Mills Novelty Company [Mills Industries, Incorporated]
[Mills Industries, Incorporated]
Manufacturer of coin-operated machines, including automatic musical instruments. Mortimer Birdsul Mills founded the Chicago company about 1889; his descendants continued the business, which held numerous patents for slot machines beginning with Mortimer Mills’s patent no.450,336 (14 April 1891) for a coin-actuated vending apparatus. From 1905 until about 1930, the company manufactured the famous Mills Violano Virtuoso. Its self-playing violin mechanism was invented about 1899 by the Swedish immigrant Henry Konrad Sandell (1876–1948), who assigned his patent no.807,871 (19 December 1905) to the Mills Novelty Company in 1905. First known as the Automatic Virtuosa, the electrically-powered violin player became known as the Violano Virtuoso when a 44-note mechanical piano was added about 1909. Other models included the Viol-Cello, the Viol-Xylophone, the Mills String Quartette, the Mills Race Horse Gambling Piano, and the Mills Electric Piano, all intended mainly for public venues.
In 1928, Mills began producing coin-operated radios and phonographs (jukeboxes); their last jukeboxes were produced about ...