19th Century British Snail Whistles, Referee, Escargot Whistles, Rare Antique Whistles

( Under construction ) Includes 65 Photos
1881 Maker L. D. sold by Ortner & Houle 3 James St. London , Snail whistle (Escargot ) shaped whistle.
1881 DL Snail whistle ..Escargot _ whistle _museum
The article is about British snail (Escargot ) whistles made with in Victorian times.
Other articles about Snail Button type whistles which is a sub- category and as far as I know came first  but there is less information about its makers will follow.

Three  whistle Models made by Henry Arthur Ward late 1880’s and early 1890’s
Glasgow style construction and stamped;
Alpha Improved Call No. 23 No. 24 and 25
As with most referee standart types the smaller models are rarer , and so Model # 25 was first noted after 2005 .
These were made in his Alpha Gun Works in Birmingham.

Henry Arthur Ward 3 whistle Models Alpha Gun works Escargot, snail whistles whistle museum

Side view of this Trio Model no 23 is stamped Patent under mouthpiece
H A Ward 3 Models of Glasgow type Snail whistles side view whistle museum

Ward made a London style whistle ‘The Thunderer’ whistle.
Here is another Glasgow type whistle stamped The very whistle No. 23 which does have a Patent No. on the back .
H.A. Ward Alpha Improved Call No 25
Alpha improved call whistle no 25 50 mm , whistle museum
Alpha Improved Call No. 23 Stamped PATENT undeer the Lower Lip. Alpha Improved Call no.23 By H.A. Ward stamped PATENT it has a smoothh ridge on the underside whistle museum

The very whistle No. 23
The very whistle no 23 has patent Reg, 8293 or another, whistle museum archive
He stamped many of his whistles H.A.W Birm.
Peter McDonald , we know little about him but a Peter M’Donald, Langloan Iron Works, Coatbridge.
seems to have been that person,
Here is Glasgow Late 1880’s Improved Call whistle, It has a UNIQUE construction
which appers only on whistles made by him and MacNaughton.
McDonald Improved Call Snail WWhistle Glasgow type whistle museum

A side view of a McDonald whistle , reveals no ridge and one can clearly see the part which ‘envelopes’ the whistle from under the mouthpiece all around to the window.
Mc_donald__escargot_whistle_ side view ,whistle_museum

A sideview of a McDonald with N.E.R .plate on top
McDonald NBR snail whistle whistle museumA side view of the N.E.R McDonald whistle
McDonald Railway whistle side , whistle museum

Another snail , Escargot whistle , a previously unknown London type snail whistle made by McDonald.
London Type Escargot by McDonald whistle museum.  –

An earlier version of the Improved Call by McDonald.

McDonald Glasgow whistle maker, Improved Call Late 1880's whistle museum
Pict. 5
MacNaughton Patent Glasgow , is another noted variation
it is simmilar to McDonalds whistle in construction by not having a ridge on the underside , at times the bubble knop is not grooved just like the improved call
above made by McDonald.
So it is possible he was actually a maker or that he ordered his whistles from one of the makers we mention here.McNaughton Glasgow type whistleHere is a whistle supplied by B. B. Burley another Glasgow “whistle Maker” or supplier , some of his whistles have the exact construction as McDonald’s and McNauton whistles.
Burley,Glasgow whistle museum picture archiveAnd another one, An improved call  which may had been made by McDonald.
B.B. Burley Maker Glasgow, It is stamped Improved Call
Burley was a large tool maker and supplier from 1881 to 1914
He is listed at 9 watson st. In the Glasgow 1981 post office  directory ,

This whistle Obviously has TWO stamps , the lower one is designed in a similar way to S. Auld early stamps. with the word GLASGOW arched.
B B Burley Improved Call by McDonald whistle whistle museum
Here is a 7 or 8 Piece Military Button whistle Glasgow type construction
The buttons had the Shank removed and are a part of the sides of the whistle.
It is the heaviest and widest of this type I had encountered having a cast brass ‘envelope’  and top and an upper and lower tooth grip .
Front View
Button whistle sides Cast frame glasgow type snail whistle whistle museum

