I'd never thought about whistles until I stumbled across the bizarre-looking Acme Nighingale in the Thomann catalogue.
Acme is the brand name of Joseph Hudson & Co, based in Birmingham. The company has been responsible for every major advance in whistle technology since 1860.
In 1883, the Metropolitan Police were looking for a replacement for the bulky rattles they'd been using to attract attention. Amateur violinist Hudson created a two-tone whistle whose sound could carry for a mile - it was inspired by the noise his violin strings made as they broke. The met ordered 21,000 whistles, and 45 million have been sold since. (More police whistle history)
In 1884, the Acme Thunderer was developed for football referrees. The Tornado T2000, from 1989, was designed for referees in supersized stadiums and it used at all FIFA internationals. It costs £3.94 and is available in black, white, blue, red, yellow, flouro green and flouro orange.
In 1935, they invented the silent dog whistle, tunable from 5,400 to 12,800hz.
In 2001, they diversified into conceptual art, with the Acme Meteor, a giant brass whistle, designed to be dropped from an aircraft to become the loudest whistle ever. It's not clear whether it ever flew.
Highlights from the Acme catalogue include the three-note Samba Whistle, the Windmaster, which sounds a bit like an old synth, as does the Siren Horn. The Tug Boat Whistle does exactly what you'd expect. The Duck Call looks obscene. Finally, the signal horn is ideal for ravers.