Professional canes were used by a host of tradesmen and professionals to carry various tools and accessories. For example, a doctor’s cane might include surgical instruments, syringes and medicines. A horse auctioneer might carry a horse measuring cane, opening to reveal a calibrated rod for checking a horse’s height in hands, or in feet and inches.
18th and 19th century physicians were seldom without their walking sticks and such a close association was formed that patients derived a sense of reassurance at the sight of their physician’s powerful walking stick. These handsome canes often served as a medicine bag for busy physicians with many containing surgical instruments, syringes, medicines, bleeders and vinaigrettes. It is interesting to note that a doctor might make several house calls without ever changing or cleaning the instruments handily tucked into the shaft of his cane.
Canes containing small flasks for holding liquor were also popular with physicians who might take a few swigs on his rounds to protect himself from cholera or other deadly epidemics.
The Galileo walking stick telescope (pictures below): “Messrs. T. Bradford & Co., Manchester, whose exhibits we have so many times noticed of late, had a large assortment of washing, wringing, and mangling machines, and they had a novelty in “the “Galileo” walking stick telescopes. In the handle is enclosed a small compass covered with lid. The latter is lifted and acts as a sight for the telescope which is brought into use by a glass from the stick but sold with it. The glass fits on the stick and slides backwards and forwards to suit long or short distances This is a handy contrivance for tourists.”
~The British Trade Journal and Export World, Volume 17, London, July 1, 1879.
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.