The left side
Button whistle sides Cast frame glasgow type snail whistle whistle museum jpg
The Right side view
Button whistle sides Cast frame glasgow type snail whistle whistle museum a

The underside reveals a ridge
Button whistle sides Cast frame glasgow type snail whistle whistle museum b

It is very easy to jump into conclusions about makers suppliers and even the most experienced researchers and knowledgeable collectors make mistakes since
there were to few whistles to compare and at times contradicting facts , certainly a tough nut to learn about with very little info and too few whistles to compare.
I found myself making many mistakes and correcting with time,
As I once said in a poem ; I ‘ve tried to correct my mistakes but my mistakes corrected me. A.S

J. Barrall

5 Whistles by John Barral 1846 – 1921 Birmingham making whistles since 1870s
John Barrall Birmingham whistles x 5 Whistlepedia
The Knops of Barrall’s referee whistles , are unique and the 2nd from left and the last on right are the more common knops.
Here are two of Barrall’s Stamped with Salvation Army logo.
Jon Barrall Two Salvation Army Snail whistles whistle museum Strauss Collection
A 1880’s Large referee whistle which seems to have been made by Barrall in his earlier years.  It has a one seen, cast iron knop on a once, Nickel Plated Brass whistle and domed sides as in pict 5 left.
Early Long stem antique snail whistle whistle museum jpg
Side view.
4 whistles Made by Black & Co. 81 North Frederick st. Glasgow . 1885 or earlier – 1898 ,  Black & Co., Ltd., packing-case makers and zinc and tin workers,

The two in the middle are actually Button whistles . Black & Co were the earliest to use ‘Thunderer’ stamped whistles .
4 Black & Co Glasgow snail whistles, two button whistles whistle museum
Four other whistles made by Black & Co. of Glasgow. As far as I know there are no whistles stamped Black & Co. They may well have made Glasgow type snail whistles as well .
The Thunderer whistle made by Black & Co. Glasgow whistle museum
Black & Co. made many whistles, Many of their whistles were sold by McPherson Bros. In Glasgow.
Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway brass guard's whistle, marked, M.S & L RAILWAY, the maker's name McPherson Brothers, Argyle Street, Glasgow, under the lip whistle museum arc
M.S & L  Stamp on a  whistle made by Black & Co. Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway brass guard’s whistle, marked, M.S & L RAILWAY, the maker’s name McPherson Brothers, Argyle Street, Glasgow, under the lip

Two Black & Co. made whistles, the one one the left is marked THE THUNDERER the small one is stamped P. Paisley Glasgow made by Black & Co smallest model , 38 mm .

Black & Co And Paisley Smaller model whistle museumA Button type , Glasgow Police by Black & Co.
Button type whistles with round ‘Bubble’ at times referred  to as round spherical knop, were made as far as I know by Black & Co.
By J.R. Gaunt, J. Hudson & Co. and by S. Auld and there may be more .

Black & Co Glasgow Police Button whistle whistle museum

The Thunderer
Black & Co Early Thunderer whistle musuem JPG.
whistle Thunderer 1880s whistle museum
5 Black & Co. London type Referee whistles , Escargots,  Side view
Black & Co 5 London whistles, med model side view whistle museumA button whistle – coin type button made by Black & Co.
Black & Co coin type escargot a whitle musum .A Black & Co. Stamped The Thunderer on mouthpiece and McPherson Bros. 166 Argyle St. Glasgow underneath.
Later The Both stamps would appear on the whistle’s face above and below window , Note the ‘pea’ inside,  well seen through the window,  the Pea can tell
a us a lot about the whistle and it’s period.

Black & Co whistle stamped underbeak McPherson Brothers Makers Glasgow etc whistle museum
Black & Co. for McPherson 166 ARgyle St Glasgow whistle museumNext is a ‘ Thunderer ‘ whistle by H. A. Ward
2 ESC_H_A_W_Thunderer1
While H. A. W Had his referee snail whistles stamped THUNDERER,  Black & Co stamped THE THUNDERER and Thunderer on earlier ones  in a rectangular frame . Here ore both side by side 1880s 90s Thundrer whistle by Ward and The Thunderer by Black & Co. whistle museum Strauss collection .
Three major Makers of referee whistles were
J. Hudson & Co.  ( Acme Whistles ) and Samuel Auld,  and Alfred DeCourcy.

