Canes are an age-old accessory that people use for many purposes. Some of the most famous figures in world history used canes to help them walk, look more fashionable, and even defend themselves.
If you are considering purchasing a cane, you should know that canes symbolize elegance, power, and authority. With this in mind, here is a list of 10 famous historical figures who used canes.
Great Britain might not have made it through the second World War without the help of Sir Winston Churchill. He served as prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945 and later resumed this position from 1951 to 1955. Whenever Mr. Churchill walked throughout the halls of Parliament or on his way to an important meeting, he carried a cane that soon became integral to his image.
In his words, Mr. Churchill was “walking with destiny” whenever he had his cane by his side. One of the main things that separated Winston Churchill’s cane from other types was that the handle featured a round shape like a doorknob, differing from the extended handle that most canes have.
The first President of the United States is another famous cane owner. George used a cane with important symbolism because it signified the unity between France and America against Britain during the Revolutionary War.
The cane’s handle modeled that of a French liberty cap. In addition, the manufacturer made the handle out of gold, which highlights its importance. Mr. Washington received this cane as a gift from another founding father: Benjamin Franklin. The association between these two leaders cements this cane’s place in American history.
Along with America’s first president, the 16th president was also a notable cane user. The person who built Lincoln’s cane used ebony wood for the staff and created the knob-like handle out of sterling silver. This cane featured the inscription “A. Lincoln.”
The 19th century was the period when walking canes experienced their greatest popularity as fashion items, and Lincoln’s was no different. Even though Lincoln was a humble man, canes signified class and luxury, making them a great gift. Lincoln most likely received the cane from a fellow dignitary during his political career.
One of the most famous abolitionists during the Civil War was Frederick Douglass, a former slave. He received a cane from Mary Todd Lincoln. Along with Mary Todd’s husband Abraham, Frederick Douglass helped to abolish slavery in the United States.
Mary Todd gave Frederick her husband’s cane after he was unfortunately assassinated in 1865. Upon receiving the cane, Douglass penned a heartfelt letter to Mary Todd, calling the cane an “inestimable memento” and “an object of sacred interest.”
Queen Elizabeth II
The longest-serving monarch in British history is another cane user: Queen Elizabeth II. Although she walked without one for most of her life, the Queen started using a cane in 2003 after receiving knee surgery.
The press recently spotted her using a cane at a service celebrating the centennial of the Royal British Legion, a charity that benefits the armed forces. This occasion marked the first time the public saw the Queen use a cane at a major public event. In 2015, Queen Elizabeth II surpassed the record for longest rule held by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, another cane user.
One of the most successful military commanders in world history was Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of the French Republic. During the 19th century, Napoleon became one of the most powerful men in Europe thanks to his success during the Napoleonic Wars, and he subsequently developed a cult around his image.
After his death in 1821, trade of Napoleon-related iconography flourished, including canes. In addition, the famous auction house Sotheby’s acquired the cane owned by the man himself along with his library and other personal items.
The “Magnificent Walking Stick” owned by the French ruler was highly ornate. The manufacturer built the cane with a three-foot piece of tortoiseshell, mounted it with gold, and placed a musical head on the top of it.
The noted poet and author Oscar Wilde was another one of history’s most famous cane users. Best known for writing The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde always carried his cane with him.
His cane had inscriptions on it that signified a few details from the author’s life. It said, “OW, C33,” which were his initials and cell number during his imprisonment. People also know Oscar Wilde for his wild persona and biting wit, making him one of the more flamboyant cane users in history.
One of the most iconic characters in film history is Charlie Chaplin’s “Little Tramp,” a staple of the silent era. This character always wore the same outfits: suits, bowler hats, and walking canes.
Chaplin played the “Little Tramp” in films such as Modern Times and City Lights, which were some of the most successful comedies of their day. The auction house Bonhams recently auctioned a cane and hat used by Mr. Chaplin for $62,500.
Psychology would not be as advanced as it is today without the studies of Sigmund Freud. He created the field of psychoanalysis to obtain a deeper understanding of the unconscious mind.
While developing his psychological theories, Freud would hike through the woods of Austria with a walking stick by his side. This walking stick would later end up in the Freud Museum in London.
Gandhi is an iconic promoter of civil disobedience, and his cane played a critical role in his history. During the Dandi March, Gandhi used a “lathi,” which is a tall bamboo walking stick. With the help of his lathi, Gandhi walked 241 miles in 24 days to protest the British Empire’s monopoly on salt in India.
Overall, a cane is a fantastic accessory if you want to place yourself among some of the top figures in world history. This list of 10 famous historical figures who used canes will only grow with time as future leaders continue to walk with canes by their sides.