Thomas Yates 19th Century Birmingham Whistle Manufacturer History & Whistles by Avner Strauss

Thomas Yates 19th Century Whistle Maker. UNDERCONSTRUCTION 

Intro; I chose to publish this post on his Birthday albeit it is far from being completed, But after many years of research, and the last article I did about him done well over a decade ago, I post the new one to be expanded with time.
It is a part 5 chapters devoted to what I call ‘The Big 5’ British whistle makers in the 19th Century, along with an article about the big 5 and what I call
the 1870s ‘whistle boom’.
Previously I wrote here long articles with hundred of pages about
Stevens, Dixon, Dowler, and Hudson, Yates should be the last
article with another more detailed one in the making about
Hudson genius and importance and his 1870s whistles.

Thomas Yates B. April 4th 1818
D. 1882 age 64

The Yates Family has a long history starting in the 18th Century with many family members involved in Business as Brass Founders, Metal workers and manufacturers.  There is a vast amount of information I will Bring some of the research material as found and concentrate on the Thomas Yates who is identified with the whistle making .
It is most likely other members of the family produced whistles before but Thomas is the only one who stamped some of his whistles;  T. Yates,
and  published the first detailed catalogue with whistles in 1870; 
We can not exaggerate the importance of this first serious 4 pages of whistle catalogue in England, These are the first pages of a very LARGE catalogue which contains Spoons, Ladles and Kitchen ware which were the larger part of the business, It is here I would take the chance to say that the growths of the whistle making in Base Metals and Plated Base metals was PARRALEL in England In Germany, other countries in  Europe Eastern Europe as Poland & Russia and in the USA, so Many of the previous unknown makers were found with the Parallel of Yates 
in Germany which were Just as large and produced whistles for a longer period.  the first to show the line production of whistles after the industrial revolution, starting a new era in whistle making and the 1870s whistle boom. 

Thomas Yates 1870 Catalogue Cover, the first 4 pages Included over 100 railway whistles & Dog Calls  whistle  models. The rest of the .
Edwin Yates and John Yates gravestones Key Hill Cemetary

 Thomas Yates Senior, was born 1755, he appears at 1888 registered in 37 Coleshill St,
and appears 27 years later in 1915 Directory
at Coleshill Street, as Buckle Stock sinker, spoons, Glasshouse & mold maker, From later adv. we learn it was established 1780.
His son John (Born to Thomas & Elisabeth July 28th, 1786)  is a Spoon maker.
(It seems that Yates Senior’s father was also named Thomas was also a Brass founder located at 9 Bath St. in 1770 listed as making Bridle Bit and Stirup Plater, while other Yates are William Yates is on 9 High St as Brass Founder and Cockfounder James Yates 4 Newton St Corkscrew maker).

Thomas Yates Parents were John and Harriete,
John the son of Thomas Senior was to become a large well known spoon maker, later John Yates & Sons.
Thomas Brothers were Edwin & James, Edwin Yates was to become Birmingham City Mayor in 65. See photo for more detail about his Bio.
Here is 1838 Advertisement.and 1852 adv.


The Yates Family tombstones

Thomas Yates never married and had no children, after he died his nephews ran the business. In 1841 Census he is still living with his parents age 22 ,

In 1841 Thomas is about 23 living with his parents and making spoons and other goods with Thomas Sen. and with John, and in 1851 census our YATES THOMAS Home is at 97 Stratford Terrace, Age 33 Spoon Manuf.

37 – 38 Coleshill Street will be the family manufacturing center for few generations
expanding later from 38 Coleshill st. to 37, 39, 40, 41, 43 & 44. and some family members to other streets.

At this point I would like to go back to Thomas Yates whistles and catalogue pages.
Thomas Yates Whistles 

Whistle Types

The Yates Catalogue is a Benchmark in the history of whistle making documentation the first to show Round pea whistles and its importance is essential in the study of whistles. It is the first to show many types as well as round pea whistles
with a split blow hole which I called Pig Nose -Pig Nose because the Blow hole is divided- split into two blow holes which reminded me of a pig nostrils.
(It is to be expanded in a chapter about this type of fipple reasons and variations)

Yates may not had been the first to make – invent these but certainly was the larger producer of these. I should devote a special sub-chapter for these.

