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]

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    

19th C Antique 14k Gold Plated Gentleman's Walking Stick/ Cane High Relief Yqz2 Antique 19thc Canes, Gold Filled Top & Carved Horn Handle, NrAntique National Cap Cane Walking Stick-roll Repeater Caps-old Handle Bang StickHand Carved Wood Walking Stick Cane With Snake- Not AppliedGorgeous Gold Mother Of Pearl Victorian Cane/umbrella Handle Late 1800'sAntique-vintage Agate Handle Walking Stick/cane W/unique Shaft-1909Antique 7 Pines Battlefield Cane/walking Stick By A Confederate Soldier-neatUs.31: Irish Blackthorn Shillelagh Antique Walking Stick Cane, Cong, IrelandAntique Silver Topped Cane Walking Stick Branched Wood Shaft Signed Ferrule Antique-vintage Inlaid Folk Art Cane W/arrows&diamonds-dots & Other InlaysAntique-vintage Gettysburg Battlefield Crook Handle Cane-unique Cane-oldAntique-vintage Cane/walking Stick W/bloodstone Agate Mineral Handle-uniqueCelluloid & 14k Gold Band Wooden Walking Stick Vintage CaneRare 35 1/2 Inch Antique Walking Stick Unscrewable Top Speakeasy Stash CaneAntique Ebony Horn Handle Solid Silver Collar Walking Stick HallmarkVintage Irish Shillelagh Blackthorn Walking Stick 36 Inches Long Shilelagh Antique Translucent Green Amber Champagne Bakelite & Sterling Cane Walking StickUs.27: Irish Blackthorn Shillelagh Antique Walking Stick Cane, Cong, IrelandUs.33: Irish Blackthorn Shillelagh Antique Walking Stick Cane, Cong, IrelandVintage Walking Stick - Sterling Silver Handle Engraved Honolulu January 16,1894Hand Carved Wood Walking Stick Cane With Snake- Not AppliedUs.23: Antique Bull Dog Handle All Wood Shaft Walking Stick CaneUs.28: Irish Blackthorn Shillelagh Antique Walking Stick Cane, Cong, IrelandWalking Canes Walking Stick Folding Telescope Wooden Canes And Walking Sticks,Antique 12” Victorian Umbrella Or Walking Stick Handle Fancy Signed, MonogrammedWalking Stick/ Cane Reposse Gold Filled Monogramed Handle 40" ExtendedAntique-vintage Cane/walking Stick W/great Old Crackel Finish-uniquehandle ShapeAntique Vintage Walking Stick Antler Silver Monogram Sword Handle Mens Fashion Vintage Republican Party Walking Stick Elephant PorcelainAntique Tiffany Sterling Silver Embossed/repousse Knob:walking/hiking Stick/caneUs.17: Irish Blackthorn Shillelagh Antique Walking Stick Cane - Quietman MuseumFolk Art Carved Snake CaneCarved Wood Walking Stick Cane With Knight - Great CarvingUs.21: Irish Blackthorn Shillelagh Antique Walking Stick Cane - Quietman MuseumLovely Vintage 36" Blackthorn Shillelagh Irish Walking Stick W/ Burl HandleWalking Canes Antique Antique Walking Stick W/sterling Silver Handle F.s.&co. 31" Short Vintage Style Silver Plated Walking Stick CaneVintage Style Silver Plated Walking Stick CaneUs.18: Irish Blackthorn Shillelagh Antique Walking Stick Cane, Cong, IrelandUs.22: Antique Sterling Silver Handle All Wood Walking Stick CaneUs.19: Antique Silver Handle All Wood Walking Stick CaneVintage Walking Cane Hand Carved Wood Brass Ball Handle With Hidden CompassFolk Art Carved Wood Cane / Walking StickSilver Accented Walking Cane, Bamboo Styling, Dark Wood Color, Rubber Tip EndFolk Art Carved Cane With Alligator , Bird, LeavesUs.25: Antique Sterling Mesh Handle All Malacca Wood Shaft Walking Stick CaneVintage Wooden Comoy Made In Italy Hunting Dog Head 35" Walking Stick / Cane Carved Wood Walking Stick Cane With He Goat - Great CarvingAntique Wood/bamboo Cane / Walking Stick With Silver? Antique Victorian Gold Filled Ornate Engraved Handle Walking Stick CaneVintage Elephant On Marble Ball Turned Wood Cane Walking StickLot Antique Natural Cane Shafts Bamboo Sugar CaneWalking Cane Walking Stick Folding Telescope Wooden Walking Stick Telescope Antique Bamboo Walking Stick Cane 37.5"Antique Adirondack Bamboo Burl Wood Knot Root Man Walking Cane Stick925 Sterling Horse And Jockey Cane Handle With CaneSterling Capped Cane Or Walking StickUs.24: Antique Sterling Mesh Handle All Malacca Wood Shaft Walking Stick CaneNautical Wooden Walking Stick Cane 38" W Hidden Brass Nickle Telescope