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Mills Violano Virtuoso De Luxe

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Mills Violano Virtuoso De Luxe

- Item No.

This fantastic Mill's De Luxe Violano Virtuoso takes the place of an entire orchestra

Key Features

  • This incredibly rare Mill's De Luxe Violano Virtuoso plays two violins and a piano, simultaniously
  • The Violano was singled out as one of the great inventions of the decade by the U.S. Government
  • A pair of 64-note violins and a 44-note piano create truly melodious music
  • A scant few of these double machines exist today, making this one exceptionally rare
  • Circa 1920
  • 48 1/8 wide x 34 1/4 deep x 68 1/2 high

Item Details

  • Width:
    48 1/8 Inches
  • Height:
    68 1/2 Inches
  • Depth:
    34 1/4 Inches
  • Period:
    20th Century
  • Origin:
One of only a handful ever made, this spectacular Double DeLuxe Violano Virtuoso, created by the Mills Novelty Company, is an important and extremely rare example of American musical automata, featuring not one, but two brilliantly tuned violins. Singled out by the U.S. government in 1909 as one of the eight greatest inventions of the decade when it was introduced at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, the Mills De Luxe Violano-Virtuoso stands as one of the most important and incredible musical devices ever made. The "Double Mills," as it was nicknamed, plays classical, operatic and popular music of the time. It can play on a single nickle and has the ability to run for approximately an hour. It produces exceptional sound with a crisp tonal quality and melodious notes. Housed in its rich ebonized cabinet, each violin produces 64 notes, and is accompanied by a 44-note piano. It is truly rare to find an historical musical mechanism so complete, with such remarkable sound quality and in excellent condition. 

Perfected and patented in 1912 by Henry K. Sandell, the Violano-Virtuoso was produced in limited quantities until 1929 and could be found in the very finest restaurants, hotels and oceanliners. In fact, the Violano-Virtuoso was one of the few American-made mechanical musical devices to be distributed world wide to the most exclusive international clientele. This double-violin example is a true rarity in that it remains in exceptionally fine, working condition.

The below testimonial was sent to the Mills Company by the Governor of Idaho, aptly describing the incredible music produced by the Violano-Virtuoso.

Dear Sir, Have just had the pleasure of listening to your wonderful Automatic Violin and Piano on exhibition at the Government Building here. This marvelous instrument certainly far surpasses anything that I have eve heard in automatic music. The tone and expression of the violin and the piano is so perfect and clear that is really hard to believe but that there is the human hand playing..."

Indeed, for the price of a nickel, the Mills Violano-Virtuoso delivered a wide variety of musical entertainment ranging from classical operatic arrangements to the popular tunes of the day. Using rolls of perforated paper in much the same way as a player piano, it could play music on either the violins or the piano, or both, offering an unparalleled combination of sound. The violins vary from the usual in that they have no fingerboard. Instead a small metal "finger" rises from under the string lifting it in a "V" shaped slot thus stopping off the string. The strings are bowed by four small wheels made of discs of celluloid clamped together, applying just the right pressure to the strings. These are driven by a delicate variable speed controlled motor to vary the volume of sound produced. The vibrato is produced by shaking the tailpiece of the violin with a series of pneumatic pistons operated by a vacuum pump. The frame of the piano is shield shaped, supporting the bass strings in the center and the treble strings on either side, which evens the stress on the frame and assists in maintaining the piano's tuning. Up to 15 coins could be accommodated and, depending on the number of songs on each of the music rolls, the Violano-Virtuoso could play for up to an hour. De Luxe Violano-Virtuoso machines of this caliber and condition, retaining such a superb tonal quality, are extremely rare today.

A similar Mills Novelty Company DeLuxe Violano Virtuoso is featured in Q. David Bowers' Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments on page 520.

Circa 1920

48 1/8" wide x 34 1/4" deep x 68 1/2" high

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Price: $228,500
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