Canes, long known for their usefulness as walking aids for those with mobility issues, started out centuries ago as useful tools for humble shepherds tending their flocks.
In the beginning…
Canes/walking sticks actually date back to at least Egyptian times. Moses, of course, carried a staff, and famed “boy king” Tutankhamun collected them. They signified power, prestige, and wealth, and were useful tools as well. The common shepherd used his to help control his flock, and travelers used nice, heavy sticks to protect against thieves.
Power, justice, and… church?
By the Middle Ages, a scepter was carried in the right hand to denote power, while the left hand carried one to represent justice. Church clergy, too, began to carry staffs to denote higher offices.
By the 16th century…
By the 16th century, people began to covet “walking canes,” oftentimes made with lighter materials like grasses, cane (hence the term “cane”), and reeds.
Distinctions between “walking sticks” and “canes”
Sticks and canes were further distinguished from each other based on the materials used to make them. Sticks were made of ebony, whalebone, ivory, and other valuable materials, while canes were made of rattan, Malacca, or bamboo. Wealth and social status were visually represented based upon what these sticks or canes were made of.
Canes for the sight-challenged
Canes have always been used for physical support, but they’ve also been a tool of independence for the sight-challenged. Bristol resident James Briggs claims responsibility for the first white canes used; he painted his white in 1921 after he lost his sight and needed a way to distinguish himself in a way that was visible to motorists. These now come as folding canes and are used as visual indicators to ensure that special safety protections and right-of-way are given for those carrying them. To further awareness, Lyndon Johnson declared October 15 as White Cane Safety Day, a date that is still observed.
The newest inventions: The quad and folding cane for mobility
Among the newest mobility developments are quad canes that focus on balance and support for users, and on folding canes. Height-adjustable, folding canes collapse into sections for easy storage – and just as quickly and easily unfold for instant use. Today’s newest versions combine the stability of the quad cane with the easy portability of the folding cane – and can hold a maximum weight of 350 pounds for unshakable dependability.
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