Collections that baffle me – swizzle sticks
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    Auction Finds

    One man’s collection of walking canes & jogging sticks

    That’s a rare one, the auctioneer said as I stooped to peek inside a glass case of what looked like miniature wands. He was motioning to a short walnut stick with silver end-pieces lying among others of its size in the case.

    They were dwarfed by the horde of long walking canes spread out across tables and in a tall cabinet at the auction house. This one was no more than a foot long and certainly was made more for decoration than for use.

    The auctioneer explained that this jogging stick was invented by Charles Barton of the Reed & Barton silver company, and it came with a story. Reed was out walking one day, he said, and came upon some dogs but had nothing to shoo them away. So he invented a small cane that he could easily carry and be used for that purpose.

    walking canes

    The 39-star flag cane with a ball and wooden case, from 1889.

    On the wider end of the cane was an inscription that the auctioneer pointed out and read to me: Run for your life.

    I wasn’t so sure if he was joking or not, so I Googled it. The stick wasn’t so rare; I found a number of them for sale on eBay and retail sites on the web (from $25 to $265). Most of the sellers were offering the same story as the auctioneer: That Charles E. Barton was out running one morning when he came upon some dogs. He invented the jogging stick to use against threatening dogs. The sticks were said to have been manufactured for only a few years and are now collectible. They even came in their own velour case.

    I suspect that the story may be more myth than reality. I could find no official reference to it. The company was founded in 1824 under other owners, and Barton and Henry G. Reed bought it a decade later. Barton died in 1867.

    walking canes

    The walnut Reed & Barton jogging stick with the silver caps is in the center.

    At the auction house, the auctioneer also pointed out a 39-star flag that could be rolled around a cylinder and hidden inside a jogging stick. It could be removed from the stick and unfurled to wave during special patriotic events.

    It, too, came with a story. According to the auction description, it was a “rare” 19th century 39-star US flag cane with a ball handle and a place to hide the 1889 flag. “The 39 star flag is one of the few unofficial flags made for the United States, flag makers ‘Jumped the Gun’ on the Dakotas coming into the Union as (1) state, instead 5 states were admitted and the 39-star flag not only was unofficial, but obsolete.”

    This was actually true. Flag-makers did create a 39-star flag assuming that North and South Dakota would come into the union as one, and several other states would delay their coming in until July 4, 1889. The two Dakotas, Washington and Montana came on board in November and Idaho the following year.

    walking canes

    Walking canes give a nod to a former president.

    It is not an official U.S. flag, but it is said to be a collector’s item. One site noted that the unofficial 40-star flag from 1889 is much more scarce because fewer were made.

    At auction, the jogging stick sold for $70, and the star flag for $38.

    As for the canes, they were part of one man’s collection. Here’s a sampling:

    walking canes

    Cane handles head to head.


    walking canes

    The claw and glass ball and magnifying glass were once used for other purposes.


    walking canes

    Pine cones and more.


    walking canes

    An array of canes.


    walking canes

    Silver-plated handles with devilish intentions.


    walking canes

    Walking canes with unusual handles.


    walking canes

    The cane at atop has a hidden secret. The bone handles on the bottom give them an impressive air.


    walking canes

    A display of canes with a variety of handes.


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