The 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. Considered among the finest musical instruments 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 mahogany cabinet, each violin produces 64 notes, and is accompanied by a 44-note piano.
A Mills Novelty Company DeLuxe Violano Virtuoso is featured in Q. David Bowers' Encyclopedia of Automatic Musical Instruments on page 520.
The Violano Virtuoso, featuring the addition of a 44-note piano, was produced in America between 1912 and 1929 by the Mills Novelty Company from patents put forth by Henry K. Sandell. Its creation was so highly innovative that the United States government considered it one of the eight greatest inventions of the time. 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. The mechanism is capable of accommodating up to 15 coins, playing one music roll of five songs three times, lasting approximately an hour.