Sometimes a vintage walking stick is more than a dapper statement piece. It can also be a men’s grooming kit, a croquet set, a microscope, or even a projector. Multipurpose canes were all the rage at the turn of the 19th century, and now some of the most unique examples of the trend are going up for auction.
The Gentleman Collector auction from Heritage Auctions will feature dozens of canes, many of which offer bonus features beyond what meets the eye. Check out these useful, sneaky, and oddly specific specialty canes, which hit the auction block on September 22.
1. THE COIN COLLECTOR’S CANE
Can’t decide if you identify more as a rabologist (someone who collects canes) or a numismatist (someone who collects coins)? This artifact will appeal to both halves of your heart. Inside the ebonized wood handle of this late 19th-century cane is a space for weighing and storing coins. Just push a button to reveal the tiny brass scale.
Estimated price: $7000 - $10,000
2. THE MAGIC LANTERN CANE
Who needs a bulky iPhone taking up space in your pocket when you can carry a miniature movie theater in your walking stick? The top of the "magic lantern" cane slides up and acts as a portable projector. Point it at the nearest wall to view the hand-painted illustrations housed within the shaft. A tiny torch brings the full-color slideshow to life.
Estimated price: $3000 - $5000
3. THE CIDER MAKER’S CANE
There's nothing like a long walk to work up a thirst for a glass of cider. With this walking stick in hand, you can get to work making one immediately. The interior wood rod of this device doubles as an apple press. Along the the tin shaft is a siphon and spout for collecting juice.
Estimated price: $1000 - $1500
4. THE ARCHITECT’S CANE
With a mahogany shaft and a leather-wrapped handle, this walking stick is a piece of art on its own. Architects can twist it open and use the supplies inside to draw up something equally exquisite. The handle has two secret compartments containing a compass, graphite, and drafting tools. Inside the lower part of the cane is a level, straightedge, letter opener, an elevation drawing, and a plumb-line (a pendulum with a rope-suspended weight).
Estimated price: $3000 - $5000
5. THE WELL-GROOMED GENTLEMAN’S CANE
The original owner of this grooming kit/walking stick combo was likely the envy of every fancy gentleman in town. Inside the cane’s segmented oak shaft are vials, brushes, a sponge, a button hook, and shaving supplies—everything necessary to look fresh and fine on the go.
Estimated price: $4000 - $6000
6. THE SPY CAMERA CANE
The hidden camera is the quintessential spy accessory. This circa 1980 cane, based on a patent from 1904, holds its camera and film winder inside the chrome handle. Snap it closed and the device transforms back into an inconspicuous, black walking stick.
Estimated price: $6000 -$8000
7. THE SPITTING CANE
The handle on this item portrays a man’s face scrunched up into a nasty expression. What it does is even nastier: Push a button on the top and liquid comes shooting out the mouth. The trick cane could possibly be used for good, like refilling people’s drinks at parties. Or you could just fill it with water and spray anyone who invades your personal space.
Estimated price: $1500 - $2500
8. THE CROQUET PLAYER’S CANE
You wouldn’t think that a mallet, a ball, and a full set of wickets would fit easily inside a cane, but a 19th-century inventor found a way to make it work. Of course, this croquet set is much smaller than one you'd find on a lawn. Luckily a desktop makes a fine alternative to a playing field.
Estimated price: $800 - $1200
9. THE MICROSCOPE CANE
A botanist going on a stroll through the woods would be fortunate to have this walking stick with them. Upon spotting an interesting specimen, they could pause their journey and use the cane as their miniature laboratory. The ebonized wood shaft contains a compartment with glass slides and vials, and the detailed silver handle holds an actual brass microscope.
Estimated price: $3000 - $5000
10. THE CROSSBOW CANE
If you’re still not convinced that canes can be hardcore, take this specimen from the late 1800s. The carved eagle-head handle is intimidating on its own, but pop it off and you have all the components necessary to put together a crossbow. Brandishing a dangerous weapon never looked so classy.
While Dame Maggie Smith’s tenures as Harry Potter’s Professor Minerva McGonagall and Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess Violet Crawley might have made her one of the most internationally recognizable faces in entertainment, she’s really been delivering exceptional performances—in everything from uproarious comedies to somber dramas—for more than half a century.
Here are 10 fascinating details about the life and career of the iconic, relentless, 85-year-old living legend.
