(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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


The 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.


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.

Related Materials

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
Box Folder
1 1 Series 1: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 1969-1981
2 Subseries 1: Darby Dory, 1953-1959
F/O-1 1 Darby Dory Drawings, n.d.
1 3 Subseries 2: Catamarans, 1961-1983
4 Subseries 3: Folding Boat, 1965
  4A Subseries 3A: Hinged Boat, 1961
F/O-1 1 Subseries 4: Camper-Sailboard, 1970-1983
1 5 Subseries 5: Motorized Craft, 1965-1983
6 Subseries 6: Boomerang Rowing Seat for Canoe, 1969
O/S Fldr 1 Blueprint 3-001: Boomerang Rowing Seat for Canoe, n.d.
1 7 Subseries 7: Buoyant Skeg,1977
8 Subseries 8: Sailboat Hulls,1977
9 Subseries 9: Swinging Bowsprit,1977
10 Subseries 10: Pedal Boat,1977-1983
11 Subseries 11: Booms, 1977-1985
F/O-1 1 Single Booms, n.d.
1 12 Subseries 12: Daggerboards,1982
Subseries 13: Sailboards,1964-1982
13 Darby Sailboard Disclosure, 1965
O/S Fldr 1 Sailboard and Sail Rig, 3-002
O/S Fldr 1 Sail Details, 3-003,1964
1 14 Darby Sailboard Kit, 1972-1978
F/O-1 1 Sailboard and Sailrig-Popular Science Project Plan No. 5552, 1972
1 15 Darby Sailboard Instruction Manual, 1965
16 Darby Sailboard Sales Brochure, 1965
17 Popular Science Article, 1965
18 Catamaran Sailboard, 1977
19 Darby 12 Instructions Copyright, 1982-1983
O/S Fldr 1 Sailboard Construction Instructions, c. 1982
O/S Fldr 1 Instructions for Spruce Boom, 1982
1 20 Daggerboard Cuts, 1983
21 Specifications and Test Results, 1983
22 Marketing, 1983
23 Product Suppliers, 1983
24 Product Information, 1983
F/O-1 2 Mechanical Drawings for Darby 12, Sales Brochure 1982
1 25 Sailboard Hulls, 1970-1977
F/O-1 1 NRK-1, NRK-2 Sailboard Hulls, 1982
F/O-1 1 Plywood Sheet Sailboard, 1982
1 26 Folding Ballast Kheel Sailboard, n.d.
F/O-1 1 SP-2 Sailboard, n.d.
1 27 Trimaran Sailboard, n.d.
F/O-1 1 V-Bottom Sailboard, n.d.
1 28 Sailboard Simulator, 1982
O/S Fldr 1 Sailboard Simulator Exploded Drawings, n.d.
2 1-2 Subseries 14:Variable Trimaran, 1979
F/O-1 1 Variable Trimaran Sketches and Mechanical Drawings, 1979
Subseries 15: Stagger Hull Trimaran, 1982-1983
O/S Fldr 1 Stagger Hull Trimaran Drawings, 1982-1983
F/O-1 1 Stagger Hull Trimaran Drawings, 1982-1983
2 4 Subseries 16: Steam Jet Boat, 1982
5 Subseries 17: Rocking Chair Catamaran, 1983
6 Subseries 18: Sailboard Control Spar, 1985
7 Subseries 19: Side Step Hull, 1988-1990
8 Subseries 20: Amphibious Craft, n.d.
9 Subseries 21: Boomerang Rowing Seat for Sailboards, n.d.
10 Subseries 22: Combination Planing Foil and Boarding Ladder, n.d.
11 Subseries 23: Pick-Up Truck Yacht, n.d.
F/O-1 1 Pickup Truck Yacht Sketches, n.d.
1 Subseries 24: Sailboat-Sailboard Combination, n.d.
Subseries 25: Rigs, 1964-1983
2 12 Double Mast Sailing, 1977-1981
13 Kites, 1964-1983
14 Sloops, 1969-1981
O/S Fldr 1 Instructions for Sloop III Rig, 1982
O/S Fldr 1 SR-1 with jib traveler, 1981
2 15 Lateens, 1979-1981
F/O-1 1 Bowed Luft Split Lateen, 1981
F/O-1 1 Lateen Rig with Swivel Nylon Rope, n.d.
2 16 Adjustable Sailboard Jib, 1981
17 SR-2, 1981
18 Schooner, 1983
19 Genoas, n.d.
20 Chinese Junk, n.d.
21 Subseries 26: Miscellaneous Ideas, 1958-1982
O/S Fldr 1 VTOL and VTOW Jet Transport
2 22 Subseries 1: Correspondence, 1966-1983
23 Subseries 2: Financial Data, 1982-83
24 Subseries 3: Hahsa, 1983
25 Subseries 4: Contracts, 1981-1982
O/S Fldr 1 Darby Industries Signage, 1965-1967?
2 26 Subseries 5: NRK, Inc., 1982
27 Subseries 6: Product Line, 1965-1983
Subseries 1: Competitions, 1978-1987
3 1 Olympic Sailboard Selection Materials, 1981
2 World Cup Hawaii, 1978
3 Subseries 2: U.S.B.S.A. Material, 1981-1987
Subseries 3: Manuscripts, 1977-1983
4 Chronological Diary/Inventor's Notebook, 1977-1979
5 History of the Free Sail System Sailboard- Notebooks, 1982-1983
6 History of the Free Sail System Sailboard, Notes and Revisions, 1983
7 Riding the Wind and Waves: The Story of Sailboarding, 1983
8 Illustrated Narrative; Figures 1-2, c. 1983
9 Notes, 1982
Subseries 4: Patent Litigation, 1975-1984
10 Clippings, 1980-1983
11-12 Correspondence, 1975-1984
4 1 Court Decisions, 1982
2 Defendant's Binder of S. Newman Darby Documents, 1980
3 Exhibits, c. 1980
4 Record of Darby Participation, 1977-1982
5 Ernstfried Prade Patent, 1978
6 Hoyle Schweitzer Patent, 1970
7 Hoyle Schweitzer Reissue Petition and Patent, 1978
8 Related Patents, 1944-1979
Subseries 5: Publications, 1965-1998
F/O-1 4 American Windsurfer, 1996-1998
4 9 Clippings, 1965-1997
10 Correspondence, 1972-1996
11 Magazine Articles, 1983-1990
F/O-1 3 Sailboard News, 1983-87
Ski Business, Feb. 1983
5 1-2 Subseries 1: Biographical Photographs, 1946-1997
3 Subseries 2: Boats, 1947-1963
4-5 Subseries 3: Booms, 1960-1990





Subseries 4: Other Inventions, 1944; 1948; 1962; c.1978-1980
7-9 Subseries 5: Rigs, c. 1965-1980s
Mistral Rigs, c. 1979
10 Subseries 6: Sailboard Development, 1961-1965
11 Subseries 7: Sailboards, 1971-1997
12 Subseries 8: Side Step Hull, 1988-1990
4 Slides, 1964-1997
5 Windsurfing From the Beginning, Prospectus, 1997
6 Windsurfing From the Beginning, Script, 1997
7 Windsurfing From the Beginning, Illustrations, 1997
OF 625.1 Darby Sailboarding Demonstration , 1965
MV 625.1 Darby Sailboarding Demonstration , 1965
RV 625.1 Windsurfing From the Beginning, Videotape, 1997 (2 copies)
RV 625.2 Darby Sailboarding Demonstration , 1965

by:  Laura Zelasnic, August 1999
revised: Alison Oswald, February 2010


E-mail: archivescenter@si.edu
Revised:  February 23, 2010