Collections › MESDA Collection › Walking Stick

Walking Stick

Place Made:
Botetourt County Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
hickory or ash, bone, silver
LOA: 36″
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: Walking stick with bone handle. Shaft is carved with name, verse, various animals, fish and reptiles, an eagle with a shield, a sabre, a pen and ink well resting on book, tanner’s fleshing knife, masonic compass, square, and sun design. Between handle and shaft is a silver ring with incised banding. The carved musical verse, which is entitled “Tennessee P.M.” (particular meter) corresponds to the “Tennessee Common Meter.”

INSCRIPTION: Carved on shaft: “M. Stover/Tanner & Currier/ BOT CT VA 1822”.

FORM: Among the many forms of vernacular folk art, carved canes and walking sticks can be appreciated for both their beauty and their usefulness. In the nineteenth century a cane or walking stick was a fashion accessory and much was written about the proper and graceful use of the cane or umbrella while walking in public. The history of the cane and the staff goes back to biblical times, and over the years canes have been used as religious and magical symbols, and as signs of authority or power. Carvers of folk art examples brought whimsy and thoughtfulness to their work, often producing detailed carvings; incised drawings; messages commemorating events, places, and people; and figures or animals forming the handles, or climbing, encircling, or entwining the shaft. See “Canes & Walking Sticks,” The Ames Gallery website; online: (accessed 22 June 2017).

The walking stick’s owner (“M.Stover,” a tanner and currier in Botetourt Co., Virginia) was probably Michael Stover (c.1776-1843) who was married in Botetourt County on February 4, 1799 to Elizabeth Sollenberger and is listed in Botetourt County in the 1810, 1820, 1830, and 1840 federal census.
Credit Line:
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Wheaton Sargent by exchange