1. Maggie Smith’s parents weren’t keen on their daughter’s acting aspirations.
Margaret Natalie Smith was born on December 28, 1934, in Ilford, England, and grew up in Oxford, where her father worked as a University of Oxford lab technician. Smith’s parents were far from avid theatergoers, and her interest in the performing arts came as a surprise—even to her.
“Honest to God, I have no idea where the urge came from,” she told the Evening Standard in 2019. “It was such a ghastly time and we didn’t go to the theater. I got into terrible trouble once because the neighbors took me to the cinema on a Sunday.”
Smith’s mother, a secretary from Glasgow, Scotland, thought her daughter should follow in her secretarial footsteps, and doubted that she’d be a successful actress “with a face like that.”
2. Maggie Smith prefers the stage to the screen.
To most viewers, Maggie Smith’s memorable performances in Harry Potter and Downton Abbey are clear indications of her brilliant virtuosity as an actor. To Smith herself, however, those roles are practically just low-hanging fruit.
“I’m deeply grateful for the work in Harry Potter and indeed Downton but it wasn’t what you’d call satisfying. I didn’t really feel I was acting in those things.” she told the Evening Standard. “I wanted to get back to the stage so much because theater is basically my favorite medium.”
Apparently, she and Alan Rickman (who played Severus Snape) used to commiserate over their mutual feeling that their work in Harry Potter was nothing more than a series of reaction shots.
3. But Shakespeare isn’t Maggie Smith's thing.
Not only did a 17-year-old Maggie Smith begin her career as Viola in an Oxford Playhouse School production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, she went on to appear in countless Shakespeare plays during her time with Laurence Olivier’s National Theatre in the 1960s and Canada’s Stratford Shakespeare Festival in the 1970s. She was even nominated for an Oscar for playing Desdemona in the 1965 film adaptation of Othello (which featured Olivier in the title role).
Despite her formidable résumé—and her self-proclaimed love for the stage—Smith maintains that the works of Shakespeare simply aren’t her cup of tea.
“Shakespeare is not my thing,” she toldThe Guardian.
4. Maggie Smith can sing, too.
Smith’s droll delivery and expressive gestures made her a shoo-in for satire and comedy roles in variety shows, and her early career was characterized by dynamic musical performances in revues—though Smith is self-deprecating about her own singing ability.
“I think Leonard was under this mad illusion that I could sing,” she toldThe New York Times, referring to when producer Leonard Sillman saw her in a West End revue and promptly cast her in his Broadway revue New Faces of 1956.
Smith hasn’t just sung on Broadway, either: She also belted a rousing rendition of the World War I recruiting song “I’ll Make a Man of You” in 1969’s Oh! What a Lovely War, and performed more than one highly amusing musical number on The Carol Burnett Show in the 1970s.
5. Maggie Smith has won a Tony, an Emmy, and an Academy Award—the Triple Crown of Acting.
Smith took home a Best Actress Oscar playing the titular character in 1969’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and won the Tony for Best Actress in a Play for her role as Lettice Douffet in the 1990 comedy Lettice and Lovage. In 2003, Smith finally clinched the Triple Crown with an Emmy win for the lead role in HBO’s television movie My House in Umbria.
Actors technically only need one of each award to be considered a Triple Crown winner, but Smith has a few extra, too. Among many nominations, she’s also won three Emmys for Downton Abbey and a 1978 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for California Suite.
6. Maggie Smith has been married twice.
Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens in Travels With My Aunt (1972).
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
In 1952, Smith met playwright Beverley Cross at an Oxford student revue, and later performed in his 1960 play Strip the Willow. The two dated while waiting for Cross to finalize his divorce, but their relationship was interrupted when Smith joined Laurence Olivier’s National Theater and fell in love with another company member, Robert Stephens.
The couple married in 1967, and went on to appear together in 1969’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and 1972’s Travels With My Aunt. They had two children, Toby Stephens and Chris Larkin, before splitting in 1975. Smith and Cross married soon after that, and were together until Cross’s death in 1998.
“I’m remarkably fortunate,” Smith said, according toThe New York Times. “When you meet again someone you should have married in the first place, it’s like a script. That kind of luck is too good to be true.”
7. Both of Maggie SMith's sons are actors.
Though Smith has said that she didn’t encourage her sons to act, they both followed in their mother’s footsteps. Her oldest, Toby Stephens, starred opposite Ruth Wilson in the 2006 miniseries Jane Eyre, and is perhaps best known for the role of Captain Flint in Starz’s Black Sails. Younger brother Chris, who guest-starred in Black Sails, is also set to appear in Outlander’s upcoming season 5.
