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1942 Underwood Universal

Serial #F1537766

I've had this Underwood for a while. What prompted me to dig it out, clean it up, and catalog it is that I couldn't remember what shape it was in, and the appearance of a Really Nice one on a certain auction site today compelled me to "talk myself down". I wasn't disappointed.

The important thing about this particular typewriter – to me – is that it came with one of those Inspector Gadget-esque cases that transforms into a wonderful typing table. Aside from some cruft on the legs (which seems more like oxidation than dirt) and some of the deterioration you'd expect in the foam-rubber parts, it's in really nice shape.

All I had to do is clean it. It could probably benefit from some cleaning and rejuvenation of its lubricants, but it types just fine as it is. The "cleaning" part was not a "deep" effort, a bit half-assed, really, but it was enough to remove much of the nicotine film that coated it. I use Windex and paper towels for that, something I discovered works well cleaning up slide rules without (necessarily) removing any decals or etched/painted markings, so it's what I use for first-level (surface) cleaning of typewriters.

Due to its pairing with the table-case, this one would be a good candidate for a more thorough job using Scrubbing Bubbles on the cowling and some light wax on the keys to shine 'em up good.

The serial number dates this near the end of the 1942 manufacturing run, just before Underwood ceased production from 1943 until 1946. Serial number 1441000 begins 1942 and 1550000 begins 1946. There's no way to tell from the serial number alone how close to the haitus it was manufactured, but the gap between serial numbers is 38,000 in 1941, 92,000 in 1940, 96,000 in 1939, 95,000 in 1938, and 77,000 in 1937.

At s/n 1537766, that seems to place mine at the 96,766th manufactured in 1942. It's possible that Underwood accelerated manufacturing that year in anticipation of the hiatus (though that's simple conjecture on my part). It does seem reasonable that this one was among the last manufactured until production resumed four years later, however, the next serial number in the TWDB for a Universal is 1579677 dated 1946, a separation from my 1942 of 41,911.

Here are the Unversals in the TWDB as of this writing (I presumed "F" in some cases):

1942 Underwood Universal Serial #D 29 749 (U.S. Navy "Mill")
1942 Underwood Universal Serial #F1537766
1946 Underwood Universal Serial #F1579677
1946 Underwood Universal Serial #F1621608
1946 Underwood Universal Serial #F1651169
1946 Underwood Universal Serial #F1634630

But the case – the case is so freaking cool! I've included lots of pictures showing how they managed to fit such long, sturdy legs into a "secret compartment" that adds just 1-1/4" to the width of a typewriter case with no change to the other dimensions. And the locks that secure the legs in both the folded and unfolded positions are robust: thick metal, spring-loaded tabs that you know should last into the next century.

It's a great typewriter in a great case, and I'm very glad to have one.

Owned By: Dan Johnson

Username: rdj
Status: Typewriter Hunter
Points: 898
Galleries: 58
Collection: 58
Sightings: 0

I have always loved typewriters along with other kinds of well-engineered tools and devices such as slide rules, calculators (particular HP), radios, cameras (particularly Nikons), and microscopes. In addition to appreciating their intrinsic beauty and utility, they represent "things that need to be figured out to be understood". That's how I first learned about computers and programming in the 1970s, by figuring things out for myself. It's activity in which I never seem to tire of engaging.

Although communities have arisen around other collection interests, typewriters have the advantage that those who use them also typically enjoy communicating through words, whether those words are about the machines themselves or their lives, hopes, dreams, or expressions of beauty. There's much to be appreciated here.

1942 Underwood Universal Type Sample


1942 Underwood Universal Photo Gallery

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