Underwood Standard No. 5

Typewriters, thanks to hipsters, are coming back into style.  In some cases, it’s cool now to use a typewriter instead of a computer, and in some lucrative, and expensive, circumstances, you could even have a typewriter base that hooks up to your ipad.  Even I have fallen into this typewriter craze.  But I think I’ve always had a fascination with typewriters, because my mother had this hulking piece of metal hidden away in our basement for as long as I can remember:


I can distinctly remember banging away on its little circular frosted keys (which, I’m positive, are not supposed to be frosted, but hey, it adds character), hearing the clickety-clack as the metal keys jump forward to hit the typewriter ribbon. And for all you youngsters out there who have never tried a typewriter-you have to press the buttons down a lot harder than you would think!


My grandmother received this typewriter as a gift from her boss in the early 1960s. My grandma never used it, and eventually gave it to my mom in the 1990s, because my mom wanted to volunteer for an elementary school, but couldn’t afford a typewriter. (My family was late on the whole computer bandwagon.  We didn’t get our first computer until 2000…Internet didn’t come to the Greene household until 2001 or so…)

My mom has no idea where my grandma’s boss got the typewriter, and he didn’t buy it new.  The serial number located on the right hand side, just below the carriage, reads ‘896522.’  This means that the typewriter was made in 1916!  The gold printing on the back confirms this, listing all models made from 1900 up to 1915.

Underwood began making typewriters in 1896, after patenting typewriter ribbon.  But when another company decided to make ribbon instead of buying from Underwood, Underwood designed and created its own model of typewriter, starting with The Standard No. 1. The Standard No. 5, running from 1900 to 1931, became the most common typewriter for typists, selling nearly 4 million models! It was sturdy and provided the ability to see the type without lifting any part of the machine, unlike some earlier models.  It was not the first to do this, but still, Underwood typewriters quickly gained popularity, and produced an iconic design which almost every other typewriter copied up until 1961.



left side

right side


Despite the ratty typewriter tape (it was in a tangled mess in the carriage when I lugged it from home), it still works!

My plans for it now?  Perhaps one day soon I’ll type out some lovely letters.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, I am technically a hipster.  And I’m ok with that.

Want to know more about collecting typewriters?  Here’s two cool blogs:

M., Bill. Fountain Pens & Typewriters. http://offountainpenstypewriters.blogspot.com/

Messenger, Robert. ozTypewriter: The World of Typewriters 1714-2014. http://oztypewriter.blogspot.com/.

Further Reading about the Underwood Standard No. 5:

Messenger, Robert. ‘On This Day in Typewriter History.’ ozTypewriter: The World of Typewriters 1714-2014. 3 July 2011. Web. 30 May 2013 http://oztypewriter.blogspot.com/2011/07/on-this-day-in-typewriter-history-xliv.html.

Robert, Paul. ‘Underwood 5.’ The Virtual Typewriter Museum. 30 May 2013. Web. 30 May 2013 http://www.typewritermuseum.org/collection/index.php3?machine=underwood5&cat=kf#.

Polt, Richard. ‘Underwood No. 5.’ The Classic Typewriter Page. 19 August 2012. Web. 30 May 2013 http://site.xavier.edu/polt/typewriters/underwood5.html.

Early Office Museum. “Antique Office Typewriters.” Early Office Museum. 22 November 2012. Web. 10 June 2013 http://www.officemuseum.com/typewriters_office_models.htm



Filed under 1910s

4 responses to “Underwood Standard No. 5

  1. Pingback: Patterned Portrait | Blue Ridge Vintage

  2. Kari

    Hey I just bought a 1916 No 5 this wknd! I learned how to type on an old manual typewriter and am excited about the trip down memory lane tapping away at the old keys. The ribbon in the one I bought is dead were you able to source a ribbon that fits yours?

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