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Friday 28 July 2023

On This Day 120 Years Ago: The Underwood 5 Standard Typewriter Shift-Lock

I’ve been asked to service before sale this 1903 (serial #302981) Underwood 5. It’s history includes a thorough rebuild in the 1920s or 30s by an Elizabeth Street, Sydney, outfit called Typewriter Trading Co.

The Underwood is pretty close to being immaculate for its age, but I’m intrigued by the lack of a shift lock key. The right shift key automatically activates the lock, which is a lever with a small black knob on top.

I’ve looked at a 1908 Underwood 5 (#231413) on Ted Munk’s database and it appears to have the same arrangement. I also looked into Underwood 5 patents and noted that 120 years ago on this day, July 28, 1903, Edward Manning and Oscar Kavle were granted a patent for “an improved shift-key mechanism [which] has particular reference to the device for locking the platen in its upper position …”

This is clearly for the shift-lock key with which most of us are more familiar. So I'm guessing the earliest Underwood 5s didn't have a shift-lock key, but the lever instead. There are also one or two other tiny differences from the later model Underwood 5s I’m more used the working with.