8. Maggie Smith has teased Sir Ian McKellen on more than one occasion.
At the Academy Awards in 2002, Sir Ian McKellen explained to Maggie Smith that he had worn a traditional New Zealand pounamu pendant to bring him good luck in the Best Supporting Actor category—he had been nominated for playing Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
After he lost, he ran into Smith, who quipped: “It didn’t work, did it?”
Then, while recounting the story on The Graham Norton Show, McKellen did a riotously entertaining impression of Smith, which apparently wasn’t an isolated incident.
“He does them all the time,” she told the Evening Standard. “I rather acidly told him that I’d done one of him but people didn’t know him well enough to recognize it.”
9. Maggie Smith battled breast cancer while filming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
In 2009, news broke that Maggie Smith had been undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer in the midst of filming the sixth Harry Potter film.
“I was hairless. I had no problem getting the wig on. I was like a boiled egg,” she toldThe Times. “I was holding on to railings, thinking ‘I can’t do this.’”
Though Smith confessed that the experience made her “fearful of the amount of energy one needs to be in a film or a play,” she never really took a break from working: She also appeared in 2009’s From Time to Time and 2010’s Nanny McPhee Returns, and reprised Professor McGonagall in 2011’s final Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.
10. Maggie Smith doesn’t ever plan on retiring.
In a 2013 appearance on 60 Minutes, Smith shared that although she felt her theater days were behind her, she wouldn’t ever officially retire from film or television.
“I’ll keep going with Violet [from Downton Abbey] and any other old biddy that comes along,” she said.
As it turned out, her theater days weren’t over: Smith returned to the stage after a 12-year hiatus to portray Brunhilde Pomsel, secretary of Hitler’s propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, in 2019’s A German Life at London’s Bridge Theatre.
Do you follow Lin-Manuel Miranda on Twitter? If not, you should. The Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of Hamilton tweets prolifically—and delightfully—about his life and his work, dropping in inspirational messages along the way.
Twitter isn't the only place you can get a dose of Miranda these days: In addition to making the rounds at awards shows for his work as an executive producer on Fosse/Verdon (where he also made a memorable cameo as Roy Scheider), Miranda had a major role as Lee Scoresby in HBO's adaptation of His Dark Materials and had some fun playing a soldier in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.
This summer, Miranda will produce and star in the big-screen adaptation of his play In the Heights and is preparing to make his directorial debut with an adaptation of Jonathan Larson's musical tick, tick… BOOM. In celebration of Miranda's 40th birthday (Miranda was born in New York on January 16, 1980), here are some fun—and surprising—facts about the creative Renaissance man.
1. As a kid, Lin-Manuel Miranda couldn’t make it all the way through Mary Poppins.
Gareth Cattermole, Getty Images for Disney
In 2018, Lin-Manuel Miranda starred alongside Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns—but he didn't see the original movie all the way through until he was an adult. Miranda recalled to Vanity Fair how, as a kid, certain songs would make him “burst into tears.” Those songs included Stevie Wonder's “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and a track from Mary Poppins.
“I couldn’t get through ‘Feed the Birds,’” he told Vanity Fair. “I was very sensitive to minor-key music, and that song was so sad that I don’t think I saw the ending of Mary Poppins until I was grown, because I would just cry. I loved ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.’ I loved Dick Van Dyke. I loved the whole movie but then that one song was so sad I kind of never survived it.”
2. Lin-manuel Miranda's talent for the dramatic was clear from an early age.
Miranda’s father, Luis, wanted his son to be a lawyer—but according to Playbill, it was clear after a young Lin-Manuel filmed an “infamous” video book report about Jean Merrill’s The Pushcart War in the third grade that he was destined for the stage, not the courtroom. Miranda posted the video to YouTube noting, “I got an A.” (You can enjoy it for yourself above.)
3. Lin-Manuel Miranda faked an injury to get out of summer camp.
Miranda—who was born and raised in New York City—did not enjoy his trips to summer camp. “Sending me to a place without electricity was a very bad idea,” he told Jimmy Kimmel.
