As you know, it is quite easy to find an Underwood 5. Over 3.5 million were made to last forever, and most of them still do. Because of space limitations, my collection can't be too big, but of course it has to include "the most successful typewriter design in history". With so many Underwoods around it is quite hard to make a choice. I waited and waited, till the "perfect" Underwood 5 would show up.
Last week I thought I was lucky. On the internet I found an Underwood 5, with serial number 2815-5. This early number indicates that the machine was made during the first year of the production period (1900-1931). It also had a Dutch dealer sticker, and I like to have machines in my collection that were actually used in The Netherlands. The sticker could hardly be from the period (1901), as synthetic adhesives were only used from the 1920s onwards. Well, I thought, that would be something to find out later about.
According to the Yahoo Typewriter forum, the very early Underwood 5's were made by the Wagner Typewriter Company - the inventors of the first Underwood. Franz Xavier Wagner and his son invented the linkage between the typebar and the key lever and related this to the principle of the segment and type guide. This way, they devised the idea of a segment and bars - an idea which has been incorporated in all successful standard and portable typewriters ever since (Beeching 1974, p. 26).
After some negotiation about the price (30 euros), I was finally able to get the machine. Unfortunately, the owner had bought it at a thrift store, so he knew nothing about its history. Back home, I started to clean the machine...
|After cleaning. Notice the left shift key has been replaced by a French one.|
To my surprise, a regular Underwood decal appeared! No mention is made to the Wagner Typewriter Company. I was baffled at first, but some closer inspection of the serial number revealed the mystery:
|2815-5 or 42815-5. Quite a difference!|