The oldest and largest gun maker in the country, the Remington Arms Company still domestically produces products, leading the arms industry in quality and innovation. Beginning with Eliphalet Remington II’s belief that he could produce a gun finer than any money could buy, the Remington Arms Company was established in 1816 and became an overnight success. Now the only U.S. manufacturer that produces both firearms and ammunition, the company played a significant role providing ammunition and arms in both world wars. Yet perhaps their most valuable, recognizable and unique products remain their remarkable rifle canes.
Beginning in the Victorian era, any well-established, respected man would carry a walking stick: a symbol of wealth, taste, and class. While the concept of masterfully disguising a firearm inside the shaft of a walking stick had been seen earlier in Europe, it was not until John F. Thomas, master mechanic at the Remington Company, that this technique was perfected. These types of cane guns were used by men as protection as well as a stylish accessory, as street crime and violence was on the rise in the mid-19th century. In 1858, Thomas received a patent (#19,328) for his “Rifle Cane,” a percussion fired single-shot cane rifle. These rifle canes received high praise and exposure due to their intricacy and taste in design. Within a year, Remington Arms was selling these gun canes to an eager public. It sold well—a successful novelty that any gentleman of means and distinction would have been pleased to own.
Unlike their European counterparts, the entire firing mechanism in these Remington rifle canes is completely hidden by the upper shaft of the cane. On the lower part of the cane lies the inconspicuous trigger button. Remington rifle canes were made with a variety of handles, including ball & claw, dog’s head, full curve, curve with flat gripping area, bulbous-shape, and L-shape – with the dog’s head handle remaining the most recognizable. The Remington rifle cane shaft was covered with either a hard rubber gutta-percha or vulcanized rubber.
At M.S. Rau Antiques, we have two rifle canes that speak to the mastery behind Remington Rifle Canes. An extraordinary rarity, this dog’s head rifle cane depicts the traditional Remington dog symbol as the cane handle. Whimsical, yet emblematic of the Remington Company, this gun cane is covered in gutta-percha and is finished by an elegant silver collar. The ferrule is engraved with “J.F. Thomas, patent Feb’y 9 1858” with the serial number “22.” Similarly, this bold dog topped gun cane boasts exceptionality and is distinctive to any similar counterparts and is in incredible working condition. To fire each of these gun canes, one simply pulls the handle back to a cocked position, aims the cane and presses the small button on the upper shaft.
It is estimated that only 1,000 of these canine rifle canes were produced. Very limited numbers of these canes have survived, making existing examples such as this an extraordinary rarity. Today, these rifle canes are highly prized by collectors, cane enthusiasts, and Remington aficionados.