My Antique Vintage Underwood Typewriter

photo by Heather Says
photo by Heather Says | Source

As a journalism graduate, I have a very special place in my heart for a handsome typewriter. This is another find that was purchased especially for our 1920s themed wedding. It came in a very beat-up case and my maid of honor had to jimmy it open with a butterknife because they didn't give us a key for it. So keep that in mind if you ever purchase your own-- HAHA! We used it on a table with vintage reproduction postcards in lieu of a guestbook. To read more about our entire guestbook table, read my hub, "Do I have to have a guestbook?"

Everyone loved it and now it sits at our dining room table in our new house. It's one of the first things you notice as you enter our home.

typewriter on guestbook table at our wedding
typewriter on guestbook table at our wedding | Source
postcards and typewriter
postcards and typewriter | Source

Backspace

In 2011, my husband and I had about three months to plan our wedding. I complained at the time because it was just CHAOS, but I understand that there are couples out there who had even less time and that three months would have been a wonderful eternity for them. Our wedding turned out very different than we originally imagined-- in fact, every facet of our loose and ambiguous 8 year "planning" never came to fruition. However, I don't think we would have been as successful if we had more time on our side. I equate it to being in college and pumping out a fantastic paper right before it was due instead of properly utilizing the multiple weeks that were given to me. Something about healthy stress really gets my creative juices going. My husband is the same way. We met in college and we're both professional procrastinators, so perhaps we truly are "soulmates" as they say.

Anyway, as I was saying, one of the decisions my husband and I made almost immediately and really out of nowhere was to have a themed wedding. We had never considered this before the crunch was on as we thought they were, well, tacky? We had been watching a lot of what is now one of our favorite shows, "Boardwalk Empire," an HBO drama about life in Atlantic city during the roaring 20s and prohibition. The very first thing we picked out was my wedding dress and it became a cornerstone for the wedding and all of the planning and decisions. We decided to have a 1920s themed wedding and creating the perfect ambiance became paramount.

green "backspacer" key
green "backspacer" key | Source

Ctrl, Alt, Dirt Cheap

We purchased this Underwood for dirt cheap-- well compared to what they sell for online, dirt cheap. I fell in love the moment I found it! I was shopping with my best friend and maid of honor in my wedding, Sarah. (Little did I know she was a master lock picker, as mentioned earlier). She and I had a huge day of wedding errands, including scouring the Arizona valley for skeleton keys which I wrote about in this post. I tried to talk down the price (this was before I knew that under the right circumstances they can sell for hundreds of dollars) but to no avail. I won't complain though. It was practically a steal and has now become a priceless piece of nostalgia from our very special day.

Dream a Little Dream Photography
Dream a Little Dream Photography | Source
typewriter keys
typewriter keys | Source

Just My Type

This specific model is portable and the same kind that William Faulkner used. The brand "pops up" in many facets of pop culture from television to rock bands. When preparing this article, I even learned the brand is alluded to in my favorite book (To Kill a Mockingbird) and my favorite video game (Bioshock). The character in To Kill a Mockingbird is named Mr. Underwood and types on a typewriter all day and in Bioshock all of the typewriters are branded, "Below Tree." Very neat! I never noticed either one of those references!

This model wasn't quite true to our 1920s time period, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Well and we couldn't find any that were older but in the same or better condition. I needed it to look functional and didn't want an artifact. The model is from the 30s but no one knew otherwise. I wonder who owned it and loved it before we did. I wonder if it was used by a journalist or if it wrote beautiful love letters.

If I have learned anything from Antiques Roadshow or Pawn Stars, it's that you never clean a piece of history. So we didn't. I gave it a lazy dusting and that was all. You'll also notice the number 4 key lever is bent slightly upwards like he or she is trying to run away from the rest of the flock. We think it adds character so we haven't tried to fix it. There's probably a neat story about how it became damaged, but we'll never know.

