Underwood Model 5

The Underwood Model 5, introduced in 1899, is the result of almost thirty years of innovation and improvements in typewriter manufacture. It became the ubiquitous office machine for another thirty years, and its sales led Underwood to dominate the market. The Model 5 became the modern standard of how a typewriter worked and what it looked like.
The first successful commercial typewriter, developed by Christopher Scholes and Carlos Glidden, was brought to the public in 1874 by the Remington Company. Two elements from that first machine remained dominant in the design of eventual typewriters: the QWERY keyboard, a pattern of letters on the keyboard, and the telegraph type key movement. At first sales were slow, but the typewriter industry grew as businesses expanded along with their need to retain records, and process paperwork at fast speeds. More and more people, mostly women, learned the new skill of typing, creating a new class of clerical worker, according to historian JoAnne Yates.
There were a handful of typewriter manufacturers by the end of the 1880s such as Remington, a leader in the industry, L.C. Smith & Brothers, Caligraph, Hammond, and a number of smaller firms. As the number of manufacturers grew, so too did the improvements, including the addition of a shift key to activate upper and lower case letters, the size and weight had been reduced but until 1895, but typists could not see what they had typed until the typed page advanced forward.
In the early 1890s, Franz X Wagner, a German immigrant, engineered the first reliable "visible" typewriter that allowed the typist to see the text as they typed. Wagner had already designed several earlier typing machines. John T. Underwood, producer of office supplies such as carbon paper and ribbons, purchased Wagner's design and manufactured it as the Underwood Model 1 in 1895. Unlike earlier machines, which had an up strike type bar from underneath the paper, the new design in
After six years and two other models that improved touch, and tab function and provided quieter operation, Underwood came out with the Model 5 in 1900. Compared to earlier machines of the 1870s, this machine is plain. The machine in the collection was produced in 1910. It has a black frame with gold lettering and stripping.
Object Name
Date made
Underwood Typewriter Company
Physical Description
metal (body material)
overall: 12 in x 18 in x 12 in; 30.48 cm x 45.72 cm x 30.48 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Computers & Business Machines
Industry & Manufacturing
Office Machines
Artifact Walls exhibit
American Enterprise
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanisms
Artifact Walls exhibit
American Enterprise
American Enterprise
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Sewer, Andy; Allison, David; Liebhold, Peter; Davis, Nancy; Franz, Kathleen G.. American Enterprise: A History of Business in America
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

11/30/2012 9:01:16 AM
Rose Wilder Lane owned several Underwood typewriters and used one to type up her mother's, Laura Ingalls Wilder, manuscripts over the years.
Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.