Pleasant Home's Violana Virtuoso



The Violano - Virtuoso was produced in America between about 1912 and 1929 by the Mills Novelty Company from patents and proposals put to them by Henry Conrad Sandell who emigrated there from Sweden some fifteen years before. Some four thousand of these operating from 110 volts direct current, were produced by 1930. The violin varies from the usual in that it has no finger board. 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 (cellulose nitrate) clamped together in a dish-shaped form applying just the right pressure to the strings.

These are driven by a delicate varable speed controlled motor to vary the volume of sound produced. The vibrato is produced by shaking the tail-piece of the violin with an electro-magnet. The violin can reproduce 64 notes, and it is accompanied by a 44 note piano - just half the number of keys found on a normal piano keyboard. The iron frame of the piano is shield shaped, the supporting of the bass strings in the centre, and the treble strings on either side resulting in this shape which evens the stress on the frame and assists in maintaining the piano's tuning. It is coin operated, the mechanism being capable of accomodating up to 15 nickel coins. Since most of the music rolls have five tunes on them, it can play the five tunes three times giving music for an hour or so.

(As quoted from

Pleasant Home's Violano was generously donated to the Pleasant Home Foundation in December of 2008 by Mr. Jaspar Sanfillippo, owner of John B. Sanfilippo & Son, Elgin, Illinois. Mr. Sanfillippo is a leading collector of restored automatic musical machines.

Click here for a sample of music from the Violana Virtuoso