How to Identify an Underwood Typewriter

Written by frances burks
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How to Identify an Underwood Typewriter
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Franz Wagner and his brother patented a front-stroke typewriter in 1894 that later became known as the Underwood when John Underwood bought the company. While the machine wasn't the first front-stroke typewriter, it became the most successful design that dominated the industry in its day.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Look for the company name on the typewriter. It was prominently displayed on many models. For example, the Underwood 5 has the company name written in large gold letters on the carriage plate where the paper is rolled into the typewriter. It's displayed a second time in gold letters above the keys.

  2. 2

    Check the serial number. Some collector websites show Underwood serial numbers assigned to some models along with the corresponding dates they were issued. Because of the success of the Underwood 5, hundreds of thousands were made. It's believed that the last known serial number issued for that model was 3,885,000.

  3. 3

    Examine an Underwood 5 to see whether the type would be readily visible on a piece of paper with the machine in use. In the early 1900s, Underwood ads noted this front-stroke capability. Other companies made machines without this capability, and the typist had to lift up the carriage before he could see what he had typed.

  4. 4

    See if a Wagner Typewriter Co. label is on a machine if the Underwood name is not visible. While such early typewriters are rare, this label would appear on models No. 1 and No. 2 and carry the last name of the Underwood creator.

  5. 5

    Note whether the typewriter has four banks of keys, as Underwoods should. In addition, the Underwood 4 should be able to type 76 characters, and the popular Underwood 5 can type 84 characters.

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