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History of Cane 12

The Cane in the 19th century


The liberated society which emerged from the Revolution, probably used the cane, to communicate that the political power was changing hands. The cane is produced and carried in a great variety of shapes, as never before, whether in France or in Europe.


However, at the beginning of the century, the cane is essentially used, by the lower and upper middle class, as well as by, the nobility.

There is indeed, a process of democratisation of fashion and attire but it is based on upward social mobility. The external signs are appearance, etiquette and code of elegance.

The modern man of the 19th, attends his business with a light cane in hand, either straight or curved, depending on the fashion. The cane is at its peak ; decorated with a gold knob, it goes perfectly well with the shiny boots and yellow gloves worn by the young “lions” and becomes standard feature at the Café de Paris.

The cane is the constant companion of its owner. Nothing is more instructive than to watch how a cane is carried. It reveals how a man feels, how he thinks.


When a man walks, it is easy to guess what is mood is. If he feels content and happy, he holds the cane by the middle and swings it horizontally in regular movements. If he is upset, he hits the curb violently with it. If life is unpleasant, he rhythms his walk with the cane, sticking it, in the ground at each step. If he is pleased with himself, and looking for admiration, he holds it “ bottle-like”, that is, holding it by the middle, tip forward and shaking it, up and down in rapid movements. If he is worried, he will tap it against his leg from time to time. If he is sad, he holds it close to his chest, hand under the knob and tip down. In enthusiastic moments, when lost in the crowd and as he follows the everybody else, he holds it up in the air, sometimes with his hat on top of it.


The proud man carries his cane by the knob and walks with it. At each step, he sticks it into the ground and uses it symbolically, to free the way in front of him.


The Frivolous holds his cane by the middle, rolling it between his fingers.The Indecisive lets it slide in his hand, and hits the ground repeatedly with the tip. The Quick-Tempered puts his hands behind his back, and hits his shoulder blades with the cane.


The Envious holds it forward, tip level with the ground and holds it, a bit below the knob. The Imbecile sucks the knob…. The Lazy has it hanging from his arm or his pocket. The Strong-Willed carries it as a whip.


Carrying a cane is an art, which is innate : you don’t learn it ! The one born without the right natural disposition, will never carry it with grace. Depending on how you carry it, you look like an idiot, a man of wit, or a Bourgeois of importance. It provides grace and bearing to the one, who does not have it.



In France, the man who dares to challenge another one for a fight, is called a”good man” while we brand a coward, the one who refuses to fight. This is why the duel with sword-cane was popular at some point in time. The duel, based on the law of the strongest, was illegal by essence. The mere fact, it existed simply, demonstrates that the old feudal reflex of self- justice was still strong in those days..


The word “Bastonnade” come from “batuo”, which became “baton” which in old French was written “Baston” with an “s” in the middle. It was the first punishment inflicted to men ,whether slaves or free. Drubbing, was an infamous sentence only used in the armies. Mercenaries were beaten with a stick by the Romans, the Romans were in turn beaten by the centurions.


In England, in Austria, in Prussia, the cane was an instrument of military justice, and here is an example coming from the British Army in the 19th century.