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Tom Wisner collection, Ralph Rinzler Folklikfe Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution.
The collection documents S. Newman Darby's development of the sailboard, which became known as the windsurfer through sketches, mechanical drawings, plans, patent specifications, legal documents, photographs, correspondence, notebooks, clippings, periodicals, and an 8mm film.
Scope and Contents:
The S. Newman Darby Windsurfing Collection, 1946-1998, documents the body of Newman Darby's inventive output as well as the development of the windsurfing industry. It consists of sketches, mechanical drawings, plans, patent specifications, legal documents, photographs, correspondence, notebooks, clippings, periodicals, an 8mm film and a videocassette. The collection is particularly rich in the material related to the development of the sailboard, including Darby's personal memoirs. It contains U.S. and foreign patents related to windsurfing as well as records and reports related to Darby's testimony in litigation and the recognition of the priority of his invention. the collections research value lies in the documentation of the invention of the windsurfer and the industry and culture it spawned. It documents the processes of invention and marketing of new devices. It is evidence of the full range of S. Newman Darby's imagination, life and career.
The collection is divided into six series.
Series 1: Biographical materials, 1969-1982
Series 2: Inventions and designs, 1953-1990
Series 3: Darby Industries, 1982-1983
Series 4: History of windsurfing, 1944-1998
Series 5: Photographs, 1946-1997
Series 6: Audio-Visual materials, 1965-1997
Biographical / Historical:
S. Newman Darby is recognized as the first person in the United States to conceive of connecting a hand-held sail rig fastened with a universal joint to a floating platform for recreational use. He called it sail boarding in 1965, when he published his designs in Popular Science Monthly magazine. Although he and his brothers Ronald and Kenneth began manufacturing the boards through their company Darby Industries, they never applied for a patent.
S. Newman Darby (1928-2016) was born in West Pittston, Pennsylvania. He graduated from West Pittston High School in 1946. A sign painter and artist, like his father Sidney Darby, he studied drafting at the Pennsylvania State University extension school where he took chemistry, business, art, and photography courses for one year. His first invention, the Darby Dory, a folding rowboat dates from 1953. The sailboard developed out of Darby's experiments with a personal pontoon catamaran, each hull being big enough for one foot and designed to be operated with a hand-held sail and no rudder. By 1964 he had designed a universal joint that connected a mast to a flat bottom sailing scow. This board had a centerboard, tail fin and kite shaped free sail. Early tests were conducted on Trailwood Lake and the Susquehanna River, near West Pittston.
Today sail boarding is known as windsurfing. It adopted its name from Windsurfer International, a company Hoyle Schweitzer and Jim Drake established on the basis of a patent granted to them in 1970 for a "wind-propelled apparatus." In all essential qualities, their claims duplicated Newman Darby's earlier work.
After Schweitzer bought out Drake's share in 1973, he energetically promoted the sport and licensed manufacturing rights to more than 20 companies around the world. Schweitzer forcefully prosecuted patent infringements he perceived among windsurfer manufacturers and he threatened to sue the 1984 Olympic Committee should it authorize a board produced by a manufacturer not licensed by Windsurfer International.
Although he was aware of the growth of the sport and the profits flowing into Windsurfer International through its licensing activities, Darby was unable to mount a legal challenge to Schweitzer. His priority in the invention of the sport was overlooked and almost forgotten.
In the late 1970's, Mistral, a Swiss manufacturer sued by Windsurfer International in Germany, located Darby and presented his "prior art" as a defense. In the early 1980's, courts in the United States were asked to rule on the validity of the Windsurfer International patent. Newman Darby's prior art was at the center of the controversies. The court voided Windsurfer's original patent and Schweitzer was forced to apply for a reissue based on severely limited claims. He lost the use of "windsurfer" as a trademark. Schweitzer retained the reissued patent through further challenges until it expired in 1987. The example of Newman Darby has become a textbook case of the importance of thorough searches for "prior art" for patent attorneys.
Following completion of the patent litigation Darby designed original sail rigs for Mistral in Europe and Horizon in the United States. In 1982 Newman entered into a new partnership with his brothers Ronald and Kenneth and formed NRK, Inc., to design and manufacture windsurfing boards, training devices and to produce written and video documentaries of his contributions to the history of the sport.
Naomi Albrecht Darby, Newman's wife, sewed the first sails for the boards and participated in their testing and marketing. She documented Darby's inventions through the years in photographs and moving images. Over the years, Darby has worked on numerous inventions--most of them related to wind propulsion. Like many independent inventors, Newman Darby conceives of his ideas, executes all of the mechanical plans, builds his own prototypes and tests them. Darby continues to research improvements in windsurfing and to teach courses in boat building and design.
An original sailboard, rig, mast and daggerboard from the same period are also housed in the Pennsylvania State Museum at Harrisburg.
The Division of Culture and the Arts (now Division of Cultural and Community Life) holds artifacts relating to S. Newman Darby and his invention of the windsurfer, including an original board, boom and mast, and sail dating from 1964. See accessions #1998.0086 and #1998.0323.
Most of the collection was donated to the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History by S. Newman Darby and his wife Naomi on February 3, 1998.
Collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.