Miranda wrote his parents letters from camp describing his malaise, and his flair for the dramatic was on full display: “Dear Mom and Dad, Please come and take me back to New York, away from this hellhole,” he wrote in one letter. In another—in which he called himself “the kid you ditched in the woods for a month”—he drew “a picture to remind you of me”: an image of himself jumping off a building. Miranda recounted to Kimmel that he finally escaped from summer camp by faking a spinal cord injury—and had to keep up the act all summer long.
4. Lin-Manuel Miranda was profoundly influenced by Rent creator Jonathan Larson’s work.
In a 2004 essay application for the Jonathan Larson Grant, Miranda wrote that seeing Larson's rock musical Rent on his 16th birthday “simply changed everything … Never had I seen a show that spoke to me so directly, that used fresh, new music as a way of addressing contemporary concerns in an honest way. By writing about his friends with the problems and anxieties he faced, Jonathan Larson gave me permission to write about my life, hopes, and fears.” The show inspired Miranda to write his first musical (more on that in a minute), which was then performed at his high school. After that, he never stopped writing.
It wasn’t the last time Larson’s work would inspire Miranda. After graduating from Connecticut's Wesleyan University, Miranda saw Larson’s tick, tick… BOOM!—the story of an aspiring musical theater composer struggling to make it—which, Miranda wrote, “spoke to me and strengthened my resolve.”
He was workshopping what would become his first Broadway show, In the Heights, when he wrote that essay; though he ultimately didn’t get the grant, Miranda tweeted that “it turned out okay anyway. Don’t give up. Don’t you dare.”
Miranda is currently in pre-production on a movie adaptation of tick, tick… BOOM! The film will mark his feature directorial debut.
5. The first musical Lin-Manuel Miranda ever wrote was about … a dissected fetal pig.
Steven Henry, Getty Images
According to Miranda, the show “involved a dissected fetal pig rising up for revenge.” It was directed by Chris Hayes—yes, MSNBC host Chris Hayes, who was then a senior in high school—and ran about 20 minutes. “I can still hum the tunes of that show,” Hayes said in 2017.
6. Before he was a Broadway star, Lin-Manuel Miranda was a substitute teacher.
After college, Miranda “taught 7th grade English for a year,” he tweeted in 2016. “[T]hen I was a professional substitute teacher UNTIL I got Heights on Broadway.” He was subbing at his old high school, Hunter College High School, for a while, he toldPlaybill, when he was asked to “stay on to continue to teach part-time.” At that point, one of the future producers of In the Heights had also reached out to Miranda because he was interested in his writing.
Unsure of what to do, Miranda asked his father: “Should I keep teaching or should I just kind of sub and do gigs to pay the rent and really throw myself into writing full time?”
Luis wrote his son “a very thoughtful letter, in which [he] said, 'I really want to tell you to keep the job—that's the smart 'parent thing' to do—but when I was 17, I was a manager at the Sears in Puerto Rico, and I basically threw it all away to go to New York, [and] I didn't speak a lot of English. It made no sense, but it was what I needed to do ... It makes no sense to leave your job to be a writer, but I have to tell you to do it. You have to pursue that if you want.’ That was very opposite advice from, ‘Be a lawyer,’ and I'm glad I took it.”
7. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote music for local politicians.
Luis is a political consultant, and while his son was working on getting In the Heights to Broadway, he used his connections to get Lin-Manuel gigs writing music for ads for many of New York's leading politicians, including former governor Eliot Spitzer. “He’d say, ‘I have a Sharpton radio ad—I need 60 seconds of smooth jazz,'" Miranda toldThe New York Times in 2012.
According to Miranda, the music he composed was “generally accompanied by footage of the candidates shaking hands, doing very task-oriented things,” so the music needed to be “generally hopeful.” Music accompanying an attack ad, on the other hand, would have “sad strings” before transitioning to something more upbeat. “It’s a little like movie scoring,” Miranda told the Times. “If you’ve got a scary scene, you’ve got to write music for the scary scene.”
8. The version of In the Heights that Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote in college is drastically different from what ended up on Broadway.
Steven Henry, Getty Images
Miranda began writing In the Heights as a sophomore at Wesleyan. The college version, he toldThe Guardian, “was really just a love story set in” New York City's Washington Heights neighborhood. But when he came back home after college and saw the changes happening in the neighborhood, that began to change, and the show became, “In a sense ... a time capsule of a Washington Heights that's not going to exist in 10, 15 years,” he said. “All I know is I wanted to write a little show that captures what it was like, as I remember it. And so that will exist. My little memory of the neighborhood, through the show.”