Auld was making  Glasgow type snail whistles and on a much smaller scale rarer  London type Button whistles.

In the past I had written a lot about both I should bring a few articles dedicated to their whistles at that period .
Here are some of many by Acme whistles
J . Hudson & Co.
This one I was lucky to be the first to note years ago ( c. 2005) when it was still unknown and is still the first dated British Escargot – snail -referee – Button whistle type I know (Dating is by the company’s address) An earlier dated one is a U.S.A Patent from 1869 .
Referee whistle first dated one 131 Barr st. Acme, J. Hudson & Co whistle museum
Here one may clearly see the lower tooth grip raised in the mouthpiece and the under strenthening piece being shorter.
Acme 1885 By J Hudson whistle museum
Another sample, a Railway whistle stamped G.N.R.Y
on top  .
Button style earliest dated escargot snail referee whistle J. Hudson and Co 1885 131 Barr St. whistle museum

In 1884 and in the next few years J. Hudson Manufactured at least 5 different Button Style Whistles.
This was the first model made for Railway companies and for the public , it was followed
by 4 other more precisely designed and better made whistles with various Button sides : The Highwheel , The Dog, The Wheel , And a Plain Domed one.
4 Button escargot whistles, referee whistle whistle museum a

Similar whistles were made by Alfred DeCourcy
very few years later, after he left his job at J. Hudson & Co. to start his own whistle manufacturing business.
The demand for this pea whistles with Railway companies , led to many of these stamped with railway line companies… L. Y. R , G.N.R. Y and others.
Here are a few made by DeCourcy, one may note the addition of a Bubble- round spherical knop with a groove that was typical of Decourcy’s whistles
and the slightly different under strengthening ,
while Hudson were the first to use a tooth grip raised at the whistle’s mouthpiece , DeCourcy had the tooth grip raised in the under strenthening part , marked with a V pointing at it in the photo.
Alfred DeCourcy button style railway whistles 1880's 90's
Here is a closeup of one of Decourcy’s made whistles made for Samuel Parkes & Co. , Wilenhall, who was a supplier for the L.Y.R  London & Yorkshire Railway Company .
Alfred DeCourcy made button style whistle whistle museum LYR railway 1880s whistle museum

(Photo 1894 Reg .to be uploaded)
This was the next version of the whistle with the same dog embossed on side buttons but with a bubble top and Sprat’s Patent Logo on the front, Sprat was a large dog food supply company.

Spratt Patent escargot on a J.Hudson whistle whistle museum
1897 cast whistle by J. Hudson , This model may had been actually made in France .
Especially for the Queen Victoria Jubille 28 June 1887.
1897 Victorian French Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Escargot Whistle whistle museum
1897 Victorian French Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Escargot Whistle 1

Samuel Auld  – Glasgow
Samuel Auld’s Two Button whistles with Bubble top
And a Glasgow type whistle , S. Auld was manufacturing whistles that were stamped for whole sellers who made larger orders as MAKERS , these button whistles are to be found with Beech ‘Maker’ stamp as well.
The custom of many distributors at the period was to order whistles with their name as “Makers” and not to have the actual makers name, This was customary at that time and was done for commercial reasons to keep their customers.
S AUld Glasgow referee railway and button whistles 1890s whistle museum
Samuel Auld Glasgow whistle maker Button whistles whistle museum
The same Button whistle marked Wm Beech Maker Grantham Button Whistle Sherwood Foresters Beech Grantham Maker whistle museum 2008

5 sizes of Auld‘s snail referee Glasgow type whistle.
Manufacturing the same model in 5 sizes ( Approx. 40 to 60 mm ) was traditional with large manufacturers .
Auld’s construction was simmilar to Ward’s whistles and differ from MacDonald’s whistles , I will try and bring it in more details but one distinctive difference can be viewed in the underside of the whistle where there is a ridge across the underside of the whistle’s barrel . (see next photo)
Samuel Auld whistle maker Glasgow 5 model sizes whistle museum

A typical Auld’s construction view from underneath , the ridge can be clearly seen .
strauss_collec,_glasgow_Esccargots_article_Auld_Const__Side.whistle museumjpgA 51 mm size Model of the Improved call with Registered No. 143091
Registered 1990
Model By Samuel Auld Glasgow Reg. No 143091 of . 1890 whistle museum S. Auld Improved Call with an  arched stamp as far as I noted predates the registaration date and is seldom seen .
I wrote about it years ago in and article in the older museum site and in the wikipedia about the History of this maker , since then many whistles and facts surfaced .

