1928 Underwood Portable 4 Bank #4B96272
Status: My Collection
Created: 01-10-2021 at 12:14PM
Last Edit: 01-10-2021 at 12:14PM
In late 2018, a fellow collector on the west coast of the United States alerted me to this machine for sale at auction, knowing my interests in Russian history. He bought it and then shipped it to me in December, 2018. It is currently on my workbench, as the paper table is missing one of the tabs that holds it to the frame. Once reattached--and the carriage reattached to the body (as it was when I got it)--it should be good to go. Here's some of the history of this unique old-Russian Underwood portable with the Kunst & Albers/Harbin dealer tag.
Kunst & Albers was a German retail chain in the Far East of the Russian Empire when the Trans-Siberian Railway was being built. While the anti-German sentiment of WWI wasn't enough to scare their business out of Russia, the Soviets sure were. Harbin is a major Chinese city in Manchuria with a sizable Russian minority. This is a 1928 Underwood four-bank portable typewriter, manufactured in Hartford, Connecticut.
It has the old, imperial Russian Cyrillic typeface, which predates the Bolshevik orthographic reforms of 1917, even though the machine was manufactured a decade after those reforms.
It has a faded US Customs Service stamp, hand-dated November 19, 1934. And it came with an Orthodox-Church yearbook, printed in the United States, from 1966. In the summer of 2019, I took the machine with me on a research trip to the National Archives in Washington, DC to inquire about the customs stamp, and whether it could be traced back to an individual. They suggested that yes, it would theoretically be possible, but that information would be housed in one of the ancillaries in the port city into which it came, which--given its provenance--could be pretty much any major city up and down the west coast. Or east coast, for that matter.
Hunter: Mark Schrad (MLSchrad)
Status: Typewriter Hunter
Associate Professor of Political Science at Villanova University. Writes about alcohol politics, Russia, and international law when not refurbishing old typewriters.
RESEARCH NOTE: When researching the Underwood Portable 4 Bank on a computer with lots of screen real estate, you may find that launching the Underwood Serial Number page and the Underwood Portable 4 Bank By Model/Year/Serial page in new browser windows can give you interesting perspectives on changes throughout the model series.
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