The flutina is an early precursor to the diatonic button accordion, having one or two rows of treble buttons, which are configured to have the tonic of the scale, on the "draw" of the bellows. There is usually no bass keyboard: the left hand operates an air valve (silent except for the rush of air). A rocker switch, called a "bascule d'harmonie" is in the front of the keyboard. When this switch is thumb activated, it would open up a pallet (a pad that covers a tone hole, at the other end of the key button(s), (see photo) for a simple Tonic/Dominant drone: Tonic on the draw and Dominant on the press, e.g. Tonic notes C/g, and Dominant G/d, without any major or minor thirds.
Many of these "Flutina" accordions were imported into the United States and were common photographers' studio props. This imparted a touch of "culture" to the sitter, hence the many tintype, ambrotype, etc. images of men and women, with their hands poised over "Flutinas", which they may (or may not) have actually played. Many of the images date from the 1850s through the American Civil War period (1861–1865).
The internal construction of the flutina resembles the English Wheatstone concertina more than the "reed banks" used in regular accordion construction. Thus, it has a concertina-like sound. Underneath the pallet/keyboard face, there is a rectangular, wooden board, reed pan, with reed chambers, made with airtight, leather covered, thin wooden dividers. These dividers are between the reeds, for the diatonic scale notes. The brass reed tongues are mounted on reed shoes, with each tongue nailed on with a single metal pin. These reed shoes (or frames) are inserted into dovetail-shaped slots into the top side of the pan. If the keyboard has two rows of keys, the outside row plays the diatonic scale, while the inside row plays the sharps and flats, and these chromatic reeds face the interior of the bellows, in dovetailed slots on the backside of the pan board, without any dividers. The face of the pallet/keyboard actually slides out to reveal the inset reed pan, reminiscent of the construction of a pencil box, or a Japanese puzzle box. The accordion bellows has a very short "throw" (the maximum extension of the bellows, when drawn out), with most instruments having only four folds. Larger versions had 5 to 7 folds in the bellows. The use of the 4 fold bellows made the duration of the note played very short, and the volume of the note comparatively soft, in contrast to the later "German" style accordions, with their larger, multi-fold bellows.