Round Dog calls whistles to be fitted over a whip or a cane and other combination whistles.

Yates used Brass, Nickel Silver, (German Silver at the time ), Pewter, (Reffered to as Crown Metal in his catalogue, & wood.

Yates made MANY TYPES of whistles The larger output of his whistles was
Round Pea whistles and Conical whistles. Here is a general preview
Round whistles – Yates was probably the largest manufacturer of round pea whistles
in the 19th Century, with over a 100 variations and models.

Round pea whistles including few groups mainly
Round Pea whistles, at the time mid 19th century referred to as calls – Dog Calls, Railway Calls etc. The term whistle was kept more for toys while calls was used in connection with Hunting military railway etc. ‘Profesionall whistles’)
Round Whistles with an addition of Figural top or cast with zoomorphic shape

Conical Whistles – Two notes Conical Whistles – T.N.C.W. and Single note Conical S.N.C. W  Two notes Conical whistles and Single Note Referred to as Beaufort by many collectors, or as Tapered at the time.
Both were made with an addition of a Circular mouthpiece.
And the S.N.C whistles are divided into two main categories Cased S.N.C and 
regular, the cased ones are more frequently met with, they are also constructed with a spring-clasp which holds them tight inside the case, and the case is equipped with two Screws which fit on a cross belt. 

Two Notes Tube Whistles – T.N.T. whistles, Yates made many models in small quantities and thus all of T. Yates Two notes tube whistles, some are so rare and
and only one was seen, and unfamiliar models are still to be found. 

Double End Whistles – at time referred to as Composition whistle, Hybrid Whistle
Constructed of a round pea whistle connected to a Conical whistle. 

Single Note Tube Whistles- SN.T.W

Tube Whistles – S.N.T by construction & shape with a circular mouthpiece .
It is an old photo, As far as I can tell the first on left may be a Hudson’s 1870s, 
Yet, it is not unlikely that James Hudson copied Yates Mouthpiece or was even apprenticed there for a while as Joseph his brother was apprenticed with Bent & Parker in the 1860s.

Yates was the first to Produce T.N.T whistles with windows at different heights
in order to create a whistle was two different frequencies which sounnd simultaneously.

As said his T.N.T whistles are all rare and some have bulbous top variations reminiscent of Porteous top design.

Double End Whistles

Bosun whistles – Boatswain’s calls

Double Chamber Whistles

Double Pipe Whistles
Yates made a Two Note Double Pipe Model 8439 and a 3 note double pipe Model
8440 as seen in hid 1870 Catalogue. (He made few variations of each)
Here is a more in detail preview and examples of the various types


Yates model 8439 Two notes double pipe with circular mouthpiece.



Thomas Yates Whistles, Stamps Time Line A. Strauss,
Thomas Yates Whistles, Stamps Time Line A. Strauss,



Rounds with circular round mouthpiece – MP

SNT short & Long

Art Rounds Round Art


Conical – Beauforts

Catalog  1870

100 whistles by T Yates

Previously Unknown Models

Paper Advertisments and more

Antique whistle review

Bicycle Tubular Reed Whistles and more. A.Strauss

Two rare type bicycle TUBULAR REED WHISTLES, Tube reed whistle,  late 19th Century early 20th century.
I thought these are very beautiful will write more about these at some point
The left one is Probably by J. Hudson & Co. it has a screw mouthpiece, Nickel Silver Brass, I do not think it was a Model supplied to the public .
The other is Brass with a Horn made Mouthpiece and sounds LOUD like a small Saxophone.  If you do see variations kindly send me photos, I do have another variation somewhere but I did not realize it was a bicycle whistle , thought it was a pitch pipe.

Continue reading Bicycle Tubular Reed Whistles and more. A.Strauss