Mills Violano Virtuoso
One of the most fascinating mechanical instruments is the Mills Violano Virtuoso. I have been a fan of Mills Violanos for years since I saw a mahogany “Bow Front Mills” in the original saloon location in Miles City, Montana a number of years ago. I later discovered that our neighbor, Julius Butler, supplied the paper for the rolls through his family’s Butler Paper Company and that he had dated Herbert Mills daughter and had heard the special Violano in the Mills family home in Oak Park, Illinois.
In my original literature business archive, among the many Mills books is a booklet that gives a tour of the Mills Novelty Company department that made the famous Violano which you can view below. A number of Violano enthusiasts have asked that I put up these historic pictures. Along with the pictures you get an insight into the early industrial age of America. Remember that the Mills Violano Virtuosos was the “High Tech” of their day, circa 1908. Remember that people at this time had just illuminated their homes with electric lights and that gasoline power automobiles were in their infancy. Like the race to build a successful automobile or airplane, a similar technological race was engaged in to build a successful violin playing machine. Mills and Hupfeld both won the race. The Mills Violano Virtuoso captivated the United States Patent Office to such a level that it declared the Violano Virtuoso one of the eight greatest inventions of the first decade of the 20th century. The patent office proudly paraded the Mills Violano Virtuoso around the country to various expositions. The Mills Company presented one to the Smithsonian which is still there.
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(Click on image below to see larger picture.)
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© 2014 Tim Trager