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”)

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]

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]

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]

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]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Pre-ban Ivory Handle Walking Cane, 18k Gold SleeveLot Of 7 Antique Vintage Wooden Walking Sticks Canes Bamboo WoodFabulous Antique Sterling Silver Cane Walking Stick Late 1800'sAntique Sterling Silver Crook Handle Rosewood Cane Walking Stick HallmarkedVery Nice Antique Victorian Mens Sterling Silver Handle Walking Stick Cane *nr*Rare & Unusual Antique Gold Silver & Bone Pique Inlaid Scientific Measuring CaneC.1880 Sterling Silver Handled Walking Cane Stick - Hallmarked For Simon Bros.1900 Antique Sterling Silver Embossed Large Knob:wood Walking/hiking Stick/caneVintage Dark Shadows Brass Wolf Head Mahogany Walking CaneAntique Swaine Adeney Brigg Walking Seating Stick Cane London Rare Antique Compass Handle For Cane/walking Stick By Luce Hoskings-gadget CaneEarly Antique Vintage Irish Shillelagh Cane Walking StickVtg Estate Cane Walking Stick Wood Silver Tone Metal Snake Cobra Head HandleVintage Art Deco Nude Woman & Cresent Moon Cane/walking Stick Handle-very RareVintage Irish Shillelagh Walking CaneAntique Jockey Cane With Carved Horse's Hoof Tip Handle. 28 1/2". Knotty Shaft @walking Cane Walking Stick Folding Telescope Wooden Walking Stick Made Of BrassAntique 14 K Gold Plated Handle Walking Stick Cane Ca 1890Rare Antique Whimsey Carved Horn Cane/walking Stick Handle-very Unique HandleAntique Carved Wood Nude Female Handle For Cane/walking Stick-never MountedVintage Rolled Gold Handle Walking CaneC.1930 Art Deco Gold Handled Walking Cane Stick"nautical Wooden Walking Stick Cane 38" With Brass Telescope Handle"--_p2-antique Carved Horn Handles For Canes/walking Sticks-ready To Mount-match Pair2- Antique Bone Handles For Canes/walking Sticks-sailor Made-1800's-nice HandlesBuy Brass Eagle Head Handled Wooden Handmade Walking Stick Cane Derby Gift PropBrass Handled Walking Stick Nautical Handmade Craft Gift Cane Vintage Replica ZC.1895 Gold Handled Presentation Walking Cane StickHand Carved Wood Cane Walking Stick Alligator Crocodile Handle Vintage Folk ArtPretty Vintage Estate Cane Walking Stick Inlaid Wood Design Vintage Folk Art Shillelagh Cane Walking Stick "the Beaver" Bar Harbor MaineVintage Lion's Head Cane Walking StickStrong Vintage Walking Stick Replica Derby Marine Brass Rosewood Stick Gift Buy Vintage Brairwood Cane/walking Stick2 Vtg Estate Wood Canes Walking Sticks Curved Bent Wood Great Smokey MountainsEarly Antique Sterling Silver Cane Walking StickAntique/vintage Carved Horn Fish Handle For Cane/walking Stickgreat Color-oldC1930 Art Deco Gold Handled Walking Cane Stick Set W/ "aquamarine Faceted Stone"Buy Brass Horse Head Wooden Walking Stick Gift Handicraft Cane Derby For Sale ZVintage Estate Oak Wood Cane Walking Stick Curved Bent Wood2-antique Antler Handles For Canes/walking Sticks-ready To Mount-sterling2-antique Antler Handles For Canes/walking Sticks-1800's-nice Handles-earlyVtg Estate Hand Carved Wood Cane Walking Stick Hand Carved Snake? Dog? HeadC.1880 Gold T-handled Presentation Walking Cane StickC.1890 Silver Handled Figural Walking Cane Stick - Head Of A ManVintage Cane/walking Stick Handles, Lot Of SixteenVintage Estate Wood Cane Walking Stick Curved Bent Wood Tapered Tip**scottish Lord** Antique Carved Wood Folk Art Walking Stick 58" LongWalking Cane Brass Handle Handmade Hand Crafted Wooden Cane Stick Derby GiftVintage Style Silver Plated Walking Stick CaneVintage Style Silver Plated Walking Sick CaneArt Deco-art Nouveau Sterling Silver Inlaid Handle Walking Stick/cane Rare!Vintage Burled 34" Blackthorn Shillalleigh Cane Walking StickCobalt Blue Cut Glass Knob Carnival Walking Stick CaneAntique Art Nouveau Walking Stick Cane Ca 1930’sVintage Estate Cane Walking Stick Carved Wood Dragon Head Marble In Mouth Buy Wood Handicraft Walking Cane Brass Handle Walking Stick Gift Cane Derby ZAntique Victorian Ornate Gold Filled Cane Handle 1889Shillelagh Cudgel Oak Billy Rough CutParts For Two Walking Sticks 2 Handles...marble + Parts And 1 Handle Beak Duck