Here is an interesting account of the first Skate America, by prolific skating correspondent Alexandra Stevenson, writing here for Ice Skating International Online. The purpose of the event was to test the facilities that had been built for the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid.

Scott Hamilton won for the men. Scott says,

"It was easily one of the biggest, most unexpected, victories of my career. Without that triumph, Lord knows what would have become of my skating future."
In ladies, Lisa-Marie Allen prevailed over a field that included a 13-year-old Katarina Witt.

The competition was continued after 1979 as an international event in response to the discontinuation of the North American Championships.

There was quite a fuss when the North American Championships were disbanded. Arrangements were already in progress for the 1973 event to be held in Rochester, NY, when, in a meeting of the two countries’ representatives, the Canadians, Don Gilchrist, George Blundun and John McKay, asked for the event to be cancelled. Ben Wright suggested, unsuccessfully, that, instead, the event morph into an international event with invitations to some of the world’s top competitors. Writing in his encyclopedic Skating in America produced to honor the 75th Anniversary of the USFSA, Wright revealed, "What was not known to the USFSA or its representatives at the time, was that the CFSA planned to establish their own International competition to be called Skate Canada. Sponsorship agreements were already in place." The Americans had been blind-sided.
Here is part 1. To read the other three parts, click on “return to title page” at the bottom and scroll down to The First Skate America, parts 2, 3, and 4.