Underwood typewriters were among the most popular and innovative typewriters in history. The company was founded in 1895 by John T. Underwood and his brother, Horace, in New York City. The Underwood Typewriter Company gained a reputation for producing durable and reliable machines. Their typewriters became staples in offices and homes around the world.
In the early years, Underwood typewriters were known for their unique “front-strike” design, which allowed users to see what they were typing as they typed it. This design made the Underwood typewriter popular among journalists, who could easily see their work as they typed.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Underwood introduced several groundbreaking innovations to the typewriter industry. They created the “Floating Shift” mechanism, which made it easier to type capital letters. The “Touch Control” system also allowed users to adjust the amount of pressure needed to strike the keys. These innovations made Underwood typewriters some of the most advanced and user-friendly machines of their time.
During World War II, Underwood typewriters were used extensively by the US military, and the company also manufactured a version of its typewriter that could be used in the field. The durability and reliability of Underwood typewriters made them an essential tool for soldiers, journalists, and others who needed to communicate quickly and effectively.
Despite their popularity and success, Underwood typewriters began to decline in popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, as more advanced typewriters and computers began to take over the market. They tried introducing other products with only modest success.
Changes in Control
The Underwood Typewriter Company changed hands several times over the years, and its ownership was often characterized by mergers and acquisitions. Here is a brief timeline of the ownership of Underwood Typewriter Company:
1895: John T. Underwood and his brother Horace found the Underwood Typewriter Company in New York City.
1927: Underwood merges with the Elliot-Fisher Company to form the Underwood-Elliot-Fisher Company, which becomes one of the largest typewriter manufacturers in the world.
1941: Olivetti, an Italian typewriter manufacturer, buys a controlling interest in Underwood-Elliot-Fisher.
1959: Olivetti acquires the remaining shares of Underwood-Elliot-Fisher, making it a wholly owned subsidiary of Olivetti.
1961: Olivetti merges Underwood with its other US subsidiary, the Olympia Typewriter Company, to form Olivetti-Underwood Corporation.
1978: Olivetti-Underwood sells the Underwood brand name and related assets to John C. Underwood, the grandson of the company’s founder.
1983: Olivetti-Underwood is renamed to Olivetti Corporation of America.
Swamped by Newer Technology
By the 1980s, use of word processors and personal computers eventually doomed traditional typewriters. Corrections had previously mandated liquid paper or a complete re-typing. Typewriters became tech dinosaurs almost overnight.
- Year Started: 1895
- Year Ended: 1983
- Origin Of Name: Name of Founders
- Location Sales: United States
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: John and Horace Underwood
- Owner While In Use: several
- Owner Successor: Olivetti
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Personal Computers
- Naics Code: 333310
- Location Headquarters: New York, New York USA