S. NEWMAN DARBY WINDSURFING COLLECTION, 1944-1998
(2.5 cubic feet: 5 DB; 1 F/O; 1(.5) F/O; 1 O/S Fldr.)
by: Laura Zelasnic, August 1999
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-) was born in West Pittston, Pa. 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.
Scope & Content Note
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 arranged into six series: Series 1: Biographical Materials, 1969-1982; Series 2: Inventions and Designs, 1953-1990; Series 3: Darby Industries Inc., 1982-83; Series 4: History of Windsurfing, 1970-1984; Series 5: Photographs, 1946-1997; and Series 6: Audio-Visual Materials, 1965-1997.
SERIES 1: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 1969-1982
This series consists of a resume Darby wrote c. 1969, the syllabus and notes for a Sailing course he taught in 1982 and drawings and designs by other family members. Other biographical materials can be found in Series 5: Photographs, 1946-1997, Series 4: History of Windsurfing, 1970-1984 and Series 6: Audio-Visual Materials, 1965-1997.
SERIES 2: INVENTIONS AND DESIGNS, 1953-1990
Contains sketches, mechanical drawings and written documentation for concepts and invention prototypes produced by S. Newman Darby. Materials related to the invention of the sailboard, its publication in Popular Science in 1965 and Darby's subsequent development of the form as well as the innovative rigs he designed for other manufacturers are here. There are the original mechanical drawings for the first sailboard plans. His graphic designs are presented in materials for the Darby 12 model sailboards. A list of retail outlets for windsurfers c. 1983 is located in the marketing folder. Some photographs of individual pieces can be found in this series but most are found in Series 5: Photographs, 1946-1997.
SERIES 3: DARBY INDUSTRIES, INC., 1982-1983
Materials consist of financial and other data related to the Darby's businesses. The Product Line Subseries contains a prospectus with original brochures for all Darby products from 1964 through 1983. The contract materials contain the rig designs that Darby produced for Horizon Marine Enterprises and other companies.
SERIES 4: HISTORY OF WINDSURFING, 1970-1998
This series includes the notebooks and typescripts of S. Newman Darby's recollections and observations on the history and techniques of the "free sail system" of windsurfing. It also contains his many original drawings to illustrate what was to be two books on the subject and created to illustrate his pivotal testimonies during the years of challenges to the Windsurfing International patent from 1975 to 1984. Much of this material reappears as visual aids in the "Windsurfing from the Beginning" videocassette in Series 6. Legal materials included in this series are: all of the patents pertinent to the disputes, correspondence between the challenging attorneys and Darby, copies of affidavits and testimonies and a diary of his legal participation (1977-1981).
The Defendant's Binder of S. Newman Darby Documents contains photocopies of all photographs, brochures and newspaper coverage that support Darby's claim to prior art in the dispute. Other items in this series are newspaper and magazine interviews with or about Darby and a multipartite, illustrated series in American Windsurfer reaffirming S. Newman Darby's contribution for the next generation of windsurfers. Much of the material is annotated in the margins by Darby.
SERIES 5: PHOTOGRAPHS, 1946-1997The photographs in this series are biographical and documentary. Most of them were taken by Naomi Darby and are annotated by S. Newman Darby. These annotations contain information fundamental to identifying inventions and people involved in Darby's biography.
SERIES 6: AUDIO-VISUAL MATERIALS, 1965-1997
This series contains the 8 mm film of S. Newman Darby sail boarding created by Naomi Darby in 1965. It also includes an unedited version of "Windsurfing From the Beginning", an original videotape made by Newman Darby in 1997 which examines his role in the history of the sport and the theory and practice behind some of his subsequent inventions. S. Newman Darby's handwritten script, illustrations made specially for the production, and a sales prospectus are also included.
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. Additional materials were donated by Kenneth Darby on November 17, 1997.
The Division of Cultural History at NMAH houses artifacts relating to S. Newman Darby and his invention of the windsurfer, including an original board, boom and mast, and sail dating from 1964. An original sailboard, rig, mast and daggerboard from the same period are also housed in the Pennsylvania State Museum at Harrisburg.Container List
by: Laura Zelasnic, August 1999
Revised: February 23, 2010