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 American Folk Art Carved Wood Gar Civil War Infantry Corp Badges CaneAntique 19th Century Engraved Gold Overlay Filled Handle Walking Stick CaneVintage Antique 900 Silver Bamboo Wood Walking Stick CaneOrnate Antique Engraved Gold-fill Head Victorian Gentleman Cane / Walking StickVintage Primitive Folk Art Figural Bear Carved Wooden Walking Stick Cane Nr YqzGold Filled Top Cane Antique - Vintage Fancy Walking Stick "no Monogram"Antique Folk Art Wooden Snake Cane Walking Stick 37"2 Antique Brass Wooden Walking Stick Cane Vintage Eagle Head Claw Handle Intricate Carved Angola Prison Folk Art Cane Alligators-rattlesnakes-voodoo1930's Irish Blackthorn Shillelagh 36" Smooth Shaft Burl Made In EnglandLot Of 5 Antique Swagger Pointer, Bamboo & Wooden Canes, Stag Riding CropsOriental Bronze Statue Carving Skull Heads Cane Walking Stick Head Handles Old Fine Antique Victorian Sterling Silver Ebony Gentlemans Big Walking Stick CaneAntique Vintage Hand Made Wood Cane Walking Stick Folk Art Whale HeadWild Wolf Exclusive Handmade Custom Walking Cane High Quality Collectible Stick Victorian Silver Cane/umbrella Handle Stamped Sterling Late 1800's Beautiful!!14k Gold Stamped Victorian Cane Horn Handle Late 1800's Beautiful!!Vintage Highly Carved Wood Walking Stick CaneVintage Hand Carved Design On Sides Tomahawk Handle Wood Cane Walking StickAntique 19th Century Silver Bamboo Root Head Asian Victorian Cane Walking StickArtisan Carved Wood Cane...tucson...costa Rica...part Of Estate Collection...Folk Art Detailed Hand Craved Wooden Snake CaneHandcarved Custom Snake Walking Cane Folk Art AntiqueVintage Antique Style, Brass Hand Spiral Wood Victorian Walking Stick Cane  high Quality Bronze Statue Carved Dragon Cane Head Handles Vintage Collection Vintage Designer Brass Handle Antique Wooden Walking Stick Cane Victorian GiftVintage Antique Style, Aqua Blue Glass Wood Victorian Walking Stick Cane Vintage Antique Solid Brass Eagle Head Cane Harley-davidson's Handle Grip Aluminum Cane Self Deffence Equiped Vintage Antique Style Spaniel Dog Head Handle Metal Walking Stick Cane Hand Made Folk Art Walking Stick, Cane, Shillelagh, Primitive Art.Vintage Horse Brass Head Walking StickAntique Primitive Deer Hoof Cane Walking Stick. Tall 42" Old!Walking Cane Stick Brass Handle Vintage Style Handle For CanesTegernsee M Hirscberg Used Badge Mount Stocknagel Hiking Medallion G5753Brass Designer Antique Style Cane Wooden Walking Stick Vintage Nautical Canes