Exploring The Collections: The Joseph Butchko Collection

Every Skate Guard blog that is put together draws from a variety of different sources - everything from museum and library holdings and genealogical research to newspaper archives and dusty old printed materials I've amassed over the last ten years or so. This year, I thought it would be fun to give you a bit of a 'behind the scenes' look at the Skate Guard Collections, which include books, magazines, VHS tapes, show and competition programs, photographs and many other items. These Collections date back to the nineteenth century and chronicle figure skating's rich history from the days of quaint waltzes in coats and tails to quadruple toe-loop's. Whether you're doing your own research about a famous 'fancy' skater in your family tree or a long-lost ice rink in your community or just have a general skating history question you can't find the answer to online, I'm always happy to draw on these resources and try to help if I can.

Joseph Butchko posing with items from his Collection at a hobby and antiques show in 1965

This month, I'd like to highlight the Joseph Butchko Collection - a large collection of photographs that I was fortunate enough to have acquired back in 2019. Mr. Butchko was a prolific collector of skating memorabilia. He started skating at the age of eleven in the coal mining town of Orient, Pennsylvania in a pair of skates he bought from Sears Roebuck for seventy two cents and began collecting skates in 1932. His collection included photographs, books, clippings, postcards, autographs and over six hundred pairs of antique skates, from the United States, Canada, Great Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Sweden, Czechoslovakia and Japan. He often exhibited his Collection at schools, churches, social organizations and museums. He passed away in 1987 and many of the boots and blades in his collection are currently available for private sale.

Left: Wayne Caldwell. Right: Jacqueline Harbord.

The photographs from the Joseph Butchko Collection that have made their way to the Skate Guard Collections really fall into three different categories. The smallest is a collection of press photos from international competitions in the late seventies and early eighties, including a handful of podium pictures from the European and World Championships. Then there's a gorgeous collection of photos taken at Lake Placid in the forties and fifties, everything from gorgeous outdoor shots to gorgeous publicity photos of American skaters like Dick Button and Eileen Seigh. There are some gorgeous autographed pictures of Yvonne Sherman, who won a pair of medals at the 1949 and 1950 World Championships. Mixed in with these is a pristine photo of Carol Heiss. The largest collection consists of over two hundred stunning publicity photos of skaters from the Holiday On Ice tour in the fifties and sixties. Most of these photos, minus duplicates, have now been scanned and are available to view on a Holiday On Ice board on Skate Guard's Pinterest

In addition to the photographs, there is also a file folder consisting of a 1961 typewritten questionnaire and signed letter from Mr. Butchko discussing his Collection, a 1977 article about his Collection from a publication at Kent State University, a 1965 clipping from the "Tribune Chronicle" and a 1977 photograph of Mr. Butchko, still skating every week at the age of seventy. 

For a list of the items in the Skate Guard Collections, click here. If you've got photographs collecting dust in your attic or basement that you'd like to donate, I'd love to hear from you!

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.