- Whitman, Walt
- Whitman's Silver-tipped Cane.
- Wood, Metal
Blackthorn with silver handle tip engraved: "AEJ from Walt Whitman". Inventory tag (probably by Dr. Watkins): “Cane carried by Walt Whit(...), poet of New Jersey, and presented (...) A.E.Johnston, jeweler of New Y(...), and by him to Watkins, November (...)”
The cane or walking stick was en essential accessory for any gentlemen in the nineteenth century. For many figures such as Edgar A. Poe (whose own cane is at the Poe Museum), Oscar Wilde and Paul Verlaine, the cane went beyond accessory and became an integral part of the poetic persona.
The present cane was given to Albert E. Johnston, a jeweler and one of Whitman's close friends. Johnston often hosted Whitman when he came to New York and sometimes accompanied the poet when he visited the Burroughs in Esopus, NY. The cane then passed along to Dr. S.C.G. Watkins, from Montclair, N.J., known for his large collection of canes and walking sticks.
In The Collector and Art Critic review, Jul. 1905, pp 124-126, the cane is reproduced on a picture of the whole collection among other celebrity canes including ones owned by Andrew Jackson, Robert. E Lee and Emperor Frederick of Germany. Watkins' collection remained intact until a sale in 1971. From an article published in the Dec. 20, 1971, New York Magazine under the title "Citizen Canes": "A Noble collection of over 200 canes and walking sticks accumulated by a Dr. S.C.G. Watkins (...) Name-droppers will lean reverently on canes that belonged to Frederick the Great ($375), Thomas Edison ($525) Walt Whitman ($1,250)..."
Another Whitman cane, given to the poet by his friend John Burroughs, is preserved in the collections of the Library of Congress.