James Dixon & Sons Part I. a. Round Whistles. A.Strauss

PART I.a. Underconstruction


This part starts with metal whistles (one wooden) excluding Britannia metal made whistles which are to be uploaded later, and continues with Ivory,
Horn & Stag horn made whistles. Materials & Identifying features for Dixon whistles would be discussed later. The Part dealing with round whistles terminating with an Animal Head can be viewed here, Part I here,The begining  of Part II. a., Here.
Dew to the length PART I of the article was divided into 7 parts, all posted. 

Dixon’s whistle’s timeline divided roughly to three periods over the 19th century;
– Pre 1835 Dixon, Dixon & Son
Middle – 1835 Dixon & Sons
Later 19th Century c. 1865 – 1900

The earliest whistles Dixon made were round whistles.
These were very sturdy cast or machined from one metal rod with no hole at top, the drilled hole came later,  I believe the early ones were made mostly for military use. and later quality was upgraded in terms of materials and designs for the elite, sportsmen, and later for railways.
A very early type: A special knot was used to tie a lanyard to the whistle’s top;
 This whistle uses the “Sheffield Fipple” (a term I coined here) which is discussed in details, in a later paragraph here, and the round metal band below mouthpiece which may well be unique to Dixon (to be verified).

The next photo shows another very early Dixon on the left with the same features but a different top design, mushroom like.
A very early type beside the ‘next generation’

On the right is a later development with loop hole in 45 degress to window, and a drilled ring hole at the top, which was a later development.
It would be hard to set particular dates but I would think the very early ones were used and made during the Napoleonic Wars, c. 1800s, 1810s, and the Drilled hole top c. 1810s, 1920s.

A Special feature which was used in the 2nd type c 1920s was a circular “Sheffield FIPPLE” and Mouthpiece  –  with Zigzag joint – dovetail joint – saw teeth.
The next photo shows a close up of this early technique which was probably time consuming to make, It was used in Brass whistles with Ebony wood fipple and with Ivory with Ivory fipple :

The fipple on the left is from the previous photo right with drilled top and ring
and the right fipple here is a close up of the next Ivory whistle which belongs to the first generation, an undrilled top :
The way to tie these early whistles with a know is a forgotten art I believe, seamen & others were very skilled with those knots, Here is an illustration of various type of knots , note the whistle is tide with a ‘clove hitch’ one.
There are few other early, first generation examples and designs.
Dixon was fond of making small whistles, Miniature Brass whistle but LOUD !

A later one,First period second generation, same window style, but with a “new” ornamental design, the CRIMP RING or groove in top which became a STANDARD with some makers for over 100 years, still a very small under 2 inch whistle.
Another second generation of early period type, James Dixon whistle
‘Bottle Shape’ whistle, Heavy solid Gun metal made of two partes Body & Fipple.
Note the loop hole is at an angle of 45 degrees to window.
51 mm and 51 grams. (In general I developed a general scale for ‘heavy’, from one gram per mm on, it is very heavy)

An early 52 mm example first period first generation, with top designed for knot and a “Sheffield Fipple”, see next paragraph.

 The Sheffield Fipple

The “Sheffield Fipple” a term I coined here, or the Sheffield mouth piece‘.
(The fipple is what was known in earlier recorders and flutes as BLOCK, one may note that recorders are made of two main parts the pipe with finger holes and the whistle),
This fipple may had been used by makers we do not know of, in Sheffield Pre 1800, But it became DIXON’s ‘signature’ albeit other Sheffield makers as G & J W Hawksley and Hill Bros used it as well, (both made whistles Hill Bros. Est.1792) so did Bartram, and Sykes, other Sheffield makers which whistles stamped with their logo may have been made by Dixon.
That said it should be noted that in general it is almost impossible to identify Hawksley’s whistles from Dixon, and the known catalogs present whistles which are identical, but have a different model number, at times the only difference is in the whistle’s stamp.

The next illustration shows a round whistle in the drawing but this ‘Sheffield Fipple’ was used with other types of whistles made by DIXON as well.
Illustration of “The Sheffield Fipple” (I decided in favour of “Sheffield Fipple” after illustration was made, since the fipple and mouth piece go hand in hand).
compared with the Standard common Circular – Round , in profile, one.
 A show the standard CIRCULAR one
 B The “Sheffield Fipple” insert. and an actual round whistle.

Dixon used Both A & B in his whistles but no other makers beside the ones mentioned did use the SHEFFIELD FIPPLE.

Here is a dated 1836 – stamped W R 1836 wooden whistle with “sheffield fipple”, First Period and generation, These were made earlier but it is the earliest dated Dixon, It was made earlier as well.

It was suggested ( By A. Keeping) that it may well had been a ‘Police Whistle’,  The Metropolitan police act passed 1829.
Here is a similar one with more refined top,  by Dixon, Both are close to 60mm.

Here I took a small Dixon Ivory whistle 33.5mm with Sheffield fipple and diminished the photo of the wooden on for comparison, they do share the SAME DESIGN and fipple.

This photo was taken long ago before I was aware of this sheffield fipple earlier dates.

All the whistles in the above examples use the diagonal cut fipple “Sheffield Fipple”, Type B in the illustration, Now we shall look at some with Type A Circular cut mouthpiece & fipple.
(It should be noted that Mauchline ware Scottish wooden whistles are an use this B type diagonal cut as well)

Next is a round Whistle For the “Royal Steam Packet Company” made during the 2nd period by J. Dixon & Sons Royal Mail Steam Packet Co.

R.M.S.P.C established 1839, one of their crest mottos was DIEU DROIT ETMON
meaning God and my right, is the motto of the Monarch of the United Kingdom outside Scotland. It appears on a scroll beneath the shield of the version of the coat of arms of the United Kingdom used outside Scotland used on Buttons as well.

                                 (photos does not do Justice to this piece). 

1865 Silver whistle by James Dixon & Sons

This uncleaned sterling silver round pea whistle is fully hallmarked for Sheffield
Lion, X for year and queen Victoria. The makers name D & S for Dixon & Sons and it is the first dated notched window by Dixon.
Dixon’s first silver hallmark was registered September 1829 D & S
On August 13 1867 Dixon registered a new Hallmark with the Sheffield assay office. J.D & S.
The importance of this historical whistle is that we have a date not just for the notched window but also for a “pip” in the internal part of the Diaphragm & Fipple which were made of one piece at that time. The ‘Pip‘ would be later discussed with photos, and other Dixon’s identifying features, it is certainly a single feature by which Dixon’s whistles can be positively identified.
Many times we need two or three features to identify a maker, so a single one makes it easier

Dixon had two types of Notched windows the standard and the “Notched crown” (my term), with corners up, Here is a fine example.   

  James Dixon Part I.d Round German Silver and Brass whistles by Dixon.



Dixon manufactured whistles made of brass, Gun metal, steel, Briatnnia metal, German silver (also known as nickel silver) and in wood bone horn & ivory whistles. Sterling Silver, was used later, The first stamped I had seen is 1865.
Ebony & Cocoa wood were used for fipples.
The Whistle Making Department…is another subject and so is the tuning and length.

Note : It should be noted that some of the whistles discussed here do not have a stamp and therefore can not be definitively attributed to Dixon how ever, they are assumed to be with relative certainty based on my extensive research and familiarity with whistles.

All rights reserved , A.Strauss, whistle museum 2018. comments are welcome
Email; info@avnerstrauss.com

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