I mistook this at first for a No. 5; in fact, it was advertised as such. A friend with far more experience, however, identified it as a No. 3, making it my first. I did notice a few differences: the gold “Underwood Standard Typewriter” above the keyboard; the lack of a model designation; the black keys (they are white, or yellowed, in the 5s); the slightly wider carriage and the background color of the logo, which is red in the No. 3, at least this one. It’s in superb condition, and the serial number dates it to 1929. It must have been well cared for or used very little: the platen is in good shape, with minor indentations on the backup sheet, and cosmetic condition is the best among my early Underwoods.
The feel is similar to my 5s, and it types with authority, though not being overly stiff. I have seven other uprights in my small writing room–mostly No. 5s and L.C. Smith No. 8s—but this one is getting the most use.
This Underwood No. 5 is my rarest typewriter. It’s in exceptional condition, and I dated it to the ’30s at the earliest judging from its cosmetic shape. The serial number, however, dates it to 1915. The body and chrome is the best I’ve seen on a No. 5, and the platen is good, with slight indentations on the backup sheets. The basket and other parts are shiny and devoid of rust, unlike my other Underwood 5s. It only needed a cursory cleaning, since none of the keys stuck, and a new ribbon. It used to belong to an elderly lady in the apartment building of the seller.
I did a double-take when I looked at the keyboard: it had keys that I mistook for Czech symbols. Baffled, I consulted forum members at Typewriter Talk and a sharp-eyed contributor declared them–get this–scansion marks, or symbols that denote stresses and caesuras in poetry. I never imagined such a thing existed.
What endears it to me is that I am a poet and have turned more to classical forms such as sonnets and rhymed syllabic verse, all which are decidedly unpopular these days, at least with publishers. Not one for words poured into a formless mold, I have gone ahead with my penchant for rhymed structures, publishers be damned.
Scansion marks are most useful to a teacher, since contemporary don’t usually mark the stresses in verse. That, however, would have been useful to a poet writing in the rhymed verse of earlier period. Adhering to classical meters was an essential part of the challenge of poetry at the time. Some things never get old.
Not being well-versed in Torpedos, I can’t identify this model, which was made in West Germany in the ’50s or ’60s. It’s an astounding machine, and reminds me of my Olympia SM5, though it has a different feel and personality. It has a fabulous touch, and doesn’t require a strong keystroke. In fact, I find a light touch is best with this one, else the print tends to smudge slightly. The keys have a deft heft.
I find the elite typeface seductive, along with the design. It’s not flashy but it’s certainly not drab. It has an understated elegance. My preference lately is for American uprights from the ’20s and ’30s, but I find excuses to use this Torpedo, which is never far from reach.
This one was in good shape when I bought it, though I wondered why it didn’t have the L.C. Smith name on the back metal paper plate. It also didn’t have the model number in front. Closer inspection revealed that it had been painted over (quite well, I admit), though I could still read “L.C. Smith & Bros.” in the metal plate and “No.8” in front, which retained the “L.C. Smith & Bros. Typewriter” script under the type bars.
Hell of a machine, and even more exciting because of the elite pitch, which is the first I have seen on an L.C. Smith of this period. This one, according to my research, dates to the ’20s, and is my second-oldest No. 8. It types beautifully, and the elite typeface looks great on linen paper. It seems that it’s smaller than regular elite. Is there such a thing as 13- or 14-pitch? Regardless, it’s an exceptional machine that will stay in my lineup for some time.