James Dixon & Sons Whistles & History In the 19th Century. Avner Strauss

James Dixon, Dixon & Son, James Dixon & Sons Whistles, A Brief History of Whistles in a Few Parts. Avner Strauss

Under construction, kindly drop in occasionally for updates.

                                        Whistle Model # 55 by Dixon & Sons


Recently I have been digging through layers of “modern archeology”, specifically of whistles in the 19th century. Decade by decade, I have been “peeling” off the layers to reveal earlier dates. Identifying and discovering new whistles and information is a fascinating and rewarding subject for me to engage with. Discovering the first examples of dated escargots, the Bean Police, or Stevens model #27, are just a few examples. Likewise, discovering previously unknown whistle makers and bringing to light new information was a great reward for years of researching. Each discovery leads to new understandings, which, in turn, lead to an ever-increasing interest. I take great pleasure in sharing my thoughts and findings and wish to someday open a real whistle museum as well as publish my research, thus making everything even more accessible.

Dixon & Sons was one of the four large whistle makers in England up to 1880. While T. Yates and Stevens, and W. Dowler, the other three makers, were large, Dixon was, by far, larger. The family’s history and products are well documented and I can turn the attention of readers to one of few books. Here is a link to a PDF of one of them. In what follows, I shall concentrate on whistles and give a short overview of their history.

I started my research after coming across the 1st known TNT whistle stamped by Dixon (2006). I now know there are two of them. After I posted my first bit of research about Dixon on Wikipedia, someone noted that it should be erased as it is doubtful that a company by that name ever existed… Today, there are already hundreds of articles and photos, as well as many other resources. However, the subject of whistles is relatively still little-researched, and therefore I hope this text will contribute to collectors and others interested in whistles.

Here is an old post I wrote about Dixon (it includes mistakes, but since it was archived somewhere else, I cannot revise it): http://archive.is/RuZZb

The article shared here is, hitherto, the most comprehensive essay about the subject of Dixon & Sons whistles. There are, of course, many whistles I know of and did not include, as well as many that are still waiting to be discovered.

The full article is in 9 sub-parts. 
Part I (6 chapters)

1) Brief History and data (19th Century)
Part I.a. Round whistles by Dixon & Sons;
2) Early Period Round Whistles and ‘The sheffield Mouthpiece & Fipple’ I. a.,
3) Round Ivory & Horn I.b.
4) Animal Head Whistles, I.c.

5) Round Brass & German Silver Whistles. Signal Whistles and ‘Pig nose’ Whistles
6) Round Britannia Metal Whistles & Model #49. Part I.e.

Part 2 (3 chapters)
More whistles by Dixon & Sons, including
7) Beauforts,

8) Extractors, combination whistles, Shooting Gudgets and other combination whistles. II. .b
9) James Dixon & Sons Other Rare Whistle Models & Designs. II.c. 

As a rule, my observation is that many whistles made as DOG CALLS did not use a pea. (A.S*)
A small collection of 41 whistles was given by the Dixon family in 1938 to the city of Sheffield, and was exhibited at the city hall. There are many whistles which Dixon made during the 19th century and are not among these.

You may take a CLOSE look and note that 27 are ROUND WHISTLES, and 6 more are round whistles combined with shooting gudgets.


The James Dixon & Sons Company was a family-run business for 170 years (up to 1876) and was located at Cornish Place for over 180 years (up to 1992).
James Dixon was the Founder company established 1806.
James Dixon later  Dixon & Sons were one of the major British manufacturers in the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century. They were well known as manufacturers of pewterware, electroplated Britannia metal, silverware, and electroplated nickel silver. Their product range included hundreds of items for domestic use in the kitchen (inc. bowls, cutting-tools), and the dining room (e.g. tea services, cocktail shakers and mixers), and items like candlesticks for general household use. They were also a world leader in manufacturing shooting accessories through the nineteenth century, and exported powder flasks in large quantities to America. While Dixon & Sons were known for their whistles, all of their products were of outstanding quality.

JAMES DIXON, founder, 27 Jan, 1776 – 17 Oct, 1852.
Few other family members involved with the company were:
William Frederick Dixon 
Henry Issac Dixon
William Fawcett
(James Son in low)
James Willis Dixon James’ son from his second marriage.
Lennox Burton Dixon.
James Willis Dixon Jr. (The founder’s grandson)
Lennox Burton Dixon, joined the company in 1889.
W. Millo Dixon, ran the company following Lennox’s death in 1941.

