LiveAuctionTalk.com Highlights Cane Collecting in its Weekly Free Article Rosemary McKittrick’s column is one of America’s leading online sources for auction information. Visit the site and sign up for a free weekly subscription. Photo courtesy of Tradewinds.
News-Antique.com - Nov 30,-0001 - Jan, 2, 2007--Every well dressed man in the 19th century carried a cane. Much like a briefcase or backpack today, novelty “gadget” canes showed up by the thousands.
These ingenious devices turned simple walking sticks into carrying cases. They enclosed everything from whiskey flasks and swords to guns, cameras and smelling salts.
And they managed to do it within the confines of a cane.
The piano tuner used a cane for his tuning hammers. The horse auctioneer carried a walking stick that opened and revealed a calibrated rod for measuring a horse’s height.
Folklore reveals a tale of two Persian monks in the 6th century who used their hollowed out staves to smuggle silkworm larvae out of China.
Harmless walking aids? Potential deadly weapons?
In England during the 17th and 18th century cane owners had to have a license to carry canes. Men picked out walking sticks that matched their costumes the way they choose ties today to match their suits.
With a bit of luck a skilled woodcarver could turn a simple cane into an art object. The secret was in the handle.
Here the carver could show his genius. From dogs, horses and skeletons to presidents and poets, the variety of handles was mind boggling.
Some gadget canes are so inventive you may own yourself and not even know it. Tapping it against your thigh and listening for a rattle is often the giveaway. If you hear something, pull and twist the handle carefully.
A number of factors go into valuing gadget canes including age, function, rarity, and quality of workmanship.
On Sept. 30, Tradewinds Antiques held their 29th cane auction in Salem, Mass.
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