Centuries ago walking canes were very important accessories that showed the status and the style of a person. And there are few types of antique walking sticks. About this we will share with you in this blog.

History of antique walking sticks

In hundrets years past, gentlemen and ladies too were seldom seen without a walking stick in hand. Unlike today, canes of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, often boasting handles of precious metals and jewels, served as symbols of wealth, power and social stature. They were much more a fashion accessory than walking aide.

Of course, the dictates of society have changed drastically since then and the fashionable engagements that filled the days of the well-to-do are far less stringent. Today, canes are more utilitarian in nature and are used primarily as an aid for getting around.

They generally lack the attention to aesthetic beauty that once dominated their manufacture. Yet despite their decline on the fashion scene, the walking stick is enjoying an extraordinary resurgence in popularity among collectors who have become fascinated with the history, workmanship and hidden treasures found in them.

While it is impossible to expound on all of the fascinations of antique canes and cane collecting in such a limited space, the following is a brief overview of antique walking sticks along with a few hints on building a collection and a list of helpful reference materials.

Types of antique walking sticks

There are basically three types of walking sticks: decorative, folk art and system. While the distinctions can be fuzzy for many sticks, they provide a good foundation for categorizing the thousands of canes that have been produced over the past several hundred years.
Types of antique walking sticks
Decorative canes, as the name implies, were the cane as fashion accessory in its purest form. Unlike their system cane counterparts, their function was for the most part aesthetic. The variety of materials and forms of these decorative canes was limited only by the imagination of highly trained artisans and craftsmen. Ivory, gold, silver, porcelain, precious gemstones, enamel and even glass were just a few of the materials employed in creating formal, decorative walking sticks.

Folk art canes, unlike their more formal counterparts, by definition were made by single, often untrained artisans. There purpose was to cast attention on the creator not the carrier; they were an expression of the artists skill and personality and can be distinguished from formal canes in various ways. The folk art cane is most often crafted completely of wood and is often highly carved from its handle to the bottom of its shaft. There is seldom a ferrule on folk art canes. And, while folk art canes are often less formal in appearance, they are nonetheless some of the most beautiful canes ever produced are are highly regarded among collectors.

System canes, or gadget canes as they are also known, are perhaps the most fascinating and highly collected type of walking sticks. This category of canes consists of those with a dual or hidden purpose, such as a sword, a whiskey flask and glass, or a walking stick carried by physicians containing scalpels and syringes. More than 1500 patents for gadget canes were applied for during the 18th and 19th centuries and were used in much the same way as we use a purse or wallet today.

Because gadget walking canes were more utilitarian in nature and usually not as beautifully embellished as decorative canes, they were often relegated to the dusty corners of attics and basements after they fell from fashion in the 1920s. Worse yet, many were given to children as playthings. They are therefore very difficult to find complete with all of their various pieces making them some of the most desirable and popular, albeit sometimes the hardest to find, type of cane.