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    

Antique Sterling Silver 10 Sided Complex Knob/handle:walking/hiking Stick/caneAntique 11" Ornate Gold Cane / Umbrella Repousse HandleAntique Cane Walking Stick With Jade Top 19thc Jadeite Nephrite Ball RareAntique Dated 1895 Gold Top Walking Stick Cane Vintage Patinated Long Star & Leaf Handle & Knob: Walking/hiking Stick/canAntique Silver Art Nouveau Walking Stick / Cane - Bamboo Shaft19thc Antique 1879 Deep Engraved Gold Filled Victorian Gentlemans Cane, Nr3 Antique 19thc Sterling Silver & Carved Horn Gentlemens Canes No Reserve!4 Bamboo Walking Sticks Canes Animal Ivory Colour Head Duck / Horse / Eagle/ DogAntique Cloisonne-handled Walking Stick Or CaneAntique Tashmoo Park Folk Art Carved Amusement Park Souvenir Cane Walking StickRare Ornate Ax Axe Tomahawk CaneAntique Erotic Walking Stick NunAntique Horn Handle Irish Blackthorn Shillelagh Cane Walking Stick Estate Find Antique Bovine Carved Racing Horse Cane TopAntique Carved Bull Dog Cane Top With Movable Mouth Clove HolderOriginal Bull Penis Cane Walking Stick Varnished Nice Circa 1970 Western Wear Antique Handcarved Colorful N American Song Bird Knob:walking/hiking Stick/canVintage Swiss German Alps Walking Stick Cane 10 Metal Plaques HikingOriginal Vintage Wooden Walking Stick Cane With Brass Elephant Head HandleBoston Post Cane Oldest Citizen ColebrookAntique Canes Vintage Brass Handle Victorian Twist Wood Walking Stick CaneEarly Carved Cane Walking Stick - Wooden Serpent SnakeVintage Primitive Folk Art Carved Cane Walking Stick 36" Vntg Mens Secret Stash Flask Wood Walking Stick Cane UnscrewsAntique Cane, 1800's Logging Rule, Great Patina, Pearce AlbanyAntique Cane With Gold Filled Band Vintage Walking Stick Antique Irish Shillelagh Thorny Wood Cane Vintage Walking Stick Vintage Solid Brass Handle Victorian Twist Wood Walking Stick Cane Antique CanesWooden Walking Stick Cane Victorian Designer Vintage Brass Knob HandleVintage Wood Alpine Walking Stick With Tags Badges Austria & Italy Alps Mw.04: Antique Cane Rare Carnival Cane With Rare Bird - All Wood - Nice Detail35" Vintage Solid Brass Shine Elephant Design Handle Handmade Walking StickVintage Canes ~ Walking Sticks Lot Of (13) Crooks ~ Reeds ~ Natural ~ BrierVintage Cane & Walking SticksSolid Brass Designer Wooden Walking Cane Diamond Look Handle-black Wooden StickVintage Cane / Walking Stick. One Of A Kind - Handmade - Hand Carved WoodVintage Walking Stick End Of The Day Handblown Glass Blue W/blue Straps Swirled Antique 34" Wood Folk Art Walking Stick Cane **lucky Horse Racing Horseshoe** Antique German Military Officer Walking/parade Cane Swagger Stick Leather BrassVintage Wooden Cane 36"Antique Walking Cane Stag Bone Handle Metal Ferrule Colonial Chinese Marks C1900 Vtg Wood Walking Stick Cane 36" Hiking Wooden Carved Pineapple Pinecone ?Vintage Cane Topper Ld-0143Vintage Handmade Wooden Walking Stick~antique Jute/joot Rope Handle Walking CaneVintage Brass Eagle Head Cane Top Topper Brass Designer Handle Wooden Walking Stick Cane Victorian Stylish Cane 37 InchVintage Antique Wooden Cane Irish Shillelagh Natural Wood Walking StickBrass Animal Duck Face Brass Handle Walking Stick Cane 37" In Victorian StyleVintage Antique Style Brass Handle Wooden Victorian Walking Stick CaneChinese Old Bronze Collection Hand Carved Dragon Statue Cane Walking Stick Head Victorian Handle Antique Brass Vintage Style Walking Stick Cane Designer VintagElephant Trunk Shaped Brass Handle Brass Stick Wood Canes & Walking Sticks CAntique Look Walking Stick, Brass Handle Wood Victorian Canes (red Wood) CVintage Solid Brass Handle Antique Style Victorian Cane Wooden Walking Stick Bronze Statue Custom Limited Edition Pig Figurine Cane Head Handles CollectableBronze Statue Crocodile Carving Figurines Cane Head Handles Collectable Old Bronze Statue Hawk Figurines Cane Head Handles