Cane/Walking stick handles – Gutta percha

Gutta percha
Canes were made from the sap of trees, gutta percha, which is resinous gum of the the Payena and Palaquinium genus of trees growing close to the equator and found only in Borneo, Sumatra and Malacca.  Gutta percha is the name for a set of trees noted for their latex, produced from the sap of these trees.  In the mid-19th century, gutta-percha was also used to make furniture, notably by the gutta percha Company (established in 1847). Several of these highly ornate, revival-style pieces were shown at the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park, London. Molded furniture forms, emulating carved wood, were attacked by proponents of the design reform movement, who advocated truth to materials. It was also used to make “mourning” jewelry, because it was dark in color and could be easily molded into beads or other shapes. Pistol hand grips and rifle shoulder pads were also made from gutta percha, since it was hard and durable, though it fell into disuse when plastics such as Bakelite became available. Gutta percha found use in canes and walking sticks as well; in 1856, Representative Preston Brooks used a cane made of gutta percha as a weapon in his infamous attack on Senator Charles Sumner.

Gutta percha dress cane, ca. 1875:  A mythological figure handle, ebony shaft and a 4” iron ferrule.  Overall length 33-½”.


For antique cane and walking stick enthusiasts