Hand me down my walking cane


Walking Cane, North Family, Mount Lebanon, New York, ca. 1885, Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon, 209.22.1, photograph by Matthew Kroening.

Elder Frederick William Evans (1808-1893) is always described as a physically strong and active man. Although best known as the voice of progressive Shakerism, he was well known in and out of his home at the North Family at Mount Lebanon, New York, as a farmer, gardener, and orchardist. When freed from his duties as Family Elder he was often found working in gardens and orchards. There is no evidence that his strength or stamina for physical work faltered as he grew older and, in fact, in 1886, in his late 70s, Evans undertook a missionary journey to England on behalf of his community. While there, he lectured in St. George’s Hall in London. A reporter from a newspaper covering the lecture described the Elder as “a tall man, dressed like a clergyman, [who] spoke with a slight American accent.” Evans’s height, thought to be six foot five inches, and noticeable in illustrations and photographs, plays a role in the description of his walking cane.


Walking Cane (detail of inscription), North Family, Mount Lebanon, New York, ca. 1885, Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon, 209.22.1, photograph by Matthew Kroening.

The cane, fashioned from a red oak sapling with a natural crook, bearing the carved inscription “F. W. Evans. Mt. Lebanon, N. Y.,” was acquired by Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon in 2009 from a Willis Henry Auction, Inc. auction. The cane is thirty-three inches long and has a replaced rubber tip fit over its end. The general rule-of-thumb is that a cane should be about one-half of the height of the person who uses it. With that in mind, Elder Frederick should be using a thirty-eight inch cane – and he probably did. The cane has been cut down in length, perhaps by someone who used it after Evans’s death.


Portrait of Elder Frederick W. Evans, North Family, Mount Lebanon, New York, ca. 1885, Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon, 1960.12212.1, photographer, Edwin S. Sterry, Albany, NY. (The cane Evans is holding is not the cane described here.)



2 thoughts on “Hand me down my walking cane

  1. We appreciate that Stephen Paterwic took the time to inform us that we made an error in the year in which we said Elder Frederick Evans made his second trip to England — he went I 1887 rather than 1886.
    Our purpose is to share information with all of you but also to make sure that we get it as right as we can. You are encouraged to correct us and to make comments.

    For those of you who would like some substantiation the Elder’s trip, I share these two references:

    1887 June 1: Elder Frederick [Evans] Starts for England. D[aniel]. O[fford]. Fanny [Tyson] & Ann [Offord] go down to New York to see him off. [NOC, mss no. 10349]
    1887 August 3: El F[rederick Evans] lands about 3 P.M. He brings two women with him from Glasgow. We all stay at the Cosmopolitan a very noisy place & I [Daniel Offord, the journalist] hope never to stay there again. [Source: “Gardners’ Journal, 1879-1888,” Shaker Museum|Mount Lebanon, mss. no. 10349.]

    We will try and share more information on Elder Frederick’s trip to England in a future blog.


  2. Pingback: A 1772 Bible passes through many hands | Shaker Museum | Mount Lebanon

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