Weapons canes present the more sinister side of the system cane and often carry the highest price tags. They are among the most complex of canes as they were skillfully crafted to conceal a host of deadly weapons.
Seemingly innocuous and plain in demeanor with little embellishment, these canes could, at the flick of the wrist, become a lethal weapon. So deceptive were these weapon canes, the French government declared it illegal to carry a cane into a public gathering for fear that any one of them might conceal harmful weapons, including guns.
These fears were apparently well founded. Three of the most diabolical canes known to exist were used by insurgents during 19th- century street riots in France. One such cane patented in 1883 and aptly named “La Terrible” contained three sets of double razor blades that emerged from its painted metal shaft ripping the hands of anyone trying to grab it. This cane along with two similarly outfitted canes, “La Diabolique,” and “La Redoutable” were so sinister they were outlawed in France shortly after they went into production. Today, very few collectors have had the good fortune of acquiring a set of these rare canes.
As a rule, most gentleman of the 19th century owned a wide variety of
canes. That collection would most assuredly have included at least one sword, dagger or stiletto cane. Sword canes are, as the name suggests, long blades hidden in the shaft of a cane. The primary value of these sticks more than likely is derived from the blade as opposed to the cane itself. High quality blades by Toledo in Spain or Wilkinson from England carry a premium over other blades of less renowned manufacture, and likewise, Toledo blades with special etching or spring-action handles will bring a higher price than plainer models.
In all of my years acquiring and selling canes, two sword canes stand out. Keep in mind that during the 19th century a man’s honor was sacrosanct and the least verbal infraction against that honor was taken as an affront worthy of a duel to the death. The wise man was always prepared, and for the carrier of the “dueling cane,” doubly so. This clever cane was equipped with not one, but two swords, in the event that one’s opponent was without a weapon! The second sword cane, also intended for duels, bore the French inscription “Never take me out with reason…Never put me back without honor.”
Dagger canes are, in a sense, swords with shorter blades. Many daggers were specially designed to inflict the maximum amount of injury and many can be found with intricate embellishment. Stiletto canes were probably the most ingenious of the weapon canes as they were completely hidden with no visible break in the cane. A quick flip of the wrist could eject a sharp blade from either the handle or ferrule of the cane.
One adaptation of the stiletto was a cane whose shaft would retract as the blade was plunged into the body unbeknownst to any onlookers.
Gun canes were designed as concealed weapons which might explain their unrefined appearance. Used for self defense and by poachers, an ornate and flashy cane might have drawn unwanted attention to the carrier. Gun canes can be found with a variety of firing mechanisms including the flintlock and breech loaders. While most firearm sticks are highly desirable, those manufactured by well-known manufacturers like Derringer and Remington often carry a premium price.