When most people these days think of an antique cane or walking stick, they picture a crooked crutch in the hand of a feeble old man, who’s shaking it at some bothersome young whippersnappers unlucky enough to have crossed his path. But between 1550 and 1930, canes were simply an accessory that a proper lady or gentleman would never leave the house without. They weren't intended to be used as much as worn. And worn they were, by historical figures and fictional characters alike, from Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi to any number of Fred Astaire characters and James Bond.

These elegant statements could be hand-carved out of wood, bamboo, ebony, ivory, narwhal tusk, animal horn, or bone. Sometimes they were made out of porcelain, Bakelite, gold, silver, or glass; enameled or cloisonnéd; or sprinkled with precious gemstones. Many of the materials used in canes, particularly the gemstones and animal bones, were selected because they were thought to give the finished object magical properties.

A walking stick could also be used to punctuate a point, help one when hiking a long trail, dispatch an opponent, show off your carving skills, or hide cash or a rolled up map leading to buried treasure. In fact, the canes, staffs, and scepters that can be traced back to ancient times were often used for precisely such purposes—to fend off wild animal attacks, to travel over rugged terrain on foot, or to convey the status and power of the holder.

Beginning in 16th century Europe, canes became an important part of a person's image, so etiquette regarding walking sticks was established. For example, a gentleman was not to carry his cane under the arm, nor was he to lean on it. It was also bad manners to bring your cane into the presence of an important person like a king, probably because the walking stick might contain a weapon.

Walking sticks are generally classified into three categories: folk art canes, city sticks, and gadget or systems canes.

Probably the most fascinating of these is the gadget cane. In the United States, there were once more than 1,500 patents for gadget canes. These might hide a weapon like a sword or a gun, which could be drawn at a moment’s notice. Your cane might be a convenient container for perfume or alcohol (with a built-in sprayer or flask, as the case may be). Canes could also conceal cigarettes, a pipe, smelling salts, or makeup.

Other canes contained useful tools like microscopes, barometers, horse measures, and even fishing poles. And then there were musical canes, which were designed to hide a violin bow, or doctor canes, which held secret stashes of medical supplies. You never know what you might find inside an antique cane.


Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Ventagli.org

Ventagli.org

Anna Checcoli's homage to the beauty and art of hand fans ('ventagli,' in Italian). Use the left-hand nav to browse… [read review or visit site]

The Black Tie Guide

The Black Tie Guide

Peter Marshall became an authority on formalwear out of necessity — he needed a tux to wear on the maiden transat… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]

