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This is a typewriter with an open body and keyboard, meaning the internal workings of the typewriter are largely visible. The body is made of metal and forms a frame around the components of the keyboard; this is painted black with yellow and blue decoration. The keys are circular, with their labels behind the plastic set in metal surrounds. These are arranged in a QWERTY layout, with a black space bar extending the entire length of the base of the keyboard. Affixed above the keyboard to the front of the frame there are two keys, one red and one black affixed to either end of a rocking switch. When one of these keys is depressed, a rod in the interior of the typewriter is moved.

Above the keyboard are two scales, one white and one red, both in inches. Visible between this and the keyboard are a series of rods with letter stamps affixed to the end (the typebars); these are arranged in a u-shape and lying horizontally. When a key is pressed, these rise to a vertical position to strike a black cylindrical roller (the platen). This roller is mounted at the top of the instrument, above the frame. It can be rolled forwards by turning black knobs on the right and left-hand side of the roller that juts out slightly from the case. This roller fits into the centre of the carriage, which carries the roller to the left when typing. Connected to this there is a pointer that moves with the carriage and points to the scale mounted above the keyboard, indicating position on the page. On the left side of the carriage, there is a latch that when pulled turns the roller a short fixed distance. There are several other knobs, latches, switches, and indicators on the instrument. On the left-hand side there is a bell, mounted horizontally.

At the back of the carriage, there is a slanted plate with a rolled top. This reads “Underwood” in gold lettering. Next to this, there is an image of a typewriter. The typewriter stands on four rubber feet.

Accession Number: 2019.ast.225

Alternative Name:

Primary Materials: Metal: Iron, Iron Alloy, Plastic.


Painted on a slanted plate the top of the instrument: “Underwood”

Painted on the front of the keyboard frame: “UNDERWOOD STANDARD TYPEWRITER No. 5”

Painted above the keyboard: “ROBBINS & TOWNSEND TYPEWRITERS
LO. 7386”

Painted on the rear of the frame there are dozens of different patent dates, and the words: “ALSO PATENTED IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES

Underneath the dates is the number: “23201”

Dimensions (cm): Height = 23, Width = 31, Length = 42.


This typewriter is for the typing of standard lettering onto standard-sized letter paper.


Good: Cosmetically, the instrument is in good condition. The surface of the frame is in very good condition, with original paint labels and paint surfaces only displaying very small marks. The keys are in good condition, although the paper labels are yellowed, some more than others. The scale above the keyboard is quite faded, dirty or degraded.

The typebars are in good condition, as is the roller and metal surfaces of the instrument; they are dulled across the surfaces, but only rusted in limited spots, such as around a screw on the right side of the top of the frame. The interior of the typewriter is dirty and dusty, possibly spider-webby. The typewriter is therefore not in working condition.

A black ink ribbon is still installed.

Associated Instruments:


Underwood Typewriter Company Ltd., U.S.A.

Date of Manufacture: c. 1902


This typewriter was likely purchased for used at the Departments of Physics (which then included astronomy) at the beginning of the 20th century. It was at some point moved to the David Dunlap Observatory for storage. The typewriter was kept at the Observatory until 2009. Upon the sale of the Observatory, it was moved to the University of Toronto’s Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the St George Campus. In 2017 it was moved to a new storage location in McLennan Physical Laboratories.

Additional Information and References:

Historical Notes: