The self-playing Violano-Virtuoso was invented by the Mills Novelty Company †• Chicago-based specialists in slot machines, vending machines and juke boxes †• in the early 1900s when player pianos and mechanical coin-operated devices were extremely popular. Early models were called Automatic Virtuosa and later a piano mechanism was added to provide an accompaniment.
The strings are played by small electric-powered rollers; a chromatic set of metal 'fingers' rises from under the string, lifting it in a 'v'-shaped slot, to form the different notes.
It is estimated around 5,000 machines were produced.
Read about the 20-stringed Campanula and hear the instrument played.