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24-10-2018 21:31:41  #1

The mystery of the Underwoods

I was checking the typewriter database, particularly the different galleries of the Underwood standard typewriters of late 40's and 50's. I found curious that many entries of the models SS, Rhythm Touch, and SX-100 show machines that look pretty much the same, or with features that appear irregularly in some exemplars of the mentioned models.

So, my questions are, Is this phenomena a case of several classification mistakes in the database?, Are there differences, even internal ones, between the mentioned models?, Is it possible to track the precise model by the serial number?


25-10-2018 11:06:32  #2

Re: The mystery of the Underwoods

You've used Underwood as an example, but similar situations can be found in other manufacturers' serial numbers within the Database too. 

The problem is that we don't have a definitive list of model names for every manufacturer. Typewriter collectors have had to work backwards using a variety of sources to create lists of the various models that the manufacturers produced. In some cases the names are internal model identifiers gleaned from manufacturer documentation. In other cases the name is simply taken from the badging used on the typewriter, what it was referred to in advertising, or from period reference books. The worst case, and something I'm opposed to, is when collectors arbitrarily create model names. 

To answer your first question, many typewriters manufactured as part of a series of machines look similar. There is typically a base model, which is given one name, and then feature variants of that model, each with their own names too. Two machines may look identical, but because one might have touch control (for example) and the other doesn't, they are in fact two different models.

In the case of Underwood standards from the two decades you mentioned, I've been working on my own list of models based on the documentation that I've come across and the machines I own, and it doesn't completely jive with the Database. Some of the identifying names differ, but the models are likely the same: 
Underwood Model 6
Underwood Master
Underwood Master S
Underwood Rhythm Touch
Underwood Rhythm Touch Deluxe
Underwood  SX150
Underwood Touchmaster I
Underwood Touchmaster II

With respect to the Database, Ted, its owner, has done a phenomenal job compiling all the loose bits of information that are brought to him by collectors. The Database is a work in progress, and I think its accuracy is steadily improving; however, the trick is to remember that it's a best-guess reference by contemporary enthusiasts, and not a tablet chiseled in stone by the companies that used to make these machines. Some of the data is rock solid, some of it hazy, but it gives collectors a starting point when discussing the history of makes and models.

25-10-2018 17:21:40  #3

Re: The mystery of the Underwoods

The database is a priceless tool, most of what I have learned was just exploring exploring and reading the different entries.

However as the mystery remains, I will investigate further and come back with any finding that might be useful as a reference for a precise identification of the models, of course everything would be open to discussion.

     Thread Starter

25-10-2018 19:37:49  #4

Re: The mystery of the Underwoods

It does happen that people create personal galleries that contain mistakes, whether it be the wrong model or manufacture year. Ted, and those who frequent the Database, catch most of them, but sometimes there are a few that fall between the cracks.

Not sure what the mystery is. Underwood standards are a fairly well-known entity. Perhaps if you were to reference the specific entries (and by entries I'm assuming you're talking about those aforementioned galleries), then we could have a look and see what you're wondering about.

26-10-2018 22:16:36  #5

Re: The mystery of the Underwoods

Well, speaking of the galleries, allow me to share what I have found so far.

First the Underwood Rhythm Touch. As far I understand, it came out in 1948.
The key features I could identify were the plastic keytops, rounded or "tombstone" shaped, and the long returning lever. The galleries seem to be quite homogeneous for this model. However, now I wonder what would be the difference with the Rhythm Touch Deluxe.

In 1953 appeared the SX series. I understand that there was some transitional model that did look pretty much the same as the Rhythm Touch, the SX-100 apparently (?). Later changed to the SX-150 (?) with a new design for the shape, margin sets, and the quite conspicuous front logo of the company.  Eventually seems it transitioned to the Golden Touch, which gave place to the touch master and the type master as the later generations.

Where things get fuzzy for me is with the earlier generation, the SS.
I see the earlier machines of this model look pretty similar to the Rhythm Touch but with the classic short return lever.

The late exemplars in the SS galleries are what make me wonder if they might actually be misclassified  Rhythm Touch, or if there was a transition to this model which had the new lever but retained for some time the SS name. 

I would gladly appreciate any correction or further information of what I have exposed so far. I was intrigued for the topic as I actually had the chance to get what it seems to be a Rhythm Touch, however I am still awaiting for it's arrival.

     Thread Starter

29-10-2018 12:45:55  #6

Re: The mystery of the Underwoods

I continue to be puzzled by the Underwoods of this period as well. For instance, I really do not know what the difference is between the S and SS, unless it's a change to molded plastic keytops. But both are essentially the same as far as I can tell -- carriage shift design.

The Rhythm Touch as I understand it was a change in design to a segment shift machine. The longer line spacing lever came at the same time, but wasn't connected to the shift mechanism change.

With the SX models came, I think, a change to a different spool design and ribbon reversing mechanism -- gone are the universal spools and the grommets on the ribbon, and in its place is basically the Remington mechanism, though on some of the later machines there were special spools (unlike for the "spool-less" classic Remington design). I have what I believe is an SX-150 and the spool compartment has a notation to use the "150" spools, whatever they are -- I find that the spoolless Remington ribbon works fine. The new ribbon reverse mechanism carried forward to the later Touchmaster machines.


06-1-2020 18:40:42  #7

Re: The mystery of the Underwoods

I recently acquired a 1954 UNDERWOOD Model SX-150 with the 12 CPI 'Elite' typeface. The machine's serial number is: 11- 7529815... I believe that the prefix of '11' denotes the width of the typewriter's platen. The type slugs bear the code of "DE' on them. In May of 2019, I saw my first photo of an UNDERWOOD SX-150, and I immediately fell for its iconic emblem on this model's front cover, and that set me off on an unexpected 7-month search to acquire a SX-150. Since acquiring the machine, I have had no luck at all in finding an Instruction Manual, Service Manual, or even any advertisement for this machine.  There simply does not seem to be any literature specific to the SX-150 out there. 


07-1-2020 12:53:53  #8

Re: The mystery of the Underwoods

15-2-2020 17:09:24  #9

Re: The mystery of the Underwoods

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