Dream a Little Dream Photography
Dream a Little Dream Photography | Source
#4 key lever
#4 key lever | Source
The "instructions" I made.  My mother-in-law is a master scrapbooker and is including it in a scrapbook she is making.  This will keep it safe and sound for years to come!
The "instructions" I made. My mother-in-law is a master scrapbooker and is including it in a scrapbook she is making. This will keep it safe and sound for years to come! | Source
typewriter settings
typewriter settings | Source
my dining room
my dining room | Source

Form & Function before F Keys

Using the typewriter, postcards, and mailbox was such a great idea. Guestbooks are expected and oftentimes leave little room for a personal message. We had about 100 guests and I imagined if I were a guest and there was a line to sign the guestbook, I'd probably just forget it and go sit down. For this same reason (avoiding a backup of traffic) we didn't want the typewriter to be used. I'm sure we had guests that never used a typewriter in their life and this would take forever. I used the typewriter to hold "instructions" in case guests were looking for a guestbook and or became confused. I printed out a quick letter on my computer using a vintage typewriter font, dated it our wedding day but the year 1929, and then tea-stained the heck out of it. You can still use a person to watch over the table much like a person is traditionally put in charge of the guestbook. In fact, I'd recommend it. Our good friend Patrick (pictured above in the suit) did this job fantastically. He invited our guests to "send us a postcard."

I purchased vintage reproduction postcards from Amazon.com. Our wedding was the weekend before Halloween, so the postcards were vintage Halloween images and vintage greetings from New York (My husband is from NY and the wedding took place in Arizona). This was neat because his family and friends that flew in from NY mostly filled out the New York ones. We had about 120 spread all over the table in case someone wanted to fill out two-- something heartwarming and something silly! And they did. We got some really great ones. Guests drew us pictures and wrote us poems. We had multiple pens on the table to keep traffic flowing. We used some beautiful beaded ones purchased from Michael's. I didn't want a cheap pen throwing off the whole look of the table.

Guests would then drop their postcard into a mailbox with our name on it. This is how we have them stored for keepsakes. So much better than a guestbook in the long run! My husband, my maid of honor and I had such a fun time that night in our hotel room reading all of the postcards. We were cracking up as we rested our tired feet and tried to decipher who filled out the anonymous ones. Never in a million years would I change my mind and opt for a guestbook. Oh-- I even used vintage stamps on the post cards and you can read all about it in my hub, "Do I have to have a guestbook?"

Heather Says: My husband and I love this typewriter so much. It certainly is one of the best thrift items we ever purchased. I love having it in the dining room and seeing it throughout the day. It has such a beautiful presence as a lovely little time capsule on our table from a time before ours. New friends comment on how lovely it is and old friends remember it from our wedding day.

You can also check out:

How I used peacock feathers in my wedding

How I made my own wedding shoes

How we set up a candy buffet at our wedding

How I used antique skeleton keys at our wedding

More by this Author


Comments 8 comments

LisaKeating 2 years ago

Cute idea. I just bought my first Underwood typewriter from Goodwill last week.


Heather Says profile image

Heather Says 4 years ago from Buckeye, Arizona Author

@Docmo -- thanks for stopping by and reading. I'm glad you enjoyed it. You hit the nail on the head with "non-generic!" Weddings can be so generic and that terrified me!

@Kelleyward -- Yep! Mine has a hard boxy-suitcase. In the antique store it was displayed with the case open and when we bought it they closed it up inside. About a week before the wedding, i took it out while doing a mock-up of how the guestbook table would look and boy did I start panicking when that suitcase was closed and locked without a key in sight! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. :)

@Victoria Lynn -- Awesome thanks! What color is yours? Do you use it?


Docmo profile image

Docmo 4 years ago from UK

What a unique and creative idea for guest comments. I love the vintage typewriter setting and the way your cards look. Fantastic. I bet as you say, you such a ball reading all the cards later. They form such great , non-generic keepsakes... amazing! voted up and shared.


kelleyward 4 years ago

This reminded me of the typewriter I grew up using. My parents had an old one like yours and I remember the smell and sound of the clicks. I'm gonna find out if they still have it. I remember it was packed in something like a hard suitcase. This is a great read Heather! Voted up and Pinned! Kelley


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

I have an old typewriter but perhaps not as old as yours. They often sell for a lot of money. What a great use for it. Neat hub. I enjoyed it. Many votes and sharing!


Heather Says profile image

Heather Says 4 years ago from Buckeye, Arizona Author

I'd love to see it if you still have the pic.


That Grrl profile image

That Grrl 4 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

I passed up buying an old Eaton's store typewriter last year at the thrift store. Eatons was a department store here, part of our Canadian history. I wish I had bought it, though it was over priced and I don't know what I would have done with it or kept it. I did take it's photo at the time.


Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

OMG -- you have a sarcophagus in your dining room. I must follow you now, preferably slowly with my arms held straight out like a mummy!

(Love the typewriter, too. I've been looking for one, but I don't have anywhere to display one right now, so it's on the back burner.)

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