Glasgow type__S. Auld_Pre_Reg__Stamp_Close_Up Avner STrauss collec. whistle museum1890 onward stamp .
Samuel_Auld_Escargot_Snail_ type-whistle,_A_Strauss,_straight_stamp_whistle museum 2006
Two of Auld’s whistles marked C.R for Caldonian Railway.
Auld whistle , for Caldonian Railway 1890's whistle museum

S. Auld Photos to be added
The ‘race’ of the industrial revolution led to making whistles at lower prices
enabling faster and cheaper whistles made of lighter materials fewer and cheaper parts  while trying to keep the sound and quality, this led to new patents and designs by all makers.
We can see Hudson registered patents and designs in the 1890’s and by Alfred Decourcy  as well as others .
While Acme whistles – J. Hudson and company were the largest maker DeCourcy was certainly their toughest competitor , it shall be discuussed in firther post or here in the future.
Richard A. Walton a Birmingham who was an employee of Hudson was a maker that started his own manufacturing buisiness in 1898 and had a nice catalogue which came out c 1900 , Here are two of his whistles the ‘Roller’ is a VERY rare one , and very similar to some German whistles of that period.

Walton, The Roller whistle, whistle museum  Here is a side view of the roller and the underside, clearly a Glasgow type
snail whistle. Very well made.
It was available with a compass as well.
Escargot whistles incorporating a compass on one side became popular and the early ones were produced in England since the mid 1890’s  but I will check furhter and bring samples .

Walton, The Roller, Strauss collection, whistle museumHere is the ‘Rattler’ whistle he made, a London type escargot with TAPERED Mouth piece , 45 mm
esccargot whistle by walton 45 mm The Rattler Rare whistle museum aHe also made a whistle named the ‘Rouser’  which was very similar
the Acme Thunderer design Registered 1884 By J. Hudson and Co.
The Acme 1894 Reg design 230905 Domed style button type sides and hollow spherical knop , side view.
The Acme 1894 Reg design 230905 Domed style button type sides and hollow spherical knop , side view whistle museum
Here is the front of an early sample c. 1894
Esc Acme1894 Reg 230905 hollow Knop whistle museum
The same model without the registeration number was  made later .
The acme Registered 1894 Hudson snail whistle

There were other snail whistles made by Hudson with Patents and Reg. designs
Here is the Acme ‘The Acme Thunderer’  Pat 16940 of 1897 ,
for a Two piece and a cap construction. This model  is 19mm; barrel , L; 45mm
Available with a compass as well .
Acme The Acme Thunderer w. Compass Pat 16940 of 1897 19mm barrel L 45mm whistle museumThe Acme Thunderer  late 1890’s incorporating a compass
Acme Thunderer J Hudson & Co Patent stamp for Two pieces and top cap Pat No.16940 of 1897 45mm by 19mm barrel whistle museum
James Dalziel Dougall , Glasgow, a snail whistle made of  Damaskus steel .
J.D Dougall A Gun maker was the son of  J. & J. Dougall who started the business and was active in Gun Making in Glasgow from 1841 to 1891 and then in London
As J. D. Dougall & Sons 1891 to 1929.
Further information shows That J & J Dougall started in 1760 and was a guild member since 1817 manufacturing other products.
There are way more Arm collectors and information about makers than about whistles, but this has to do with whistles being a sideline of many manufacturers
J & J Dougall; J D Dougall; J D Dougall & Sons
88 Trongate
177 Trongate & and later 9 Argyll Arcade as well
52 Argyll Arcade and 177 Trongate
51-52 Argyll Arcade and 177 Trongate
Address from 1837 to 1850 53 Argyle Arcade, Glascow Scotland
1850 to 1929 23 Gordon Street Glasgow, Scotland
1863 to 1883 59 St James Street, London
1883 to 1893 8 Bennet Street St. James
J.D. Dougall ,Gordon St. Glasgow Damaskus steel Escargot whistle whistle museumThe unique material shows no Patina… But the whistle was made in Glasgow
Before 1991 .

