John Thomas Underwood

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John Thomas Underwood (born April 12, 1857 in England , † July 2, 1937 ) was the founder, managing director and owner of the Underwood Typewriter Company in the United States of America .


Underwood emigrated to America from London in 1873 as a teenager. He joined his father's company, John Underwood & Company . Underwood was since 1874 producer of inks , ribbons , copy papers and other accessories that were previously manufactured by E. Remington & Sons. A decade later, Underwood and his brother Frederick moved to Brooklyn from New Jersey. When Underwood wanted to present its products again to the typewriter manufacturer Remington , they told him succinctly that Remington would be producing its own ribbons in the future. Underwood only replied that Underwood would then also manufacture his typewriters himself in the future.

In 1896, Underwood acquired the rights to the lever type typewriter developed by Franz Xaver Wagner for which Wagner held the patent . The invention of the Wagner gear by Wagner himself made it possible for the first time that what was written could be seen immediately. So far, the types of typewriters available at the time were usually struck from below. This completely new construction principle gave Underwood a unique success. In 1898 Wagner got into financial difficulties and sold all of his patents and manufacturing rights to Underwood.

The first models “Underwood No. 1 " and " Underwood No. 2 ” , manufactured between 1896 and 1900, still had the words “ Wagner Typewriter Co. ” on the back .

Underwood had in particular with the model “Underwood No. 5 ” from 1900 a great success in the USA. With its design, this machine set the standard for all subsequent machines from other manufacturers worldwide. Underwood was also successful abroad. He supplied the Viennese court and was appointed imperial and royal purveyor for his services . As early as 1910, Underwood was also producing typewriters with addition and subtraction units. By 1915 the "Underwood Typewriter Company" became the market leader and largest manufacturer of typewriters worldwide. Up to 500 machines left the factory in New York every day . In 1920 over 50 percent of all typewriters in the United States were Underwood. Underwood had manufactured 5 million machines by 1939.

Grave of John Thomas Underwood and his wife Grace in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Underwood was buried on July 4, 1937 in Green-Wood Cemetery , Brooklyn. His wife Grace Brainard Underwood Barton was buried next to him in 1968.


The property on which his mansion in Clinton Hill , Brooklyn was located was donated to the city by his widow Grace Underwood Barton and daughter Gladys Underwood James after his death. The mansion and the greenhouse had already been demolished to make way for a park, which was named "Underwood Park" in honor of the former owner. Mayor Robert F. Wagner junior (not related to Franz Xaver Wagner ) issued the ordinance . The park was opened to the public on May 30, 1956.

Individual evidence

  1. John Underwood, Inventor, 80, dead. New York Times , July 3, 1937; accessed October 23, 2010 .
  2. a b c d Underwood Park. New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, October 23, 2010, accessed October 23, 2010 .
  3. Handbook of the Supreme Court and the Court of His K. and K. Apostolic Majesty for 1917 . Vienna. Printing and publishing of the kk Hof- und Staatsdruckerei . Pp. 506-521.
  4. ^ Burial Search: John Thomas Underwood. Green-Wood Cemetery, October 23, 2010, accessed October 23, 2010 (Lot 3852, Section 18).
  5. ^ Matt Polazzo: Park Life: Underwood Park. (No longer available online.) New York Times, June 1, 2010, formerly original ; accessed on October 23, 2010 (English).  ( Page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  

Web links

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