Whistle, a happy tune

Posted on Oct 29, 2016 in Campus News and News

The birth of an idea

IMG_news_steamwhistlecreativeThe students at the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications have done it again. First, The Agency was brought together by eager students to form, in their words, an “interdisciplinary strategic communications agency, connecting strategy, creative, research and leadership.” And according to the students involved in a new spinoff creative shop, if the Agency had a baby, it would be Steam Whistle Creative, dubbed the Agency’s “creative hothaus.” Let them explain:

The steam whistle: a 400-pound beacon of freedom, standing tall over The University of Kansas. Its sound travels for miles. It can’t be ignored. Good luck sleeping through that. We are Steam Whistle Creative, The Agency’s creative hothaus. We exist to be the whistle for your brand.


The steam whistle ringtone

To help launch Steam Whistle Creative, the clever KU students decided to make the whistle available to download as a ringtone, putting “the Big Tooter” in the pocket of everyone who ever loved–or loathed–the timely blast. Available now for iPhone (used overwhelming by college students these days), it is not yet available on GooglePlay, however it is coming soon. Alumni can purchase the ring tone by Steam Whistle Creative for $1.29 by searching for “The Steam Whistle” or “Steam Whistle Creative” in the iTunes Store (which is different than the “App Store”):

Step 1: On your iPhone, open the iTunes Store* app
Step 2: Search in the store for “Steam Whistle Creative”
Step 3: Download The Steam Whistle ringtone to your phone for $1.29
Step 4: On your iPhone’s main screen, open “settings” and go to “sound”

Now you can select The Steam Whistle as a ringtone.

*Note: Ringtones are available in the iTunes Store, which is where you would normally download music and movies. Ringtones are not available in the App Store, which is exclusively for apps.

A proud–and loud–history

The tradition of KU’s steam whistle, which predates Henry Malloy’s 1912 Jayhawk, began as a way to wake up campus at 7:45 a.m. for the day’s classes and signal curfew at the end of the day. But in 1912, according the KUhistory.com, the University Council tapped the steam whistle to signal the end of classes, which were changed from 55 to 50 minutes. And it’s been blowing ever since. Well, almost.

The whistle, nicknamed “the Big Tooter,” that KU used for most of the second half of the twentieth century had previously served on a German freighter in the 1940s. The whistle finally blew its stack in January 2003. You would too after more than 60 years of blowing 300-degrees worth of steam through your pipes at 175 pounds of pressure, according to an article in KU Connection.

For a moment, it seemed the tradition would fade into the atmosphere, deemed a relic of KU history, its echo a memory. That is until generous, anonymous alumni stepped up to fund a new whistle so KU’s unique tradition could live on. The old, broken whistle now sits on display in the Kansas Union, part of the KU History project, while a shiny new whistle carries on the tradition from atop the old power plant, both near and dear to the KU School of Journalism students at Stauffer-Flint Hall. That longstanding tradition–outlasting the various and beloved Jayhawk designs KU has had through the years–is now the symbol of The Agency’s creative shop, Steam Whistle Creative. And for the students involved and the clients they look to serve, it is music to their ears.

–David Johnston

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