Violano Virtuoso

Location: Music Hall

Manufacture date: Circa 1923

Song Title: If I Can't Have You

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Made by the Mills Novelty Co., Chicago, IL, circa 1923. The only commercially successful violin-playing machine made in America. From 1912 to 1929, about 4,500 were made; 1,000 or more probably exist, mostly in private collections. Its high survival rate is due to its being operated electrically, rather than pneumatically; it has no pouches, valves, pneumatics, or bellows with perishable rubber cloth or leather. It plays Mills Violano-Virtuoso music rolls. Visually enticing, it is one of the first instruments in any collection to attract the attention of visitors, and most people who walk through the Music Hall play it even if they don't play anything else. The ownership of this example prior to Charles Bovey is unknown.

The United States Patent and Trademark Office had a display of several significant inventions at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, Washington in 1909, including an early Violano-Virtuoso. The company used this event to promote the Violano-Virtuoso as "Designated by the U.S. Government as one of the eight greatest inventions of the decade" on all subsequent machines.

Plays violin and a 44 note piano. Machines with two violins are known as the Deluxe model Violano Virtuoso, or nickname the "Double Mills Violano" They made about 4,000 to 5,000 of these. Estimate around thousands of the Violano Virtuoso still and 100 of the Double Mills are still exist today.

The Violano Virtuoso was all-electric and all the moving parts were set in motion by electric motors or electromagnets. A company catalog states that they ran on "any electric lighting current'' and used "no more than one 16-candle power light''. They were designed to operate on 110 volts direct current. In locations that had 110 volts alternating current {or other voltages, the instruments were used with a unique converter unit.

The Violano Virtuoso is a heavy object, weighing about 1100 pounds. The first page of the Violano Virtuoso manual started that to lift the instrument from the delivery wagon would need "3 good Man".