Guide to the Sherman Poppen Papers
NMAH.AC.1159

Administrative Information

Repository Information

Archives Center, National Museum of American History, 2009 August

P.O. Box 37012
 Suite 1100, MRC 601
 Washington, D.C., 20013-7012
 Phone: 202-633-3270
 archivescenter@si.edu

Conditions Governing Access note

The collection is open for research use.

Conditions Governing Use note

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.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The collection was donated by Sherman Poppen on June 22, 2009.

Processing Information note

Processed by Elizabeth Garber (intern), August 2009; supervised by Alison Oswald, archivist.

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Summary Information

Repository
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Creator - (donor,
Poppen, Sherman, 1930-
Title
Sherman Poppen Papers
ID
NMAH.AC.1159
Date [inclusive]
1966-2008
Extent
1.50 Cubic feet; 2 boxes
Language
English
Abstract
The Sherman Poppen Papers document the snurfer, the predecessor of the snowboard that he invented in 1965. The snurfer, a sled that was ridden while standing up, originally consisted of two skis bound together. Snurfer competitions fueled the development of the snowboard as a piece of sporting equipment. This collection contains material describing the snurfer’s place in snowboarding history, and the associated business and legal aspects.

Preferred Citation note

Sherman Poppen Papers, 1966-2008, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

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Biographical/Historical note

Sherman Poppen was born March 25, 1930 in Muskegon, Michigan. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1952 and served in the United States Navy as a supply office at sea from 1952-1956. He owned an industrial business, Lake Welding Supply Company, which sold gases and welding supplies in Muskegon, Michigan. On December 25, 1965, Poppen created the snurfer, a predecessor of the snowboard, by binding two children’s skis together. His wife, Nancy, was pregnant with their third child and his two restless daughters, Wendy and Laurie, wanted to play on Christmas day. Poppen entertained them by playing outside in the snow. The girls’ desire to stand up while riding on a sled and Poppen’s vision of snow drifts as waves collided, and the idea for the snurfer was born. Nancy coined “snurf” by combining the words snow and surf. Neighborhood children soon began asking for snurfers of their own. Poppen decided to patent his creation (US Patent #: 3,378,274 – Surf-Type Snow Ski) and trademarked the words snurf and snurfer (US Trademark #: 1,518,101). It was also patented in Canada (Patent #: 819,596). In 1966, he licensed the product to the Brunswick Corporation and worked with them to create a board from the laminated wood used for bowling alley gutters. Brunswick manufactured the snurfer and sold it as a novelty item, not sports equipment, and it gained popularity. From 1968 through the late 1970s, snurfer racing competitions were held in Muskegon at Blockhouse Hill. In 1972, Brunswick discontinued production of the snurfer, but JEM Corporation continued manufacture until the early 1980s. By 1977, Jake Burton Carpenter, an avid competitive snurfer, began developing an improved model without a rope handle and with the addition of rigid bindings for ski boots to the board. As more resorts began allowing snowboards on their ski lifts, the popularity of the snurfer waned.

Poppen took up snowboarding at the age of 67. He received recognition from the snowboarding community as the grandfather of the sport and was inducted into the Snowboarding Hall of Fame in Banff, Canada in 1995 and the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

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Scope and Contents note

The Sherman Poppen Papers document the invention of the snurfer and its distribution. The collection is arranged into two series. The collection consists of correspondence, product literature, photographs, books, notes, a scrapbook, newsletters, newspaper and magazine articles, and VHS videocassettes documenting the snurfer. The business and legal materials, 1966-2006, contains correspondence, notes, and legal documents.

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Arrangement note

The collection is divided into two series.

Series 1, History, 1966-2008

Series 2, Business and Legal Materials, 1966-2006

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

Materials at the National Museum of American History

The Division of Culture and the Arts holds artifacts related to this collection. See accession #: 2009.0092.

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Controlled Access Headings

Genre(s)

  • Advertisements--20th century.
  • Business records--1950-2000.
  • Business records--21st century
  • Clippings--20th century
  • Correspondence--20th century
  • Negatives
  • Newsletters--20th century.
  • Patents--20th century
  • Scrapbooks--20th century.
  • Videocassettes

Subject(s)

  • Dolls
  • Inventions--20th century
  • Paper dolls
  • Patents
  • Snowboarding
  • Snurfer
  • Sporting goods industry
  • Sports
  • Toys--20th century
  • Winter sports

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Collection Inventory

 Series 1 : History, 1966-2008, undated

Box Folder

Correspondence, 1968-2008, undated

1 1

Product literature, 1966, undated

1 2

Snurfer newspaper advertisement, 1966

3 3

Photographs, 1966, undated

2 3

Mounted photograph, undated

3 1

Snurfing News (newsletter), 1979

3 2

Magazine clippings, 1979-2008, undated

2 4

Newspaper clippings, 1966-2008, undated

2 5

Newspaper clippings, 1966-2008, undated

3 4

Scrapbook, 1966-1989, undated

3 5

CD-ROMs containing images of some collection material, undated

2 6-10

The Snowboard Book: A Guide for All Boarders (book), 1997

2 11

(Sick) A Cultural History of Snowboarding (book), 1998

2 12
Box Video

Transworld Sport episode (VHS), circa 2003

10-minute segment from the British program that begins 42 minutes into the episode. It highlights Poppen, his invention of the snurfer, and the shift from snurfing to snowboarding. Features footage of Poppen discussing materials in this collection, Poppen snowboarding, and Jake Burton snurfing.

1 OV 1159.1

Invention segment, undated

10-minute segment from the British program that begins 42 minutes into the episode. It highlights Poppen, his invention of the snurfer, and the shift from snurfing to snowboarding. Features footage of Poppen discussing materials in this collection, Poppen snowboarding, and Jake Burton snurfing.

1 OV 1159.2

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 Series 2: Business and Legal Materials, 1968-2006, undated

Box Folder

United States patent documentation, 1966

1 13

Transparencies of patents, undated

3 5

Canadian patent documentation, 1967, 1984

1 14

Similar patents, 1966-1978

1 15

Trademark documentation, 1969, 1980-1988

1 16

Correspondence, 1996-2006

1 17

Correspondence, 1996-2006

2 2-4

Assorted notes, 1966-1970, undated

2 5

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