ball would be raised from a bell tower in the park, near where Belvedere Castle is today. A red pennant hoisted over the middle of the lake, however, was a warning that the ice was dangerous.

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9 Responses to ““Moonlight Skating” in Central Park, 1878”

  1. Brooks Says:

    The people in the foreground appear to be standing in what today would be The Ramble. Apart from the obvious (fewer trees) the ground looks to be absolutely level with the pond. Doesn’t today’s Ramble slope up from the water’s edge?

  2. joy Says:

    Isn’t this painting up at the N-Y Historical Society? I could swear it was part of a scavenger hunt we did there.

    Still, it’s a great painting. I do so love that they were skating by the light of the moon.

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    It’s owned by the Museum of the City of New York, I believe. I’ll find out and add it to the post.

    I’m not sure about the slope of the Ramble. Perhaps Inman took artistic license, or the landscape changed?

  4. CelestialCharms Says:

    Such a beautiful painting. A few days ago I posted about the 1862 Brooklyn Ice Skating Carnival, if anyone would care to take a look. Love your blog.

  5. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks! Here’s the link to CelestialCharms’ Brooklyn Ice Skating Carnival post–it’s fascinating: http://celestialcharms.blogspot.com/2009/01/brooklyn-ice-carnival.html

  6. New York City’s roller skating fad of 1884 « Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] York City’s roller skating fad of 1884 By wildnewyork Ice skating had already swept the city in the mid-1800s. But a few decades later, city residents took up a new […]

  7. Gavino di Vino Says:

    Reblogged this on GAVINO DI VINO.

  8. The 1955 plan to get rid of Central Park’s Ramble | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] Central Park opened in 1859, city officials have occasionally tried to tinker with its original intent—which was to replicate […]

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    […] probably seen paintings and illustrations of 19th century New Yorkers ice skating in Central Park and on the ponds of Brooklyn. But this Currier & Ives lithograph (after a painting by Charles […]

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