The Underwood Typewriter was the first widely successful, modern typewriter. It pulled together the two main design elements that would be found on all later machines, a four-row keyboard with front strike type-bars, giving visible typing. The Underwood was not the first to offer these essential features, but it was by far the best engineered machine to have done so by 1896.
Franz Wagner, a German immigrant, sold his invention to the John Underwood & Co., a major supplier of typewriter ribbons. The first model, shown above, still maintained Wagner’s name stenciled onto the back of the frame. The Underwood Model No. 5 remained remained in production from 1900 to the early 1930’s, making it the “Singer Sewing machine of typewriters”, with many machines surviving.
Over the next ten years all blind-writers (understrike) and index typewriters would be dropped from the market. The Wild West of typewriters was over!
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