The Underwood Typewriter was created through the genus of a German-American inventor named Franz X. Wagner and the first underwood typewriter was produced for the Wagner Typewriter Company. The actual “Underwood” name comes from John T. Underwood, who was funding and eventually purchased Wagner’s company early in its history.
The first production typewriter was produced in 1865 and went into full production in 1870. It was created by Rev. Rasmus Malling-Hansen of Denmark. He invented what was referred to as the Hansen Writing Ball. It look nothing like what people refer to as a typewriter, looking more spherical in shape.
In 1874, Underwood started a manufacturing company producing ribbon and carbon paper and one of their clients was E. Remington and Sons. When Remington started producing ribbons and carbon paper themselves, Underwood made the jump into the typewriter business funding the Wagner Typewriter Company, which eventually became Underwood. In the 1960’s the company was sold to Olivetti, but the story of the Underwood typewriter continues.
The first typewriters produced under Wagner/Underwood where in 1896 and 1900, these early typewriters had “Wagner Typewriter Co.” printed on the back. When looking for Underwood Typewriters, finding a model # 1 or 2 is an amazing find indeed. There were only about 12,000 of these models produced, so they are very rare. Later versions, like the one I purchased (Model 6-11), were made in the early 1930’s can be found for $50-$200 depending on condition. My fiance (Kathleen), purchased mine for $50, which is a heck of a deal considering the condition it was in.
Shown in this article is the Underwood typewriter model 6-11. The number 6 and 11 are displayed to the left and right of the Underwood logo.
Underwood Typewriter – Determining Age and Value
The Underwood typewriters are the quintessential antiques for collectors. Millions of Underwood typewriters were produced in the early 20th century. The least common among these are the Underwood No. 1 and No. 2 models. Roughly 12,000 No. 1 and No. 2 models where made between 1896 and 1900. Underwood Models No. 3, 4, and 5 were produced between 1900 – 1932.
Determining the age and model number can be really important when trying to figure out price and how much the typewriter might be worth.
Underwood typewriters came in two forms, open frame and closed frame. Open frame simply means that your able to see the inner workings of the typewriter. If it’s closed frame, the mechanical mechanisms are closed from view and covered by a sheet of metal. The Open-framed underwood typewriters date from 1900 to the 1930s. There counter parts, closed frame models, were produced from the 1930’s onward.
The Underwood typewriters used various serial numbers to distinguish the various years and makes. The serial number should be located under the typewriter’s carriage.
- 1900 – 100
- 1901 – 1000
- 1903 – 10000
- 1904 – 50000
- 1905 – 100000
- 1906 – 150000
- 1907 – 200000
- 1909 – 1912 – 247500 and 450000
- 1913 – 1917 – 551000 and 940000
- 1918 – 1925 – 1050000 to 1910000
- 1925 – 1931 – 2070000 to 3825000
When inspecting the Underwood typewriter, make sure the typewriter performs as expected, that is unless you want it for show and don’t care if it functions. I picked up this Underwood typewriter for $50, but had to spend an extra $50 to get it in good working order.
The problem I ran into was the carriage strap that connects to the motor was made from cotton that probably had deteriorated, torn and probably fell off. The old typewriter models almost always have issues with these at some point during their life span. Sometimes it is as simple as reattaching the strap. Other times, you can sew torn straps back together. In my case the carriage strap was completely missing. You may be able to rig something up that would work, but it sometimes is a crap shoot.
Next time your out on your Antique Outing, look for an Underwood Typewriter, you may find a great deal on one.
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