Underwoods as far as the eye can see!

2015-03-21-1Tonight there’s an eyefull of Underwoods on the TWDB, but do not adjust your set – everything is fine. This phenomenon is the result of a massive re-organization of the Underwood category and my first attempt to really get in and clean up an entire category by normalizing and condensing Model Names. I’ve done this to specific Models before, on a much smaller scale, but this time I really exercised some editorial liberties in an attempt to make the model navigation and categorization simpler and more sensible to the average viewer. If you take a look at the Underwood and Olivetti-Underwood categories on TWDB Mobile, you’ll note that they are much shorter and perhaps more sensible:
2015-03-21-2You will note that I also completely made up some Model Names – for instance there aren’t really any “Portable 3 Bank” or “Portable 4 Bank” models are there? No there aren’t. Underwood called both these models the “Underwood Standard Portable Typewriter”, and each is clearly labelled so. Why did I do this? Primarily, to condense all of the dozen or so ways these machines were filed into two easily understood categories. Not “technically correct” categories, but probably the best choice for clarity and grouping these popular machines together in a way that you can see a clear evolution in design when you look at the list.

Compare that to the current Remington List:
2015-03-21-3A lengthy and confusing hodge-podge of model names, most of which have but a single gallery entry. *Sigh*. Well, that fix is coming…

In any case, I expect that not everyone will agree with this move, and for various certainly valid reasons may argue for allowing more diversity in model naming, and may object to the removal from the Model Name field of “modifying descriptors” such as the typeface name or special features, but it really is a necessary step in the evolution of the TWDB as the number of galleries increases. It is also pretty vital in the process of breaking the serial number lists into specific model categories, so that they are much easier to digest on mobile devices and so that more information can be displayed for specific model lists. And, and, and… geez, so many things I have planned for TWDB Mobile and how serial number pages will be edited and who will edit them.. can’t even articulate it all now, it’s like a mad rush of chromium flashbulb bumblebees zinging around the skull… gah!!

Anyway, don’t be mad at me about the model name normalization, please. (:

Updated: March 21, 2015 — 10:32 pm


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  1. FWIW, I am glad to see the changes.

  2. Great change that!
    When entering e.g. my RP2’s, was just unsure how to label them. This will help there. Also will start to make metrics and statistics on types emerge.

    Very impressive job you’re doing on the TWDB! Much appreciated and enjoyed :-)

  3. Much-needed work! You are bringing more rationality to the system. (And you’ve shamed me into removing the “Cyrillic” from the model name of the Smith-Corona I recently posted. Improper.)

  4. This is great!

  5. These sound like sensible changes to me!

  6. Great strategy.

    One question, though. Production dates for the three-bank portable begin at 1920 on TWDB. Was not the first year of production 1919?

    (See http://www.portabletypewriters.co.uk/portable_typewriters_underwood.htm)

    1. The Underwood numbers are all sourced from “Secondary” sources, which mostly proport to list *January* numbers (the first serial number or the year). However, I have found in many cases that the numbers they report for some manufacturers are *December* numbers when checked against partial “Primary” sources. It’s entirely possible that this is also the case for some of the Underwood numbers, and it wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

      Now, Milton says here that the Portable was launched in Nov 1919, and presumably manufacture began some months before that, so one could also make sense of the idea that “Up to 6300” for Jan 1920 could be true if 1 through say 1000 were made in the later months of 1919, and were just considered a part of 1920 inventory. We have actual ranges for every year after 1920, but they are vague – rounded off to the thousands. Difficult to prove one way or the other without a Primary source of some sort to verify against, and the organizations that compiled the Secondary lists tended to only be concerned with “inventory in the market to be depreciated year by year” rather than being concerned with historical accuracy.

      1. At TWDB it seems to say that up to 6,300 machines were made for all of 1920. Am I reading that right?

        1. not enough specificity in your question to provide an answer. I assume you’re talking about Underwoods, but what model?

          1. The 3-bank portable. I should note that news accounts do affirm that production of this model was limited in the first year, and also into the second year, despite that Underwood boasted of a capacity of 50,000 per year.

          2. That’s what my sourcs say, and those numbers match pretty well for agreement. If the news accounts agree, then that seems to support the data. Finding general agreement among sources is always nce.

  7. We are cleaning out a storage room at our church and came across an old Underwood typewriter. It is an Underwood Standard wide-carriage with the carriage 23″ at its most narrow point. (I don’t really know how to measure it.) We think it is a Model 3, but are unable to find the serial number (20-6787898)in any data base. Can you help us find out when the typewriter was manufactured? Thanks.

    1. With that serial number, it’s an Underwood SS made in 1950 with a 20″ carriage – meaning it has body panels, which a #3 would never have.

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