The Acme whistle company was established in Birmingham 140 years ago by Joseph Hudson and has developed and patented over 40 different whistle designs including the iconic Acme Thunderer.
Hudson a farm worker from Derbyshire moved to the city of Birmingham, like so many during the industrial revolution, trained as a toolmaker and converted the wash house at the side of his end of terrace “back to back” home in St Marks street into a workshop where he made many things to help increase his family’s income. Early products included snuff boxes, cork screws and whistles. The business was very small until in 1883 when the London Metropolitan Police advertised for an idea to replace the policeman’s rattle a cumbersome means of alert for the bobby on his “beat”. Hudson invented a novel whistle for the purpose – it could be held in the mouth, leaving the hands free giving a clear advantage over the rattle, it had a discordant easily recognizable note that could be heard over a mile away it was christened the Metropolitan.
Building on this success, the Acme Thunderer whistle was developed a year later to replace the sticks and handkerchiefs football referees had used to that point for officiating matches. Hudson quickly realised that whilst his earlier design of the Metroplolitan whistle produced a sound that would carry, the new design would need to able to be heard by the players above the noise of both the game and the crowd. The solution was the famous ‘pea’, which when blown produced a fuller warbling sound, the brass body of the design also incorporates a pressed detail on the mouth piece which allows the whistle to be easily gripped by the teeth enabling running with it in the mouth. Still in use today, as the official referees whistle the sound of the Acme Thunderer is synonymous with sporting events around the world.
The Acme Thunderer has sold over 200 million units and is still produced in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter (UK) utilising the same craft skills in its production as when originally designed.