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Friday, May 27, 2011

18th century walking sticks 101

I've been trawling the web for details of 18th century walking sticks and there isn't much around so I've collated some information from several sites (listed below). 
They were variously made of rattan or bamboo in addition to polished woods of various kinds.
Lengths seem to vary and I've seen measurements from 110 cm to 134 cm.  Other measurements include "up to the lowest rib, later (esp. for ladies) even reaching almost to the shoulder". 
Mine looks like being around 127 cm which is somewhere in between so hopefully I will be fashionable.
The handles were highly decorative and frequently extravagant being made of beaten gold or silver, ivory, tortoiseshell as well as precious and semi-precious stones. 
Being taller than the modern walking stick they were designed to be held beneath the handle so that you could show off your highly desirable and costly accessory to great effect.

Links and quotes

 www.historical-costumes.com/page14/page1/page15/page22/page22.html

www.marquise.de/en/1700/howto/18accessoires.shtml said:
"Walking Sticks originally only served as a kind of sword substitute for men, but with the budding Polonaise fashion (c. 1770) women started to use them as well."

www.basedau.com/e_geschichte.html said:
"With a stick always in the hand, one strolled, discussed and flirted, first in the gardens of the Tuileries, Versailles and Fontainbleau, and later on in the century in the less ordered, semi-wild English-style landscaped grounds. Not to be outdone by the gentlemen, fashion-conscious ladies also carried sticks because of the very high heels of the time and out of enjoyment of fashionable accessories.
In the mid-18th century Saxony's prime minister, Heinrich Graf von Brühl, possessed 300 sticks to go with 300 suits, together with just as many snuffboxes which he carried in turn. The French Revolution officially did away with court fashion. For a short time.

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2 comments:

  1. I'd like to see parts of your collection! We mostly get to see these walking sticks on paintings, and the ones made today don't seem to have the same elegance. Is there a correlation between height and social standing?

    Tristan Benette

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  2. Hi Tristan,
    Thanks for your post. Gosh I didn't mean to give the impression I actually own any genuine 18th century walking sticks. I couldn't afford any of them! I do however love looking at them especially the ones owned by Catherine the Great.

    I am just trying to make one that will pass for 18th century in costume terms. Which has been sitting in the corner for a while now I will get back to it next holiday.

    And certainly nothing today even comes close. But then walking sticks have been largely relegated to the health care industry, which seems a pity.

    I haven't found any information indicating there was a correlation between height and social standing - it may have been but I suspect a lot of it was purely what was considered the height of fashion at the time. Fashion seemed to be as great a driver then in wealthy circles as it is in mainstream life today. Possibly more when you consider Versailles!

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