Violano Virtuoso

Violano Virtuoso

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Description

This combination violin and piano player was made by Mills Novelty Company in Chicago, Illinois, in 1914. It is a Violano Virtuoso “Home Model,” serial #208, comprised of a violin and 44-note piano combination played electrically by a perforated paper roll. The instrument has a printed label with maker and patent information.

The Violano Virtuoso is an electrically operated, self-playing combination violin-piano that was intended for use in American homes, educational settings, and public places such as restaurants, dance halls, hotel lobbies, resorts, and clubhouses. Invented by Henry K. Sandall, it was first exhibited in 1909 by the United States Patent Office at the Alaskan Yukon Pacific Exposition in Seattle, Washington. By 1912 the Violano was commercially available from the Mills Novelty Company, which had manufactured about 3000 of the instruments when production ceased around 1930. This instrument is a "Home Model," built for the Smithsonian Institution in 1914.

The Violano Virtuoso was marketed as a mechanical violin player that was as good as, if not better than human violinists. The Mills Company employed classical violin makers to build custom violins in order to create the most convincing, realistic sound. Peter Christian Paulsen from Denmark was a violin maker at the Mills Novelty Co. from 1908 to 1919 and may be the maker of the violin used in this Violano Virtuoso.

The celluloid bows above each string revolve and play any combination of one, two, three or all fours strings when activated. One set of electromagnets operate levers that press the bow onto a string from above while a second set engages the mechanical "fingers" from below to stop the strings at the appropriate pitch. These electromagnets are controlled by holes punched in the paper roll. As the holes roll over the sensor bar, an electrical circuit passes through, activating the hammers on the piano and the fingers and bows on the violin. In addition to controls for nuance of musical expression of piano and forte, and presto and adagio, a remarkable feature is the Violano's capability to perform on the violin with a vibrato effect.

This instrument features the following patents:

U. S. Patent #488520 dated December 20, 1892, by Willard H. Gilman, for an electrically operated stringed musical instrument.

U. S. Patent #505878 dated October 3, 1893, by Willard H. Gilman, assignor to William S. Reed, for a perforated music sheet.

U. S. Patent #692248 dated February 4, 1902, by George Howlett Davis, assignor to The American Automusic Company, for a musical string instrument.

U. S. Patent #796935 dated August 8, 1905, by Henry K. Sandell, for an electric current governor.

U. S. Patent #807871 dated December 19, 1905, by Henry K. Sandell, assignor to Mills Novelty Company, for an electric self-playing violin.

U. S. Patent #808311 dated December 26, 1905, by Henry K. Sandell, assignor to Mills Novelty Company, for a sheet perforating machine.

U. S. Patent #848400 dated March 26, 1907, by Henry K. Sandell, assignor to Mills Novelty Company, for a sheet winder.

U. S. Patent #852299 dated April 30, 1907, by Henry K. Sandell, assignor to Mills Novelty Company, for a perforated music sheet feed device.

U. S. Patent #855021 dated May 28, 1907, by Henry K. Sabdell, assignor to Mills Novelty Company, for an electric self-playing violin.

U. S. Patent #856604 dated June 11, 1907, by Henry K. Sandell, assignor to Mills Novelty Company, for an electric self-playing violin.

U. S. Patent #859524 dated July 9, 1907, by Henry K. Sandell, assignor to Mills Novelty Company, for an electrical contact finger.

U. S. Patent #859620 dated July 9, 1907, by Henry K. Sandell, assignor to Mills Novelty Company, for an electrical self-playing instrument.

U. S. Patent #897021 dated August 25, 1908, by Henry K. Sandell, assignor to Mills Novelty company, for a perforated music sheet.

U. S. Patent #907530 dated December 22, 1908, by Henry K. Sandell, assignor to Herbert S. Mills, for a sheet perforating machine.

U. S. Patent #916789 dated March 30, 1909, by Henry K. Sandell, assignor to Mills Novelty Company, for an electrical contact brush.

U. S. Patent #998264 dated July 18, 1911, by Henry K. Sandell, assignor to Mills Novelty Company, for an electric music sheet feeding device for self-playing instruments.

Location
Currently not on view (door)
Currently not on view
Object Name
Violin Player
violin and piano player
date made
1914
maker
Mills Novelty Co.
place made
United States: Illinois, Chicago
Measurements
overall: violin player: 64 1/2 in x 46 in x 32 in; 163.83 cm x 116.84 cm x 81.28 cm
ID Number
MI.283285
accession number
56968
catalog number
283285
Credit Line
Gift of Mills Novelty Company
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Musical Instruments
Music & Musical Instruments
Popular Entertainment
Mechanical Musical Instruments
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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