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Decorated swagger stick (cane)

Date: c 1850
Overall: 16 x 735 mm, 0.1 kg
Medium: Whalebone
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Swagger stick
Object No: 00000913

User Terms

    A delicate stick hard carved from whale bone, probably pan bone from a sperm whale.The darker
    inlaid material seems to be baleen. More likely used as a gentleman's 'swagger stick 'or cane than as a walking stick.
    HistoryOriginally the 'swagger stick' was used by the military to denote a higher rank and traditoinally featured an ornamental head with the regimental motif. It was sometimes used and referred to as a"pointer".
    The clenched fist was a most popular subject to many carvers of the mid 19th century and is also seen used on needlework and household tools as well.
    "The hand and clenched fist were often encountered as scrimshaw motifs.There is a dual significance to this in that they both express a feeling and provide visual instruction. Since the clenched fist indicates anger, it indicates that the decorated article is a protective weapon (ie, the knife handle, umbrella handle, canetop,etc.). It is most likely that the clenched fist in these cases is an expression of controlled rage or anger, the pent up feelings of the carver.'
    (Flayderman, Norman. 'Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders', N. Flayderman, 1972).

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