Mills Novelty Company
Violano-Virtuoso & Electric Piano Survey

Mills Novelty Company Study Project

Introductory Style Notes:

An Invitation to Send Accompanying Photographs

Pictures of the exterior of an instrument often allows us to identify case styles, control knobs, coin slots, art glass details, and other characteristics oftentimes not easily described through text alone. Moreover, snapshots of the interior mechanisms and any nameplates they may bear usually helps us greatly to identify mechanical characteristics that shed light on the mechanical evolution of an instrument, which helps us when developing dating guides. It is no stretch to say that photographs are an invaluable aid in detailing and understanding any instrument for which information has been submitted, and so please do consider sending photographs, albeit separately from the on-line form, but nonetheless augmenting the survey information.

Invitation to e-mail photographs corresponding to a survey submittal.
Please send photographs to:

Mills Novelty Company Survey Form

All survey submissions to the Mechanical Music Press are given with the provision that the Mechanical Music Press and/or its authors have non-exclusive use of the information, images, or other material submitted for use with this project or in any other part of this web site, and do so without limitation. All contributors of significant, previously unused information will be listed as contributors under general credits in the Registry section. Submission does not guarantee the acceptance of or the use of the whole or any part or segment of any information submitted. Please do not submit information if you cannot abide by the aforementioned stipulations.

Contact Information
  Show owner name in reports.

* Required form fields: Contact information will be kept private, with the exception of owner name if, and only if the "Show owner name on reports" box is checked.

Piano and Basic Model Information
 Piano back side number: 

The piano serial number is stamped in a small opening near the top left side of the piano plate. The piano back side number may be the same as the front side pinblock number, but not always, and is usually located near the top of the piano's wooden structural framework.

Grand (Baby Grand), Concert Grand, Commercial (bow front), Home Model, Deluxe Double Violin, Violano Orchestra, Piano Orchestra, Expression Piano, Race Horse Piano, etc.

The Baby Grand Violano-Virtuoso (violin with piano accompaniment) is the most prevalent surviving model. The “Commercial” model housed the violin mechanism in a fancier and more ornamental curved or “bow front” case, where the violin and actuating mechanism could be viewed from the front and both sides. The Concert Grand and Home Model incorporated a larger (but still 44-note) piano and larger cabinets, with the DeLuxe with two violins being the largest of all.

Straight.  Curved to match bow-front enclosure.

Oak, Golden oak, Mission oak, Mahogany, Walnut, etc.

Piano Plate and Action
Patent applied for.  Patent pending.  Patent June 4, 1912.
2 Position.  3 Position.  with extra soft relay stop.

A two coil solenoid = 2 hammer rail positions; a three coil solenoid = 3 hammer rail positions; the extra soft relay stop offers yet another hammer rail soft position, but may have never been installed.

Lost motion compensator installed.

The lost motion compensator, if present, lifts the piano action wippens when the hammer rail is up, to avoid lost motion between the jacks and hammer butts.

Torque motor (lock & cancel operation).  Solenoid with spring return.  Solenoid using lock & cancel.
Machined bar.  Stamped.
Violin Attributes (Omit if No Violin)
 for Violin #2: 

The cabinet number can usually also be found at the left edge of the upper and lower doors and on the parts drawer.

 for Violin #2: 

 for Violin #2: 
 for Violin #2: 

 for Violin #2: 
 for Violin #2: 
Yes (glass pane present).  Missing.  No/Never installed.
Accessory Instrumentation
Original with Violano.  Missing.  Added later.  None (never attached).

Orchestra cabinet with wood block, tom-tom, snare drum (both tap and roll), cymbal, and bass drum.

Violin Activating Mechanisms (Omit if No Violin)
Early style front mount.  Late style rear mount.

The bow motor and bow gear train assembly sits on a sort of stand or pedestal. The early “front-mount” style has the stand under the front of the bow motor and gear train assembly, with the nickel-plated face of the stand almost in line with the front of the gear cover for the bow shaft gears. This style has a pot metal shelf in back, which has sagged in some instruments. The front-mount style coincides with the early style mechanical bow pressure mechanism.

The late “rear mount” style has the support pedestal under the rear of the bow motor assembly, so the gear train for the bow shafts sticks out in front and you can see under it. To recap, the early "front mount" was used with the early mechanical bow pressure expression system, while the late "rear mount" was used with motors that had the electrical contact points in back, instead of the mechanical bow pressure linkage. (Both styles of motor have a centrifugal governor ring, but it moves the bow expression lever in early instruments and the electric contact points in late models.)

However, please be aware, the mechanical bow pressure linkage used in early "front mount" bow motor assemblies was sometimes removed and the motor retrofitted with electric contacts. This retrofitting has been observed in a significant number of early style Violanos, requiring careful observation to correctly identify the governor action for certain early Violanos.

Clockwise (CW).  Counter-clockwise (CCW).

With the bow motor cover removed, count the number of wire taps for the right rear coil: None, 1, 2, 3, etc.

 A string gear:   D string gear:   G string gear: 
Bow pressure mechanical feedback linkage.  Tilting governor ring controls electrical contacts.
Variable with spring control.  Variable with weight control.  Non-variable/fixed.
Adjustable.  Non-adjustable.
Bow levers have a coil spring returning them to a non-playing position.

Straight (V shape).  Twisted or offset grip.

With the fingerhead assembly cover removed, record any date and/or initials written on the G string finger stop bar.

Original with Violano.  Missing (but originally present).  None (never installed).
Original with Violano.  Missing (but originally present).  None (never installed).
Electrical (between tunes).  Electrical (during rewind).  Mechanical (during rewind).  Manual only.
Rosin suction fan located on the back of the bow motor.

Early sheet metal.  Solid.  Hollow (lead shot filled).  Solenoid (for shipboard/railway use).
Above violin shelf.  Below violin shelf.
Tremolo pulsed from music roll.  Tremolo lever has contact points to keep it oscillating.
Staccato device uses a relay like a piano magnet with wiping contacts.
Staccato device uses a plunger (solenoid) type relay.
Staccato device uses a relay like a piano magnet with gauze brushes.
Staccato device uses a resistor instead of a relay.
Roll Frame / Spoolbox
Cast iron frame.  Aluminum frame.
Fly-ball type.  Ring type.
On the side of the roll frame.  On the roll frame shelf.
AC to DC Converter Information (only if original unit)
AC/DC converter Serial Number(s):   Ampere rating: 

AC/DC converter will have a single or dual serial numbers, i.e., AC xxxxxx/DC xxxxxx.

Cabinet bottom.  Hanging from springs.
Coin Switch / Coin Accumulator Magazine
Factory original.  Converted to non-original coinage.
Coin denomination: 

US 5, 10, or 25 cent, English penny, etc.

Furniture Case & Art Glass Description
Music roll storage rack in bottom of case (for unboxed rolls).
Date and Notations Written on Case or Mechanisms

Oftentimes dates and notations are written on the case and/or on various components.

Comments, History, and Explanations

Please include any additional information about the instrument that might be pertinent, such as its history, i.e., various locations and owners. If you find a date (or style number), such as on a paper sticker inside or on the backside of the case, or on an electrical component, notice an early tuning date written by hand on the piano plate, find an original sales invoice, etc., please describe any such items.