[Ads-l] Antedating "whistleblower"

dave@wilton.net dave at WILTON.NET
Thu Jul 29 11:27:36 EDT 2021

The OED (old entry) has 1970, and only for the informer, exposer of a scandal sense
Literal use:
“Letter from Japan” (29 October 1860). Daily Evening Bulletin (San Francisco), 1 December 1860, 1. Readex: America’s Historical Newspapers.

The Japanese are extremely fond of children. Underneath this figure was a stage; and here was a man dressed like a bear, and certainly bruin could not have been more faithfully and naturally represented. He threw himself in every conceivable attitude, extending his huge jaws as if he would swallow all about him, dancing and prancing to the delight of the people, young and old. A kettle-drum, a flier and a whistle-blower, formed the orchestra for bruin to dance by—truly music for a bear.
(There are also many instances of "whistleblower" in the context of factories, ships and trains, and fire and emergency alerts. Whistleblowers could be human or mechanical.)
Use to refer specifically to a sports, usually basketball, referee:

“News of the Cage: Referee Did Not Appear.” Trenton Times (New Jersey), 19 December 1901, 9. Readex: America’s Historical Newspapers.

The Camden-Penn Wheelman American League game scheduled for last night at Camden was declared off at the last minute owing to the non-appearance of a league referee. Both teams were on the floor by 8:30 o’clock and a small crowd was on hand, but nary a whistle blower showed up.
“Amateur Goss’p.” San Jose Mercury Herald, 17 November 1914, 8. Readex: America’s Historical Newspapers.
Professor R.B. Leland and Manager Neil H. Petree are attempting to get L.S. Reading to referee the big game With [sic] Palo Alto next Saturday. Reading is acceptable to Palo Alto, and if the expert whistleblower is not occupied elsewhere next Saturday, he will officiate.

To mean an informer, exposer of scandal:
“Emery Ignores Castle Charges” (dateline 18 September 1906). Philadelphia Inquirer, 19 September 1906, 2. Readex: America’s Historical Newspapers.

I am charged with having been in a maudlin and drunken condition in the Bellevue-Stratford in Philadelphia. Look me over. Do I look like a man who has dissipated? At the age of 67 I am vigorous and hale, and have one son weighing 225 pounds. Do you think I am much of a degenerate?
Because I have not made the millions that Rockefeller, Rogers and Archibald did—and I could have done so—and I have remained honest, this pea shooter and whistle-blower has gone through the State maligning my character.

“Harris Tells About Betting.” Oregonian (Portland), 25 November 1943, sect. 3, page 2. Readex: America’s Historical Newspapers.
(About gambling in baseball, the "senator" refers to the bygone Washington baseball club)

Before departing, McCann asked Harris if he had discussed the matter with anyone else, and Bucky said that he had just talked to Clark Griffith, president of the Senators, in Washington. Harris didn’t want to be considered a whistleblower and had sought the advice of the sage Senator boss who had been almost a father to “Boy Wonder” since the first time he managed the Nats in 1924.
Kilgallen, Dorothy. “Voice of Broadway” (syndicated). Trenton Sunday Times-Advertiser (New Jersey), 8 May 1949, 10. Readex: America’s Historical Newspapers.

Susan Stephenson Schrafft Guinle prefers “Gigi” Goodenough, the painter, to the rest of the local males. He’s the one who gave shelter last Summer to Tom Sullivan, the whistleblower in the Buckner-Woolley-Hart case.
Bowen, Mrs. Frank N. “In the Editor’s Mailbox: In Defense of McCarthy.” Times Union (Albany, New York), 1 June 1954, 18. Readex: America’s Historical Newspapers. 
As to Senator McCarthy being a “whistleblower,” if he is, who is to blame? If the Communist organs, pinkies, leftists, etc., did not issue such blasphemous lies and smears against him, he would not have to be so torrid in retaliation.
Winchell, Walter. “On Broadway: Memos of a Midnighter” (syndicated). Times Union (Albany, New York), 8 October 1958, 22. Readex: America’s Historical Newspapers. 
The whistleblower on that $50,000 a month call-girl story was a witch, who tried to tap Bea Garfield, alleged moddom [sic], for $250.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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