Granite State Stories: N.H. man patents the Snowmobile

  • The Colebrook railroad station showing a Ford Model T snowmobile in a painting by Arch McDonnell, 1972. Courtesy of N.H. Historical Society

Published: 1/30/2018 5:33:09 PM

Frustrated with trying to operate his Model T in the winter weather, West Ossipee Ford dealer Virgil D. White invented a conversion kit that allowed the car to travel in deep snow.

White was the first to coin the term “snowmobile” and patented both the kit and the phrase in 1917.

Five years later, he began producing and marketing the kits to an eager public, and his factory ultimately produced about 25,000 for a national market.

The kits replaced the Model T’s front wheels with wooden skis and added a second set of wheels and caterpillar tracks with metal cleats to the rear.

Although most Granite Staters today drive snowmobiles as a winter hobby, they were a necessity for country doctors, milkmen, fire departments and mail carriers, as towns didn’t start plowing roads until the late 1920s.

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