How to find a manual typewriter, part 1: Freecycle

As of just today, I have come to possess my first manual typewriter since the legendary Smith-Corona Galaxie Twelve of my youth: an Underwood 319.

The Underwood 319 is an unassuming, dun-colored machine of indistinct vintage (1970’s, perhaps); collectors have never been quoted discussing it online. Although Underwood merged with Olivetti in 1959, the Underwood name apparently continued on for some random period of time, into the plastic-bodied, frumpy typewriter era of the 60’s and beyond, from when this machine likely hails.

But back to story of origin: where did it come from?

As a completely novice typewriter fan, I’ve set out to test a handful of methods by which one can acquire a manual typewriter in Web 2.0 times. My first stop was to try the cheapest way possible: for free.

The Freecycle Network is an environmental “re-gifting” movement whereby people in local-area groups exchange requested or offered items to reduce waste. I asked, and I received the Underwood, in perfect working condition.

Freecycle pros for obtaining manual typewriter
* Well, it’s free.
* Help liberate typewriter from someone’s attic
* It’s fun to see what typewriter might find its way to you
* No shipping!

FreeCycle cons:
* Might get broken typewriter. At the very least, you’ll probably need to clean and recondition it. (Here is a listing of typewriter repair shops, and here is a resource for do-it-yourself).
* You probably aren’t going to find something cool like this.
*You’ll need to locate and buy a new ribbon

My recommendation

Let’s get the following fact out of the way: I am in no position to collect typewriters, and don’t even really like any made before the mid 40’s– too impractical. Any typewriter I get, I’m going to use it to write with. The Freecycle Network would not be a logical or even really an ethical way for a serious collector to hunt for machines. However, if you just want a typewriter or two for actual writing purposes, and like the thought of a typewriter finding you instead of the other way around, I highly recommend this method.

I plan to post again if I decide to have this machine refurbished (it’s in pretty good condition actually) to review the pros and cons of that step, but for now, enjoy my first, badly botched typecast on the Underwood 319, old ribbon and all, as I re-learn how to manually type again while describing my attempts to find a new ribbon at Office Depot today (Warning: it isn’t pretty. I promise fewer typos and bigger text next time).

How to find a manual typewriter: the series
* Part 1: Freecycle
* Part 2: Garage sales
* Part 3: The refurb market
* Part 4: A refurbishing story
* Part 5: eBay
* Part 6: Antique stores
* Part 7: Blue Moon Camera and Machine


  1. where did you end of buying ribbon from? and what kind? i have a underwood 319 also and am looking for a place to buy ribbon.

  2. Whoops I didn’t see this comment. I bought some ribbons from Mr but there are a number of internet retailers who sell them.

  3. hi 🙂 a bit of an old entry but i got here through search engines. just to let you know, this typewriter was made in the 80s, it’s an olivetti but launched with underwood name. i have one too, they’re very nice to work with 🙂

  4. TT

    Actually, the 319 is from 1981 or so. Olivetti decided, for some reason, to return to naming them “Underwood” for a short period of time. It is a duplicate of an Olivetti model…have to google more to find out which. I love mine. Very neat and snappy!


  5. TT

    Ah, here is the post from about the 319.

    “Nearly two decades after their merger with Underwood and eventual erasure of the name in the 1960s, Olivetti briefly revived the Underwood brand in the 1980s. Many, such as this one, were made in Spain and shared their designs with other Olivetti machines. This particular machine is a clone of the Olivetti Lettera 92. Included here as a curiosity, as the ’80s Underwoods have about as much relation with the original Underwood company as today’s Indian motorcycles have with their famous predecessors.”

  6. Anonymous

    How easy are they to type with? I’m undecided between manual and electric typewriters!