Antique Asian Works of Art from Ancient East

Carved Wood Folk Art Cane, Milton Jews

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Directory: Hidden: Viewable: Pre 1980: Item # 1371815

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Ancient East
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DESCRIPTION: A carved wood cane by Philadelphia carver, Milton Jews (American, b. 1932). Carvings cover the whole surface of the stick depicting a spiraling leaf pattern with accompanying symbols, a tool stamped stippled background, and “J3881” stamped on a plaque near the foot. The head grip is carved with swirls and the cane is accented with aluminum strips on the grip and bottom tip. A leather strap is attached to a wooden ring at the neck for wearing the cane over the shoulder, and a rubber cap encloses the tip of the cane. Excellent condition. DIMENSIONS: 39.5" L (100 cm).

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Milton Oliver Jews spent his adult life crafting elaborate walking sticks that embodied the spirit and style of the Philadelphia Black working class. His work took place in the evenings and on weekends in a narrow, cramped South Philadelphia basement, working with salvaged wood and scraps of materials he would incorporate into his canes. His canes bear witness to the demands of “street style,” and to a time when a cane was the mark of a gentleman. The straps on these canes - meant to be slung over the shoulders or cradled in the arm - testify to their use as affirmations of identity. Over the years, metal - salvaged from scrap at Mr. Jews’ longtime workplace - came to play an integral role in his walking sticks, providing both decorative banding and eye-catching details.

While some of his sticks have handles clearly shaped to hold one’s weight, many others do not welcome a hand’s load-bearing grasp, having the horns of a devil’s head, the slender neck of a brass egret, or the spiked ears on a fanciful wolf. Perhaps that’s why Mr. Jews never referred to his canes as “walking sticks.” His sticks were meant more for carrying than for walking. Hence he attached a cord to many of the canes’ shafts that allowed the carrier to slip them over a shoulder and wear them as one would a piece of clothing. The sticks also filled the added function of protection, a quality not unimportant on the streets of South Philly. Carried proudly over the shoulder, the walking stick served as both a statement of style as well as a warning.