Walking Canes Were a Big Deal Back in the Day
Walking canes were a big deal back in the day. They were very popular when Fred Astaire was dancing with Ginger Rogers and movies were viewed in black and white. A walking stick was as much a part of a stylish outfit as a bowler hat and bow tie.
Today, people are paying hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for antique canes. Why? Because walking canes have become a very hot collectible. In fact, one-of-a-kind folk-art walking sticks might fetch as much as $250,000. Not bad for a carved piece of wood.
Walking canes or walking sticks have existed in one form or another since early man picked up a fallen tree branch to help himself over rough terrain or to fend off an animal.
France’s King Louis XIV carried a fancy, decorated walking cane and forbid their use by commoners, stating that only aristocrats could utilize them. He viewed walking sticks as a symbol of power and did not want his subjects carrying them, especially in his presence.
Walking sticks became popular post-revolutionary France as dandies were often pictured with them, as were many of the gentlemen of the 18th and 19th centuries. Canes would peak in popularity both in Europe and the United States in the 19th century.
Walking canes were a status symbol, a way in which you could tell how much money a man had. The better the walking cane, the wealthier the man who uses it. Walking canes were manufactured by big names like Faberge and Tiffany, many of their canes were beautifully crafted from jade and quartz and some even housed diamonds. Folk artists would also create walking canes, some carved from whalebone.
Many walking canes made during the 19th century performed dual functions. For example, walking canes were designed to hide cameras, guns, swords and umbrellas. Some walking canes served as flasks. Jascha Heifetz, a Lithuanian-born violinist, enjoyed playing a walking stick that was also a functional violin. There are a number of walking canes with the carved likeness of our founding fathers available on the market. It is believed that these canes were passed out to the public like modern-day campaign buttons.
The modest appearance of canes reflected the conservatism that Americans embraced after the revolutionary war. National pride gave rise to the popularity of the eagle as decor for a walking cane.