In the Heights—which Miranda also starred in for a time—ran on Broadway from 2008 to 2011; it was while Miranda was on vacation between the show’s off-Broadway and Broadway runs that he read the biography by Ron Chernow that would lead him to Hamilton.
9. Lin-Manuel Miranda was really nervous when Hamilton author Ron Chernow came to see In the Heights.
Christopher Jackson, who played Benny in In the Heights and George Washington in Hamilton, recalled to Rolling Stone how Miranda told him about the idea for his next musical just a few days after he got back from vacation: “When Ron Chernow came to see Heights, I had never seen Lin that nervous,” Jackson told Rolling Stone. “He said, ‘Ron Chernow’s here!’ I said, ‘What does that mean?’ And he said, ‘The show needs to go well today.'”
10. Lin-Manuel Miranda's favorite Hamilton verse is in “WE Know.”
The moment occurs when Hamilton is accused of embezzlement. “I decided that when Hamilton is backed into a corner, he gets super internal rhymey,” Miranda told Katie Couric. As he’s telling Jefferson, Madison, and Burr about the Reynolds Affair, Hamilton raps:
She courted me
Escorted me to bed and when she had me in a corner
That’s when Reynolds extorted me
For a sordid fee
I paid him quarterly
I may have mortally wounded my prospects
But my papers are orderly
As you can see I kept a record of every check in my checkered history
Check it again against your list n’ see consistency
I never spent a cent that wasn’t mine
You sent the dogs after my scent, that’s fine.
“Those are enormous fun to put together,” Miranda said. “When Hamilton’s mad, it’s, like, Super Eminem, I’m going to destroy you with my mind.”
11. Lin-Manuel Miranda identifies with The Little Mermaid’s Sebastian.
“As a child, the [character in The Little Mermaid] I related to the most was Sebastian the crab, and I think as an adult he’s still the one I relate to the most,” Miranda said in WIRED’s autocomplete interview. “He just wanted someone to sing in his concert, poor guy. He’s a frustrated musician! I relate.”
12. Lin-Manuel Miranda compares himself to other people, just like the rest of us.
Miranda has packed a lot into his 40 years. To name just a few of his accomplishments: He has created Hamilton and In the Heights, co-written the music and lyrics for Bring It On: The Musical, penned a mini-musical called 21 Chump Street for This American Life, and translated the lyrics of West Side Story into Spanish for a 2009 Broadway revival. He has also appeared in The Sopranos, Modern Family, the revival of The Electric Company, and Sesame Street, among other shows.
While starring in Hamilton, Miranda wrote songs for Disney’s Moana (with Opetaia Tavita Foa‘i and Mark Mancina) and composed music for a scene in J.J. Abrams’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. He co-wrote Hamilton: The Revolution, wrote a book with illustrator Jonny Sun, and somehow finds time to do monthly "Hamildrops" of remixes and new music inspired by the show.
But despite all Miranda has done, that doesn’t stop him from comparing himself to other people, just like the rest of us.
“I’ve seen people my age and younger shoot to success, and I measure myself against people by age,” Miranda told Rolling Stone in 2016. “Paul McCartney had already ended the Beatles and was midway through Wings when he was my age! Like, the entire Beatles, and he was not 30 yet. There’s always someone to measure yourself against when you’re like, ‘F***, what am I doing with my life?’”
13. Lin-Manuel Miranda keeps a high school math trophy next to one of his Grammys.
Theo Wargo, Getty Images
In his career, Miranda has been nominated for an Oscar, won a Pulitzer Prize and a MacArthur Genius Grant, and taken home three Tony Awards, two Laurence Olivier Awards, four Drama Desk awards, three Grammys, and an Emmy (among other awards). But, as he toldVariety in 2016, he’s “just as proud” of a trophy he won for math in the 11th grade, “Because I got straight C’s in math all through high school.” The award, he said, “is on my shelf next to my Grammy.”
14. Lin-Manuel Miranda works hard to stay grounded.
Despite all that he has accomplished, Miranda doesn’t intend to get a big head. “I think the trap is in getting caught up in the importance of those titles and letting that make you think you’re important. I try very hard to fight against that,” he toldVariety. “I have friends who are very happy to remind me that I’m myself,” adding that most of his friends “roast” him whenever they see him: “That’s why they’re my friends.”