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Underwood Typewriter Company
Type Private company
Founded 1895
Founder(s) John T. Underwood
Headquarters United States New York City, New York, USA
Key people Franz X. Wagner,
"Front strike" Inventor
John T. Underwood,
Industry Business machines
Products Typewriters

The Underwood Typewriter Company was a manufacturer of typewriters headquartered in New York City, New York. Underwood produced what is considered the first widely successful, modern typewriter.[1] By 1939, Underwood had produced five million machines.



From 1874 the Underwood family made typewriter ribbons and carbon paper, and were among a number of firms who produced these goods for Remington. When Remington decided to start producing ribbons themselves, the Underwoods apparently decided to get into the business of manufacturing typewriters.

The original Underwood typewriter was invented by German-American Franz X. Wagner, who showed it to entrepreneur John T. Underwood. Underwood supported Wagner and bought the company, recognising the importance of the machine. Underwood No. 1 and No. 2s, made between 1896 and 1900, had "Wagner Typewriter Co." printed on the back.

Underwood started adding addition and subtraction devices to their typewriters in about 1910.

In the years before World War II, Underwood built the world's largest type writer in an attempt to promote itself. The typewriter was on display at Garden Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey for several years and attracted large crowds. Often, Underwood would have a young woman sitting on each of the large keys. The enormous typewriter was scrapped for metal when the war started.[2]

During World War II Underwood produced M1 carbines for the war effort.

Olivetti bought a controlling interest in Underwood in 1959, and completed the merger in October 1963, becoming known in the US as Olivetti-Underwood with headquarters in New York City, and entering the electromechanical calculator business. The Underwood name last appeared on Olivetti portable typewriters produced in Spain in the 80s.

Underwood in pop culture

  • "Actors? Schmucks. Screenwriters? Schmucks with Underwoods." - attributed to Jack Warner[3]
  • An Underwood typewriter is featured on Fionn Regan's 2006 album The End of History.
  • The poem Underwood Girls by Pedro Salinas is a modernist description of the typewriter's letters as an ode to the potential of words and potential of creationism in the language through the work of the symbols.
  • An Underwood typewriter is used by the main character in the 2001 musical film Moulin Rouge!
  • The main character in the television show Murder, She Wrote, Jessica Fletcher began her writing career using an Underwood Typewriter.
  • An Underwood typewriter is also used by Joan Crawford's character, Blanche Hudson, in the 1962 film Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
  • David James Duncan features a scene in his book The Brothers K in which the main character places a piece of wood on top of an Underwood No.5 to make it type better.
  • In To Kill a Mockingbird, the character "Mr. Underwood" is known to type on a typewriter all day long.
  • A book entitled Atop an Underwood: Early Stories and Other Writings was printed by the Viking Press in 1991 and is an anthology of American Beat writer Jack Kerouac's early work.
  • An Underwood typewriter is featured in the Australian cartoon film Mary and Max,where Max,in New York City, used that typewriter to write to Mary,in Australia.
  • In the video game BioShock all typewriters in the game bear the comical name "Below Tree," of course referencing the famous Underwood brand.



  1. ^ Antique Typewriters - Underwood 1
  2. ^ McLain, Bill. What Makes Flamingo's Pink. New York, New York, 2001.
  3. ^


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