Above ; James Willis Dixon, 1802-1876.
Henry Issac Dixon,
the youngest of James senior’s sons, 1820 -1912.
James Willis  Dixon Jr.,
b. 1838 -1890.
This partial family tree, is taken from a book published in 1862 entitled the ‘History of the Parish of Ecclesfield in the County of York’ by Jonathan Eastwood. p. 384. The Dixon family tree (Dixon of Page Hall)

James Dixon, 42 Silver St., Sheffield
Dixon & Smith, 16 Silver St., Sheffield (1811-1822)
James Dixon & Son, Cornish Place (1822-1920)

London Office, 14 St. Andrew Street, Holborn, EC4
Several branches in Australia and the U.S.A (See advertisements)

Here you can see advertisements in: 1834, 1849, 1866, 1882, 1891, 1895 , 1899

The 1934 advertisement above reads: “JAMES DIXON & SON MANUFACTURERS

Timeline of important dates and facts:

1790-1797 – James Dixon, whose father and grandfather were metal workers in the cutlery business, does his apprenticeship and goes on to work for Richard Constantine, a successful Britannia metal manufacturer (Sydney Constantine became James Dixon & Sons Works Manager in the 1930s).

c. 1806 – Following his father’s death, James Dixon THE FOUNDER (son a metal worker also named James Dixon) starts his own business at 42 Silver St. 
1810 –  Dixon & Smith a partnership with Thomas Smith is registered at 16 Silver St. (until 1822).
“Dixon and Smith, manufacturers of Britannia metal goods and dealers in cutlery, etc. 16, Silver St. Green Lane proprietors of rolling mill”
1911 Directory.
1922 –
The company moves to Cornish Place, Sheffield. William Frederick Dixon Joins the company. Smith dissolves the partnership. William Dixon, the older son from first marriage, joins. Company moves to Cornish Place and the firm is named James Dixon & SON c. 1824
1825 – James Dixon’s son-in-law, William Fawcett, joins the company.
1828 – Trade directory shows Dixon & Son – manufacturers Britannia Metal goods, spoons, scallop shells, etc.
1929 – Dixon registered in Sheffield as a silversmith, acquired a plating business and registered his platemark in.
1834 – First large advertisement is published (see image)
1835 – A third son, Henry Isaac Dixon, the name changes to “James Dixon & Sons”. 1936
1835 James Willis Dixon Joins as a partner at the age of 21 and goes to New York where he establishes 4 agencies. His son James Willis Jr. was born in New York in 1838 and would take over the firm in 1876.
1842 – 400 workers attend a party for James the founder, James retires.
1848 – The company starts electroplating.

Page Hall was the home of Dixon, purchased in the early 1820s. In 1854, two years after his father-in-law’s, Willian Fawcett refurbishes the property.

A later view of Page Hall

1851 – Dixon participates in The Great Exhibition and the company is awarded with several prizes in different classes for Silver and Britannia Metal.
1855 – Fawcett (James son-in-law) becomes mayor of Sheffield. His own son is to take over the company 50 years later.
1861 – 35 new cartridge implements such as re-cappers, fillers, cutter scissors, closers, carriers, and cartridge hooks are made.
1865 – James Willis Dixon bought Hillsborough Hall.
1867 – A new silver hall mark is registered.
1873 – A large Catalogue is published. A plate from the 1873 Dixon & Sons catalogue.

1876 – James Willis Dixon, third generation to the founder, takes over the company after his father’s death.
1879 – The trumpet and Banner Logo is registered as trademark for Dixon & Sons.
1882 – Arms catalogue with few intricate whistle combinations (see part II for examples) Whistles first appear in a Dixon catalogue, though some of their whistles appeared in guns, rifles & sporting goods catalogues of American manufacturers and distributors in as early as 1872 for [dog calls] made of Britannia metal and sold through their agencies in New York founded after the mid. 1830s. But as you would see in the next parts whistles were made since their early days and showed up in catalogues much later. 

1883 – Another arm catalogue, page 52 is all whistles catalogue : (See part II)

1893 – Company now has 670 employees. large catalogues keep appearing.
The company continued to be a family-run enterprise until 1976
and kept producing up to 1992.

Dixon & Sons stamps used the trumpet and banner stamp ( There were few variations since 1850s as well as a variety of other stamps as seen here.
attempt to date few dozen Dixon marks:

Coming up in the next few days PART I a with many whistles and some special credits.
All rights reserved, Avner Strauss.
A primer, by Dixon, almost a whistle .

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