THE VARIETY OF walking sticks is endless. The most desired canes are those made from Malaccan palm, from Malaysia. Every material under the sun has been used for handles: ivory, tortoise-shell, ram's horn, narwhal tusk, silver gilt, porcelain, gold. A typical mid-19th-Century cane might have had a carved-horn handle in the form of an elephant with a turquoise collar.
During the 19th Century, more than 600 types of canes designed to serve a dual purpose were patented in England; more than 500 were patented in the United States. Walking sticks concealed horse-measuring rules, photographic tripods, detective cameras, medical kits, even music stands.
In the 19th Century, too, it grew more common to include in gentlemen's canes such accessories as a watch, a telescope or a flask. Sticks can often be found with the handle in the form of an animal head, the hinged jaws opening to hold a glove; a rarer spittoon cane has a hollow shaft and a carved dog's-head handle with nostrils into which a tobacco-chewing gentleman could spit unobtrusively while at church or concert. For more refined sensibilities, there were canes with handles that housed a cigar clipper, a cab whistle and a flint lighter, or that dispensed cigarettes one at a time.