Dancing Queen: The Nettie Prantel Meier Story

Joseph K. Savage, Ardelle Kloss Sanderson, Nettie Prantel and Roy P. Hunt. Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years".

Born July 2, 1902 in the South Tyrolean municipality of Sterzing, Italy, Maria 'Nettie' Brandt emigrated to America with her mother and younger sister on the S.S. Furnessia when she was six years old. Her Swiss born father Jacob followed not long after, and the family anglicized their name to Prantel. They took up residence on Fourth Street in Manhattan, in the heart of New York City's Bohemian district, taking in another German man who drove a wagon as a boarder to help pay the bills. Nettie's father worked as a driver for a milk company; her mother took in washing.

The S.S. Furnessia. Photo courtesy Library Of Congress.

How a young woman who came from a family that wasn't well-to-do at all found herself accepted in the rather elitist circles of the Skating Club of New York in the roaring twenties is something of a mystery. Perhaps she was simply too good of a skater to be turned away?

In both 1930 and 1931, Nettie was a member of the Skating Club of New York's four that struck gold at the U.S. Championships. In 1932, she won an informal waltzing contest at the Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid. In 1934 and 1935, Nettie and partner Roy Hunt claimed the U.S. waltzing titles.

Nettie Prantel and Roy Hunt

In 1936, Nettie teamed up with Harold Hartshorne to win the Sno Birds Competition and two back-to-back U.S. Silver Dance titles and in 1939, Nettie was part of the Skating Club of New York's four that won bronze at the North American Championships. She also won the Waltz title at North Americans that year with Joseph Savage.

Top: A who's who of figure skating at the 1935 North American Championships. Left to right: (top row) Roger Turner, Polly Blodgett, Robin Lee, Veronica Clarke, Osborne Colson, Ardella Kloss, Joseph K. Savage; (second row) Roy Hunt, Donald B. Cruikshank, Estelle and Louise Weigel, Wingate Snaith, Louise Bertram; (third row) Nettie Prantel, William Bruns, Suzanne Davis, Frederick Goodridge; (fourth row) George E.B. Hill, Maribel Vinson, Mrs. William Bruns, Mrs. Margaret Davis, Frances Claudet, James Lester Madden, Grace Madden, Stewart Reburn; (bottom row) Prudence Holbrook, Melville Rogers, Guy Owen, Constance Wilson-Samuel and Bud Wilson. Photo courtesy "Skating Through The Years". Bottom: Joseph Savage, Ardelle Kloss Sanderson, Nettie Prantel and George Boltres.

Also an accomplished singles and pairs skater as well, Nettie won the Eastern junior pairs title in 1939 with George Boltres and finished third in the U.S. junior women's event in 1933. In fact, Nettie placed in the top three in practically every competition she entered for close to a decade, setting the 'gold standard' for American ice dance during a period in which the discipline's popularity was growing by leaps and bounds.

While she was still competing, Nettie served as First Chairman of the USFSA's Dance Committee, becoming the second woman to take on a position which still had 'man' in the title. She also served as a national level dance judge and took the time to assist in judging roller dancing tests. In her spare time, she enjoyed playing golf.

Nettie Prantel with partners Harold Hartshorne and Joseph Savage. Photo courtesy "Skating" magazine.

In November 1940, Nettie married Mahlon Martin Meier of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, the son of a leather belt maker who worked as an attorney for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in New York. The couple settled in East Orange, New Jersey for a time. Nettie later taught ice dancing at the Winter Club of Washington. She passed away in Dennis, Massachusetts on January 4, 1998 at the age of ninety eight.

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