The flutina

 The flutina is an early French precursor of the diatonic button accordeon. The earliest version of the instrument dates from about 1831. It was constructed by "Pichenot le Jeune" and was probably one of the first accordeons capable of playing a melody. It has one or two rows of treble buttons, which can play the tonic of the scale as "drawing" the bellows. Usually there is no bass keyboard. The right hand operates an air valve (silent except for the rush of air).

In the front of the keyboard is a rocker switch, which is also called "bascule d'harmonie". This switch is to be activated with the thumb in order to open up a pallet (a pad that covers a tone hole at the other end of the key buttons) for a simple tonic/dominant effect of accompaniment: tonic while drawing and dominant while pressing.

The internal construction of the flutina resembles the English Wheatstone concertina, it also has a concertina-like sound.

In case the keyboard has two rows of keys, the outside row plays the diatonic scale, while the inside row plays the sharps and the flats. Later versions of the flutina had a few open (tonic and fifth) chords available on the bass side, in addition to the silent air key. 

The bellows of the flutina mostly have only four folds, which makes the throw very short. This means the duration of the note played is also very short, the volume of the note is comparatively soft, in contrast to the later accordeons with their multi-fold bellows.

Flutinas were often imported to the United States, where they were used by photographers, not for playing the instrument, but only for making pictures. It gave the photographs a touch of culture, as women were sitting with their hands folded over a flutina, while actually, they never may have played an instrument. Many of the pictures date from the 1850's,  through the America Civil War period (1861 - 1865).

The most famous maker of the flutina accordions was Busson from Paris. Nowadays flutinas aren't constructed anymore, but it is still possible to find them, for instance on second-hand sites.

Click the link to hear a flutina