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Barbara Schmidt <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 23 Jul 2023 07:32:36 -0500
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Bob is right.  Historical newspapers discuss the sucking cane activities.
An article in the Boston GLOBE dated Oct. 25, 1891 mentions the invention
of the "prohibition cane" that holds a quart of whiskey. "The cane empties
easily by suction ... and if the traveller in prohibition districts sees
half the male population sucking cane heads he must not size them up for
noodles. They are simply partaking of refreshments."


On Sat, Jul 22, 2023 at 8:41 PM <[log in to unmask]>

> Those who know me know how much I enjoy a research challenge like "sucking
> cane heads." I too thought first of canes made of sugar cane, but soon
> discarded that. Mature sugar cane is tall enough, about six feet, but it is
> too thick (about 2 inches in diameter) and not sturdy like bamboo. Caveat:
> It was occasionally sucked for a sucrose high, more or less like as today's
> caffeine energy drinks, but that purpose is clear when mentioned) I also
> thought of candy canes, which were first created over 350 years ago and was
> only seasonal after it became a popular Christmas Tree decoration in
> America in the early 1800s. After using the online free
> collection of over 200 million articles in 4,300+ newspaper titles to seek
> out some hundred or so newspaper mentions of the various forms of that
> phrase (suck his cane; sucking his cane; sucking their canes;  etc. etc.) I
> find it was exactly that, sucking the head of a cane. If you use some of
> those and other variations of the phrase on you will see what
> I mean, and why I conclude that they were indeed sucking the head of a
> walking stick cane. A strange fad which faded away in the 1890s, but no
> more nor less than that.    In a message dated 7/15/2023 7:21:04 AM Pacific
> Daylight Time, [log in to unmask] writes:
> I'm reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, in chapter 5 it read "...for
> they had stood in the vestibule sucking their cane heads, a circling wall
> of oiled and simpering admirers...", I don't quite understand what the
> young men are doing, is "sucking their cane heads " a metaphor? Can someone
> explain it?Tks