While looking through a set of old records, I found one that was extremely intriguing. There was a record for "a sturdy man's walking stick." This record described an engraved crown at the top, and then in further detail revealed that it was a gift to someone from King George I of Great Britain, which was later verified by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. While he isn't a famous ruler, it was King George I's grandson that went to war with the colonies during the Revolution. This cane dates back to the early 1700's during King George I's reign, and in that long history, it somehow ended up in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
This week for my internship, I surveyed the Cane Collection. We cataloged many captivating canes that held a great amount of history. Some of the canes were gifts from employees to the owners of early La Crosse Breweries including Gund and Michel. It's always really compelling to comb through the records in order to discover the history and the secrets of an object. And these canes revealed a lot.
One artifact was different from the other canes that we surveyed this week. It looked like a typical walking stick with many bumpy ridges. In fact, it looked slightly boring in comparison to the other ones. The cane didn't even have any adornment or special handles. But, upon reading previous records and inspecting the cane itself, we discovered that the top of the cane actually twisted off. Inside of the cane was a glass vial with a cork in it. At one point the vial could have held whiskey or bourbon. Twisting the lid off revealed a secret compartment for alcohol, which immediately makes one think of the Prohibition.