Canes are typically associated with older demographics, as out of all Americans aged 65 or over, about 10.2% use a cane. These mobility devices are not just restricted to older adults, as people of all ages and abilities made need a little bit of assistance when walking. Don’t be self-conscious about it, and know that some of our best world leaders relied on a cane to help them get around.
- George Washington: The first president of the United States, George Washington, owned and used a cane during his lifetime. As he wasn’t any regular person on the street, Washington’s cane was rather distinctive. His cane had a gold handle in the shape of a French liberty cap, perhaps a nod to America’s early alliance with France and their assistance in the revolution. Fellow Founding Father Benjamin Franklin gifted this cane to Washington, associating this one object with two of the most famous men in the history of the United States.
- Winston Churchill: The British Prime Minister that guided the United Kingdom through World War II was famous for always having his cane with him. His cane’s shape became rather distinctive and heavily associated with him. Churchill’s cane had a rounded knob in place of an extended handle, resembling a walking stick. In pictures from the time he almost always has his cane next to him, with his hand completely covering the rounded top. Churchill claimed to be “walking with destiny” as he used his cane.
- Frederick Douglass: The famous abolitionist and freed slave who made it to the north was given his cane by another famous associate. Mary Todd Lincoln, famous First Lady and wife of President Abraham Lincoln, gave Douglass the former president’s cane after his assassination. President Lincoln and Douglass had met three times during Lincoln’s term, and although Douglass initially thought that Lincoln’s stance on antislavery was born primarily of political aspirations, he grew to realize that Lincoln was a true abolitionist at heart. Ever the gentleman, Douglass wrote a heartfelt letter to Ms. Lincoln after receiving the cane, calling it an “inestimable momento” and “an object of sacred interest.”
The next time you think your cane sticks out like a sore thumb, remember that our history is filled with important people who used a cane every day, and that often they were given as gifts of respect and love.