On the second day of this new year, I acquired a manual typewriter. There is absolutely no practical justification for this purchase, which is based entirely on the romantic notion that all great writers, and many mediocre ones, have used one. Of course, we are not talking about IBM Selectrics here – only the unplugged, laborious vintage ones will do. My intrigue only deepened after I read Ian Frazier’s “Typewriter Man,” which chronicles the life of legendary typewriter master Martin Tytell (I especially enjoyed stories about his immeasurable contribution to the WWII efforts). Apparently, the world of classic typewriters has quite a cult following, and I am about to join this not-so-exclusive club.
The previous owner of my new acquisition, a beautiful girl from Spain living in the artsy Mission District, was willing to part with this particular Underwood because she already has two other ones. The exact model is yet to be determined – I’m pretty sure it is not an Underwood No. 5, one of the most common models from the 1920s, because of the color of the keyboards. Based on a cursory search on the web, I believe mine may be a 1939 “World Fair” model, though this will need to be confirmed this weekend by a visit to a typewriter repair shop in Los Altos, recently featured on NPR (I had no idea these repair shops are still around!).
Here is the typewriter in its original carrying case:
I tried typing on it, but the ribbon ink has dried out and the keys stick. But you get the picture…isn’t it a thing of beauty?