Theo Johnsen, Early Pioneer of Skiing, Exhibition at the Ski Museum of Maine

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on June 3, 2009 4:15 pm

From a business perspective, Theo Johnsen was an abject failure.  From a skier’s perspective, Theo Johnsen was a visionary and hero.  A pioneer in the manufacturing of ski equipment, Johnsen also penned the first book on skiing published in America.  He titled it The Winter Sport of Skeeing.  The year was 1905.  And you think you’re O.G.?

His book included lessons on cross-country, downhill, and jumping.

His ski was the Tajco, named for Johnsen’s Tajco Sporting Goods.  Twelve models in all ranging from $3.50 to $18.  The skis sold poorly on consignment and most of his early inventory was returned.  Johnsen decided to made 18″ scale models for stores to display, and only then make the skis once they had been ordered.

Two years later, Tajco and Johnsen were out of business.  Four years later, Theo Johnsen died.  An unceremonious ending of a life that has since been celebrated and appreciated in our time.

In 2003 Johnsen was inducted into the inaugural class of the Main Ski Hall of Fame, part of the the Ski Museum of Maine.  Currently the museum is presenting “Preserving Theo Johnsen”, an exhibition of Johnsen’s early handiwork.

The Tajco ski is an incredible site.  Although antiquated in appearance, its quality and design were way ahead of its time.  The exhibition also includes the miniature models Johnsen made for stores, and his book on “skeeing”.

Glenn Parkinson’s writes in First Tracks: Stories from Maine’s Skiing Heritage, “Johnsen recognized the fundamental changes about to happen in two sports yet was unable to capitalize on either one.  But he had left a bequest to the sport of skiing — America’s first ski book, a testimonial matched in fervor by few skiers since.”

That fervor is currently on display at the Ski Museum of Maine.  Go check out an important piece of our shared history!

Zeke Piestrup ( More Posts)

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