What is a Walking Stick?
Encompassing a long and intriguing history, the cane has evolved from a simple walking staff to an indispensable tool for many professionals and hobbyists in the 19th century. What began as a simple stick used by men in prehistoric times, often believed to have served as protection and stability, evolved into a genre and artistic style all on their own.
Walking sticks are, generally speaking, divided into three categories: decorative canes, weapons canes, and systems canes. The latter, perhaps being the widest variety, is comprised of unique, hidden tools that range from drinking functionalities, such as the prized Toulouse-Lautrec walking stick, to an artist’s necessaries.
The Toulouse-Lautrec Walking Stick:
Of all systems canes, the Toulouse-Lautrec walking stick is certainly the most unique. This stick is named after the famed 19th-century artist whose personal reputation rested largely upon his frequent visits to cabarets and dance hall bars within the mystical underbelly of Montmartre in Paris, France. This intriguing type of stick, also known as a tippling stick, conceals all the necessary apparatuses related to alcohol consumption: glass flask and diminutive drinking glasses. Notably, it is often said that Toulouse-Lautrec himself personally commissioned a wooden-shaft cane with a secret compartment in which he could hide small glass vials for liquor and absinthe.
Development Over Time:
It was in the 17th century that the walking stick object was revolutionized and truly became the height of fashionable attire. Men and women alike accessorized with canes as a part of their daily attire. In this sophisticated, refined era, any groomed, distinguished gentlemen would not traverse the public arena without this stylish accessory. Consequently, the walking stick became a prevailing symbol of taste and class.
Artisans and craftsman alike, consequently, affixed their talents and practices to this burgeoning taste and began crafting sticks with the utmost precious and rare materials.
Perhaps the most intriguing types of canes are known as systems canes. Often also referred to as “gadget” canes, the scope and functionality of these fascinating walking sticks were limited only by the maker's imagination. This category of canes conceals a dual, or hidden, purpose. From canes that conceal every necessary tool for a game of checkers, to canes that also function as a gold testing kit, systems canes are the most fascinating and highly collectible.
Importantly, there were over 1500 patents applied for during the 18th and 19th century for systems canes. Utilitarian in nature, a systems cane can be as beautifully embellished as a decorative walking stick.