Professional canes

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.

Physician’s system cane, ca. 1885. Unusual coin silver British canister cane. Possibly used by a physician for his medicine of choice. Glass canister brown stopper, stepped coin silver support. Overall length 36”.


Ivory Piqué pomander cane. Queen Anne, early 1700s. Ivory and box­wood knob with fine piqué decoration, Malacca shaft with a metal ferrule. The top unplugs to reveal a deep cavity for snuff. 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. 2 ¾” x 1 ¾”, O.L. 31 ½”. Could appropriately be included in the city canes category. Image courtesy of Kimball M. Sterling Inc., #105, Ivory Piqué Pomander Cane-Queen Anne, Early 1700’s, February 4, 2012.


Inkpot, Pen, Pencil and Stanhope Gadget Cane-Ca. 1900-The fruitwood cane unscrews in three parts and has a corked inkpot under the knob with an obscured Stanhope, a pencil attached to the first part and a nib to the second one and has a metal ferrule. Referred to as a notary cane. Image courtesy of Kimball M. Sterling Inc., #105, Inkpot, Pen, Pencil and Stanhope Gadget Cane, June 22, 2013.
Physician’s cane ca. 1890.  Note caduceus, the symbol of medicine, in picture below.


Thermometer gadget cane ca. 1930
Thermometer gadget cane ca. 1930.
Compass gadget cane ca. 1875.
Geologist cane
Geologist’s cane ca. 1880.
Horse measuring cane, ca. 1900, staghorn handle, Malacca shaft, silver collar with a metal ferrule. Image courtesy of Kimball M. Sterling Inc., #50, Horse Measure Cane-Ca. 1901, November 12, 2011.
090- Horse measuring cane
Crook-handled horse measuring cane with metal cap, ca. 1930.
Early telescope cane, 18th century, signed “C. WEST, LONDON”. Powerful one-draw telescope with clear viewing, original engraved metal cap and wood veneered brass body and a metal ferrule. This dual purpose cane is a high grade optical instrument of historical value insofar as a telescope was one of the fundamental and essential navigation instruments at that time, valuable and affordable by the very few. Today it is rarely seen. H. 12 ¼” x 1 ¼”, O.L. 36 ¼”. Image courtesy of Kimball M. Sterling Inc., #14, Early Telescope Cane-18th Century, February 4, 2012.

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.

Galileo ocular1 Galileo ocular2 Galileo ocular3 Galileo ocular4 Galileo ocular5 Galileo ocular6



Three pictures above:  French, ca. 1850:  An early and scarce surveyor’s stick with a globe knob on its Malacca shaft with finely chased silver collar and long stag horn ferrule.  The almost 2” high terrestrial sphere, with a precise and detailed world map, opens with a concealed button to show a glass ink stand under a round and domed sealing and locking cap.  In a time when ink availability posed a problem when away from one’s desk, this portable inkstand was quite useful, and its appearance witnesses that it obviously accompanied its traveling owner on long journeys.  Nevertheless, it kept all its integrity and, with the often requested age note, it is the relic of long gone, romantic days. The absence of hallmarks on the distinctive and fitly silver collar with the wonderful homing pigeon over a blank cartouche speaks for a French provenance before 1850. Overall length:  35-1/4”.  For a similar cane, see Catherine Dike’s Cane Curiosa, Chapter 14, Writing and Drawing, P. 157, 14/3 & 14/4.


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