Monday, September 27, 2010

Underwood Typewriter Company

Today's picture is from the early 1900's, and shows the exterior of the Underwood Typewriter Company. I love the old delivery truck.

I enjoyed all the comments yesterday about typewriters. It is definitely an era that is coming to an end, but it sounds like there are still a few typewriters being used out there.

The picture below show the interior of the building above.

I find the layout of the office interesting. First, there appears to be a lot of empty space. The desks are spaced out pretty far and there is a large hallway between the rows of desks.

This is another room from the same building.

Again, the people are working in a "bullpen" area, with no dividing walls. Today, I think cubicles are more the norm. Cubicles create the opportunity for people to goof off at work . . . personal phone calls, surfing the WEB, reading magazines, playing tetris and so forth. I wonder if there was more or less goofing off in the office back then. I would bet overall less. 


  1. We have a typewriter exactly like the one in yesterday's - it’s been completely refurbished and is in perfect operating condition. It’s currently serving as a desk ornament.

    It belonged to my mother - her father bought it (used) for her in 1938 when she graduated from high school and attended the Katharine Gibbs Secretarial School in Providence, RI.

    For over 60 years, this typewriter sat covered and dusty in the basements of our houses. For some reason, it survived the 1964 move from the first house we lived in (which had been built by our grandfather and was our mother’s childhood home) to the house my father still lives in today. I remember being down in the cellar on rainy days and playing with it as a child.

    After my mother passed away last year, my dad brought it out; took it to our local typewriter repair shop (yes, those places still exist); and had it completely restored.

    My sister is a newspaper reporter and he thought it would make a nice gift for her - but she left it with my dad for safekeeping. It looks brand new.

    My dad has a couple of other old electric typewriters from the 1960s in the basement, too. The were considered “high tech” at the time. I remember using one when I was an English Lit major in college in the early 1970s.

    Just . . . imagine, writing all of those lengthy literary analysis papers with no word processor, and NO CORRECTION TAPE, either. You either had to erase the mistake or type the entire page over if you had omitted a word or a line. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it!!

  2. This week’s topic is of special interest to me as I have worked for over 25 years as an executive assistant and paralegal. My first job in that field was in the early 1980s with a big bank. In those days, computers and “word processing” were brand new technology - this was before PCs and the Internet was in its infancy.

    We used the Wang dedicated word processing system, which was actually quite advanced for its time. Each person had his or her own terminal, which was connected to a central processor. We could access, save, and print our files from anywhere in the building. We had to share printers, which were placed in a separate area and which operated with “daisy wheels.” They were extremely noisy when they ran. Any time you needed to print something, you had to run around and tell everyone you were using the printer. The terminal screens were black with green characters.

    I still think that old Wang system was the best word processor EVER.

    I like the large, open, office space in these photos. I agree with PJM - cubicles give everyone an excuse to “goof off.”

  3. I still use an electric typewriter st fill out pre-printed forms.

    I'm sure that those old offices had office managers that their job was just to watch over the help and make sure they were not goofing off. Like you say with the cubicles it would be much easier to goof off.

    The best type writer I ever had allowed me to type something be able to read it on a small screen then hit type, and it would then type it by itself on the paper. I guess the for runner of the computer.

  4. I am sitting in a cubicle goofing off from work and reading your blog. So perhaps you are right. On the other hand, I'll bet there was a heck of a lot more gossiping in those old offices.

    I am just barely old enough to have learned to type on a manual typewriter. Grandma thought it was important enough for us to learn, she promised us each a wristwatch for completing an instruction book.

    After successfully earning (and losing) my watch, I was quite happy to switch to electric & computer keyboards, because my stubby little fingers were never able to fully depress the manual "a" and quote keys, without lifting the rest of my hand off the keys. Perhaps that is why I took to computers so easily.

  5. When I first started in the workforce I worked in an office like that with everything in the open and the boss in a small office in the corner. I can't say we were more productive as we had to type unemployment compensation forms in triplicate and that carbon paper was a pain to work with. We did have the fancy new Selectric typewriters, though.

  6. These were the days before cubicles imprisoned office workers...and that vehicle looks like the SUV of its day.


    Some interesting typewriter stuff at the above. I'm a big fan of typewriters too, and have two in somewhat regular use.

  8. Typewriter week has given bonus old pictures today! Love it! And I love the stories of people's experiences with typewriters.

    About 12 years ago we had a "Bring )our 9th Grader to Work" day and I was showing some of the 14 year olds around the offices (and cubicles). We got to the copier room and a few pointed at the typewriter, "What's that?", which put me in mind of the even younger kids who didn't know how to use a dial telephone.

  9. Funny its a typewriter manufacturer and there's not a typewriter in sight in that office, I find that interesting. One of my high school graduation gifts was a portable typewriter to take to college with me. I thought it was hip because it was red and white in a red hard shelled case.

  10. In the last photo. I can count at least 9 typewriters.

  11. I recounted that photo and found 13 typewriters.
    I do remember one of my jobs had a typewriter that would fold into a set of drawers. You open the door and the typewriter would pull out and then come up and lock into place. But it was hidden until you wanted to use it.

  12. I agree with those who have also noticed that the kids of today have no clue about typewriters.

    While coaching a Youth soccer team when one of the 12 year olds asked me what time it was. When I said "quarter to four" the blank look on his face was priceless.

    We can add B&W t.v.'s, transistor radio's, TV dinners, televisions without remotes, to that endless list of unknowns of the youths of today.

    Dam, I sound like my grandfather.

  13. Roger, in the last photo you are correct, lots of typewriters. In the middle photo (and the first) not a typewriter in (my) sight.

    Very cool photos, thank you Mr. PJM.

    I have an Underwood that looks just like yesterday's photo, that my grandmother used until she passed in the 70s. Except more used.


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