Antiquespectacles.com

Antiquespectacles.com

Dr. David Fleishman's comprehensive spectacles site (over 3500 images), in collaboration with museums around the wo… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Antique Gold Plated Trench Art Nouveau Walking Stick Cane Bullet Case Tip Nr YqzAntique Dog-rabbit/hare&hound Folk Art Carved Walking Stick/cane-at Its BestUnusual Antique Sterling Silver Amber Bakelite Stag Handled Cane Walking StickAntique/vintage 2 Ball Whimsey-four Face Handle Folk Art Carved Walking StickAntique French Silver Handled Wood Walking Cane Swagger Stick C1880Antique Vintage Hand Carved Horse Hoof Cane Walking StickFine Antique 19th C Victorian Period Gold Handled Cane Walking StickAntique/vintage Folk Art Civil War Soldier Head Carved Walking Stick/caneGreat Vintage Ornately Carved Western Style Walking Cane-eagle, Snake,lizardAntique Sterling Silver Top Wooden Cane Vintage Walking StickAntique&unique Bronze Mans Head Handle Walking Stick-great Form & Patina-rareVintage Snake Handle Walking Stick-great Form And LookVintage Heavy Gold Plated Walking Stick Cane HandleTiffin Art Glass Parade Cane Walking Stick Emerald Green Cobalt Blue HandleAntique Gold Filled Walking Stick Cane Nice Victorian Era Ebony Bb4: Antique Sterling Silver & Bamboo Wood Shaft Walkingstick Cane34" Large Authenitic Irish Blackthorn Shillelagh Cudgel Bata22" Beautiful Authenitic Irish Blackthorn Shillelagh Cudgel Bata1900 "lh" Initial Gold Flared Repousse/embossed Knob: Walking/hiking Stick/caneHandmade Wooden Walking, Stick,cane,derby ,brass Handle Walking StickVintage Cane Walking Stick By Comoy's Of England, Elephant Head HandleCane/walking Stick Knobby Wood Vtg/antique Blackthorn Shillelagh Ireland/irish1899 Antique Fraternal Order Of Eagles Carved Folk Art Walking Stick-cane-rareSkeleton Hand Holding Ruby Ball Handle On Metal Walking Stick Cane 37"Antique Irish Cane Walking Stick Blackthorn Shillelagh1900 Austria Silver Gilt Baron Crest Knob:wooden Walking/hiking Stick/caneCarved Walking Stick Cane Vintage 37 Inches Thick Handmade 1904 Hallmark Sterling Silver Repousse Fancy Knob:wood Walking/hiking Stick/caneCane, Walking Stick Bronze Head, Handle Burl, Ukraine Vintage Handmade "nautical Wooden Walking Stick Cane 38" With Brass Telescope Handle"--_Brass Marine Walking Cane Strong Brass Round Handle Wooden Walking Stick F Vintage Brass Cane Handle Estate Find.Antique Relic Cane-raper Chapel Dayton Ohio-1852-1903-nice Oak Walking StickAntique Walking Stick, Cane, Horn Handle, Sterling Bands, MonogrammedRare Early Antique Us Navy Anchor & 4 Star Cane Waling Stick 19th CenturyGreat Vintage Walking Cain With Carved Hand TopVintage-antique-folk Art Carved Wooden Walking Stick, CaneBb7: Antique Sterling Silver & Walnut Wood Shaft Walkingstick CaneGold Plated Repousse Walking Stick Top InscribedBrass Eagle Head Handled Wooden Handmade Walking Stick Handcrafted Cane Derby ZVintage German Wood Duck Head Glass Eyes Walking CaneHandmade Wooden Walking Stick Wood Cane Brass Handle Stick Derby Handmade SaleAntique Walking Stick Replica Wooden Cane Polished Rosewood Stick Handmade GiftSkull Walking Cane Or Knife Handle Handmade In Deer Antler CarvingWood Handmade Cane Walking Stick With Brass Crocodile Handle Walking Cane DerbyzDog Walking Stick Wooden Cane Animal Head Walking Stick Gift Cane StickAntique Sterling Silver Presentation Cane Charlestown Baptist Church Vintage Handmade Wooden Walking Stick Cane Derby Brass Handle Stick Handicraft Item ZDesigner Walking Stick Animal Handle Walking Cane Wooden Stick Gift Item F1900 Long Gold Embossed Initialed Handle/knob: Walking/hiking Stick/cane Collectable Gadjet Cane With Sterling Over Hard Wood Handle@walking Cane Walking Stick Folding Telescope Wooden Walking Stick Made Of BrassVintage Three Part Brass Handle Walking StickVictorian Silverplate Mother Of Pearl ? Monogram Ewr Scroll Cane Umbrella HandleHand-made Vintage Walking Stick / Cane Hardwood, Vine Twisted Beautiful Maritime Walking Stick Nautical Handmade Wooden Cane Stick Derby GiftzWooden Walking Stick Beautiful Brass Resin Handle Gift Cane Vintage Replica BuyAntique Bamboo Walking Stick Cane W. Wood Knob HandleDog Head Nickel Plated Brass Handle Walking Cane FPremium Dog Walking Stick Animal Head Puppy Cane Gift Decor Stick Brass Rosewood