Friday, March 17, 2017

A confused Woodstock

When I saw an early Woodstock on eBay, with a well-preserved decal, for a very low Buy It Now price—$25!—how could I resist?

The decals on these early machines have a lot of color and charm, including the eagle (?) that incorporates the letters WTCo for Woodstock Typewriter Company.

Later Woodstocks, such as this 1930 machine, switched to a simpler decal and an illustration of the head of Mercury.

When I checked the serial number on my new early Woodstock (located behind the right end of the front carriage rail), I was baffled to see this:

After I removed the carriage (which I do not recommend on these early machines, because getting it back on while keeping the ball bearings in place is a stressful experience), I noticed this number on the bottom of the carriage:

My guess is that DW55398 is the original serial number. It was then filed off from the body of the machine—but not completely—and the number 57722 was stamped imperfectly over it. Why?

The DW prefix stands for dead key, wide carriage, according to our serial number information. This is certainly a wide-carriage machine, with a platen length of 11 inches, but it does not have a dead key (used for typing accents and other punctuation marks). Maybe the typewriter was originally destined to have a foreign-language keyboard, but then someone at the factory thought better of it.

Both serial numbers should date from 1920.

There are many small differences between this early Woodstock and later ones. For instance, there is no stencil setting, and the ribbon control gives you many tiny increments between the upper and lower halves of the ribbon. This would actually be great if you're using a one-color ribbon and want to squeeze the most ink possible out of it.

The escapement is also different. It feels a little stiffer to me than the later design, and is fairly loud and rattly when you return the carriage.

After extensive cleaning and polishing, the machine looks great.


  1. Congratulations! Great price on a great Woodstock.

  2. Fascinating machine. The spring on the escapement seems stretched. Could this be the cause of the louder operation?

  3. I always love seeing the Woodstock typewriter featured, so thanks!
    My snappiest, and best typer of my many Woodstocks, is I believe, my earliest.....
    It has a serial number of RW 946. Rebuilt/wide carriage? It clearly says No.5 on the apron, and has an 11 inch platen like yours. It does not appear to be modernized at all, and indeed has a wooden space bar, and old looking pearlized finish key tops. Is it a rebuilt no 4, or 3? Where yours has a serial number on the bottom of the carriage, there is nothing. The RW946, does not show signs of having being ground down and restamped. It does have the noisy escapement with the spring in it. Who knows!?

    1. Hmm. Probably a rebuilt. The number is very low to be a normal serial number for a model 5.

  4. That cleaned up beautifully. I love the look of the ribbon spools on pedestals. It would be fun to do a comparison of a Woodstock, an Underwood, an LC Smith and a Royal of similar age and condition - who would win?

    1. Yes, that would be interesting. My guess is that Royal would have a slight advantage in speed; Underwood in precision; and LC Smith in ease of shifting. Woodstock might come in a close second in all these areas.