City canes

City canes, used most often by fashionable ladies and gentlemen, often housed such necessities as cigars or cigarettes, snuff boxes, perfume atomizers and bottles, watches, opera glasses, pipes, and even hidden cameras.

A dual purpose jewelry Cane. Budapest, late 19th century. Straight and tapering silver gilt and jeweled handle studded with eight rows of individually set garnets, half pearls and silver beads alternating with linear, twist wire separators. The round and slightly raised and hinged top is decorated en-suite, and flips open to show a deep container cavity which holds a small ration of snuff tobacco. Ebony shaft and a metal ferrule. The cane is a feat to the eye and authenticated by a tiny Austro Hungarian hallmark on the handle’s collar. H. 5″ x 1″, O.L. 35 ½”. Image courtesy of Kimball M. Sterling Inc., #83, A Dual Purpose Jewelry Cane, Budapest, Late 19th Century, February 4, 2012.
Ivory Piqué pomander cane, English, early 1700’s. Ivory knob with fine Piqué decoration, Malacca shaft with gold ring and eyelets and a horn ferrule. The knob unscrews to show a deep cavity for the snuff. Original condition and with a great feel of age. With manifest ties to medicine, it supposedly safeguards the person who wears it against infection in times of pestilence, or merely was a useful article to modify bad smells. H. 1 ½” x 1 ¼”, O.L. 37 ½”. Could appropriately be included in the professional cane category. Image courtesy of Kimball M. Sterling Inc., #108, Ivory Piqué Pomander Cane-English, Early 1700’s, February 4, 2012.
Silver watch and ivory system cane, ca. 1885. An early compartment cane which houses a painted porcelain watch, twig spur ivory spacer, ornate silver collar, exotic wood shaft and a metal ferrule.

Musical canes such as flutes and violins (with a bow hidden inside the shaft) also fall into this category.

Cigarette holder gadget cane. The short brass cylindrical handle is 1″ high and 3/4″ in diameter. It twists off from a friction mount so that a long attached tray can be withdrawn. The tray holds about 10 cigarettes back to back and they can be accessed as needed. Perhaps English, ca. 1890.

Some of the most beautiful of the system canes were those used for more social or fashionable purposes. City canes included those outfitted with mother-of-pearl opera glasses, handsome pocket watches, or a handy umbrella which held obvious appeal on rainy days.

A French simulated bamboo opera glass-handled walking cane, late 19th century. The tapered shaft surmounted by a pair of hinged mother-of-pearl and gilt metal opera glasses with pale blue Guilloché enamel.
Umbrella system cane, ca. 1925, example of a telescoping umbrella cane with a silver collar.
Vesta match safe Cane, hallmarked 1896. A Henry Penn coin silver compartment cane which is spring loaded, striker is the rim underneath the top, thick malacca shaft and a brass ferrule. Image courtesy of Kimball M. Sterling Inc., #162, Vesta Match Safe Cane, Hallmarked 1896. August 2, 2014.
Coin dispenser cane with silver “T” handle. The barrel top opens by twisting one end so that a square receptacle for receiving nickel coins cane be accessed. The nickel coins are stored in a spring driven tube inside the handle’s stem, so they could be delivered one at a time as the tray is turned. The shaft is bamboo and. Brass ferrule. American, patented in 1888.


Rare Ronson cigarette lighter gadget cane.

Musical canes also fall into this category and are among the most rare and highly sought after among collectors. The violin cane, in particular, complete with a bow hidden inside the shaft, has fetched prices as high as $25,000 and is in demand among serious collectors. Flute canes and other wind instruments are also popular and in many cases, much more accessible than their stringed counterparts.

Harmonica cane (2)
Harmonica gadget cane.
19th century violin gadget cane.
Ladies compact ivory cane, ca. 1895. An ivory compartment cane which contains a mirror on the inside top and a compartment for rouge, hardwood shaft and a metal ferrule.


Ca. early 20th camera system stick. A camera tripod, unscrew the ferrule and the metal tripod releases.



1.   Dike, Catherine, Cane Curiosa.
2.   Monek, Francis, Canes through the Ages.
3.   Dike, Catherine, Canes in the United States.
4.   M.S. Rau Antiques, LLC, Collecting Antique Walking Sticks, 12/9/99.
5.   Frances H. Monek, The Encyclopedia of Collectibles, Canes, Staffs of Many Lives, 1978.

For antique cane and walking stick enthusiasts