Antique Bosun’s Pipe or Call
is sometimes incorrectly referred to as a Boatswain’s whistle by landlubbers. The 19th Century calls are larger in size
than those of the 20th Century. Until now, we’ve only seen two other examples of China Export pipes. One we had
the pleasure of selling in in 2011 and the other was from the J. Wells Henderson Collection and set a world record price
of $5148 at auction in 2008. Both were unmarked, had an artfully worked dragon on both sides, and presumably they
were made of silver. This one is silver plate.
along the length of the pipe with the head and body’s tail wrapping around the tube which is called the “gun” to the
mouth piece. It is exactly the same length as the one we sold, and the bowl or buoy are both. 7/8″ in diameter.
It weighs 1 1/8 oz or 3/8 oz more.
“Maggie” on the obverse and has a hallmark “HWK” followed by three Chinese characters stamped by a single slug on the reverse.
We offer that Maggie was the wife or loved one of the pipe’s owner.
Dia Weight 1 1/8 oz
IN LITERATURE: See “Marine Arts & Antiques, Jack Tar, A Sailor’s Life, 1750-1910″
by J. Wells Henderson and Rodney P. Carlisle, Published by Antiques Collectors Club, Ltd, England, 1999, page 48
house sold the Henderson pipe for $5148.00 including the buyer’s premium. It was described
as Chinese Export Silver Bosun’s Whistle, Nineteenth Century: The ball chamber chased and engraved on each side, with
dragon’s head applied and streams of flame continuing down each side, the body marked sterling. Length 5 5/8″. Literature:
Jack Tar, p. 48″
length of this relic which likely dates back to the late 1800’s is 5 1/2″ which is the same as the one sold last
year. Its width at the widest point is 7/8″ and as is the bowl and both are also the same. The major difference is in
the weight where this one is 3/8 ounce heavier than the last one. There also is considerable difference in position of
the dragon where this one rides on the pipe’s “gun” and the other one was mounted on the “keel”.
BOATSWAIN’S CALL OR PIPE:
call”. It is never called a “whistle” except by landlubbers (added).
The pipe consists of a narrow tube (the gun) which directs air over a metal sphere (the buoy)
with a hole in the top. The player opens and closes the hand over the hole to change the pitch. The rest of the pipe consists
of a keel, a flat piece of metal beneath the gun that holds the call together, and the shackle, a keyring that
connects a long silver or brass chain that sits around the collar, when in ceremonial uniform.
HISTORY AND USAGE: Boatswains calls can be traced as far back as
1248, when Greece and Rome used galley slaves. However in 1671 it officially became known as the boatswains call and found
a place in the English and American Navies as a means of passing orders, making it an honored badge of rank. Because
of its high pitch, it could be heard over the sounds of the sea, work of the crew and stormy weather. It is
now used in traditional bugle calls such as Evening Colors/Sunset, and in other ceremonies in most modern navies.
It is sometimes accompanied by other auditive features such as ruffles and flourishes, voice commands and announcements, or
even a gun salute.