Argueably the best antique whistles made come from the UK. Let's face it, it was said they ruled the seven seas at one point and the sun never set on their empire. In affest they were the worlsd power and it showed in their manufacturing. As always, we are concentrating on metal whistles. To be sure there are many more types.
It is during this period of time that due to that particular point in history everything came together to build high quality, well built and innovative whistles with much less labor costs and doing so in production levels. The years 1850 to 1930 were the peak years in the UK and it would turn out to be the same in other countries like in Germany, France, America, Argentina, China etc. Of course before that period there were whistles and thereafter. However, British machinists, craftsman, and silversmiths really set the bar when it came to whistle making. Consequently there came a numerous amount of manufacturers that appeared on the scene especially in the UK during this period. The designs and variety, even production levels. therefore followed the path of colonizing and British whistles are to be found around the world.
That being said, we would like to raise awareness of American whistles. Being a much younger country, especially on the west side, finds that whistle makers did not develop to the level of, if not the quality of, production made whistles to the extent of their UK counterparts till perhaps the 1920s. So we find whistles dating not much further back in history in the USA, than the beginning of the golden age in the UK. Older examples may appear occasionally, but not production made examples.
Future SPOTLIGHTs will highlight different American makers in particluar. This SPOTLIGHT is focusing on across the board a variety of whistles made in the USA.
First up is a knife combination patented in the USA by James A. Frary in 1880. The smaller end is crafted into a whistle and one may note the detailed work on the sides.
There is another model with two blades. This example is a production whistle and others can be found with a diligent search.
Next up, is the striking example of the only known example by North Brothers, of an escargot of unique design. Perhaps an experimental effort or prototype, it is stamped several times with Patent numbers and pending. None of which has been found on any patent searches.
Circa 1897, the North Brothers, best known for tools, were located in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Note there is not a knop for suspension and also the drill holes for the cuts to the window. It does contain the original cork ball, not wooden.
The Bridgeport Gun Implement Company known simply as BGI made many types of whistles of metal and other materials. Shown here is one of two sizes model #601 a 50 caliber bullet (model #601C being the other). It is very high pitched almost shrill and made with exceptional quality for a very early production whistles. Patented by Charles Leet in 1881, there followed a few variations, mainly in the knops.
Dual and more chambered whistles came to be quite popular in many designs. Here is a very early model with an extended mouthpiece patent dated 1864, but not found as yet in specific drawings.
A.L. Fischer would go on to patent 'improvements' in 1885, 21 years later. Banks & Brother would produce a dual chamber whistle decades later utilizing the serrated diaphragm, while the cycling company the Overman Wheel Company (the assigner to the Fischer patent) would use a smooth diaphragm (along with another cycling entrepreneur R. Phillip Gormally)
A massive example of a 'beaufort' whistle follows. It is not known whether it was to be production made or not. Quite heavy at 109 grams, it is a very thick brass whistle and appears to be made from a single piece of stock, yet there is a remarkably thick diaphragm somehow inserted inside. This whistle is made with an unusual attribute of just one window like a round whistle, but designed as a beaufort-shaped whistle.
F.L. Johnson in 1889 patented the following whistle for cycling enthusiasts. It is fairly long at 12 MM and light weight. The sound is a hollow deep sound, not like a train sound at all, even though with the four chambers it looks like it would sound so. Note the extensions soldered on the mouthpiece. This was a production made whistle and examples can be found and variations. Johnson also made a dual chamber whistle that is rare.
In a similar category that falls in the whistle realm we find sirens. F. S. Chase in 1895 patented a brass sheet metal siren that other manufacturers expanded the use of in the USA. This example is pixie size yet fully functional. The curved openings on the end were used by B&R later in their own variety and sizes, which was also of a rolled metal sheet construction. This one measures just over 3 MM, entitled "Little Siren."
Lastly, we take a look at a very heavy, 47 grams, two window, police whistle. Patented in 1881 and stamped so on the inside on the diaphragm, by the inventor E. D. Bean . He did not make them, but farmed them out to others who specialized in production of police equipment. It is well constructed and ahead of its time in craftsmanship. The entire top knop and cap is a single brass piece and the mouthpiece attaches just below the window, as a second of three pieces — besides the diaphragm. A much lighter and thinner sheet metal type of construction came to be used in a later models.
On this SPOTLIGHT we have just touched on a small variety of American designed and made whistles. There are many more right now to be studied, discussed and shown. Hopefully many more will continue to surface. British whistles have dominated the collecting field, but this no longer needs to be the case.
France has outstanding and sometimes extremely artistic whistles, that are not often seen outside their country. Germany has many fine and innovative whistles to be discovered. They are quite hard to find post war times, perhaps having been melted down for armaments. However they do surface and as the internet improves more are seen outside the country. Remarkable sturdy well crafted torpedo sirens of different models were patented and come from Germany. Argentina has produced some interesting examples of a variety of whistles and models, as has China of which we probably have not scratched the surface of when it comes to antique whistles.
We hope this spotlight has sparked your desire to delve deeper into the history, design and variety of whistles. Please feel free to write, send pictures and perhaps share some information that will contribute to the world scene. We always give credit for what is sent in !! Hopefully through ours and other websites each country will be able to be highlighted in our search to discover and credit the best of whistles and thier manufacturers.
Best wishes, TWG
Posted March 3, 2012