Whistles made by Silversmiths  are a great source for dating whistles since most are Hallmarked unlike brass and other button whistles.
Another post should be dedicated to the MANY silversmiths who made whistles.
Whistle collectors and myself as well regard “Whistle Makers” but the fact is that
most makers and manufacturers had whistles as a sideline , ( Thomas Yates , Dowler & Sons, Dixon & Sons just to name a few,all regarded as whistle makers) and were making many many other products; Hunting, Medals, Buttons, Cutlery spoons and Ladles and Hundreds of other products and lines.
One can see it well in Catalogues of manufactures who devoted very little
space to whistles. ( The earliest  T. Yates Catalogue Pub. 1870 is the First to devote 4 full pages to whitles and is still a small part of the catalogue, it shows no snail type whistles )
So bearing this in mind one should consider whistles by SILVERSMITHS as well,
In fact we tend to regard as a whistle maker everyone who ever made whistles ,
Let us say that there are whistle makers who are known as such because of one whistle or few known , while makers who made MANY whistles over a long period , for example Sampson Mordan a silversmiths company making many silver items as well as Jewelry are not regarded as whistle makers.
One can argue that they were not making “Professional ” whistle types but more Novelty and Gadgets but they certainly did , so in the future I would devote more  time and work to the subject.
While mentioning this it should be noted that J.Hudson & Co. The Acme whistle company may well had been the only company at the period and later making almost solely whistles .
Here is a Button style snail sterling silver whistle by Sampson Mordan London 1889.

s. mordan sterling silver button style whistle 1889 whistle museum
Mordan whistle side view

Sampson Mordan 1889 silver referee whistle whistle museum

To be continued…  meanwhile I urge you all to look and keep an eye for more rarely seen whistles . I am always glad to see photos, try and answer questions and see new ones .
THERE ARE  many more antique whistles of that period, By Silversmths and some by well known, easily identified makers as S.Auld, ( Saw today an article I wrote long ago and earased, I just saw it there  should revive the link at the bottumn soon  )).
I should bring more whistles by J. Hudson , J. R. Gaunt and others I did not mention here,  some makers were discovered in the last ten years , some met with only ones or twice, and some previously unknown by familiar makers ,
I had the privilege to find the first earliest known  J. Hudson & Co referre – Escargot  whistle from 1884 – 5 , and there are always new ones hiding  out there waiting to be ‘discovered’. such is ‘modern Archeology’.
Here is a recently found antique referee-  Escargot whistle with unique construction and Milled Knop . Possibly by  ….
Snail whistle, Escargot with a Milled Knop whistle museum

Whistle museum photos and articles by A. Strauss all rights reserved etc. etc.

whistle museum logo

4 thoughts on “19th Century British Snail Whistles, Referee, Escargot Whistles, Rare Antique Whistles”

  1. I have a , The AMCE REGISTERED whistle that is the later version of the 1894 design No. 230905, domed style button type shown above. It is exactly like the above photo but dose not have the No 230905 under the registered.

    Any idea what my item is valued at?

    I can not find it anywhere.


  2. Hi I have recently purchased a Mc Pherson whistle with 78 Argyle st Glasgow stamped on the top, patent stamped underneath and the thunderer patent stamp on the right hand side. I waqs wondering how old is it? it was part of a fire-fighters estate.

  3. I have a whistle by J.Brown & Son Ltd, Glasgow, with The Officers Call on the mouthpiece and No 1 on the side, can you tell me anything about it?

  4. Have recently looked at your site and would like to send some iphone photos of an unusual bicycle whistle I have. What is best way to send and could you supply any information about the whistle?

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