Brewer (54) says this is “a loaded short stick for self-defence.” In his Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet,” Conan Doyle mentions someone who “took down a life-preserver from the wall” (in order to intimidate the intrepid detective). The incident is shown in an illustration that appeared when the story was first published. It shows a club a little over a foot long with about a three-inch diameter knob on the working end (96). Three of Gilbert’s revised Bab Ballad cartoons show robbers equipped with similar weapons (126). A copy of one is shown below. In his Bab Ballad “Gentle Alice Brown” Gilbert includes these lines: “He took a life-preserver and he hit him on the head / And Mrs Brown dissected him before she went to bed.” Given that clue, I would argue with Brewer about their function being confined to self-defense. They were perhaps called “life-preservers” because they could stun a victim without killing him –– equivalent to a blackjack. Halton’s view is much the same, except that he mentions a flexible shaft (147).

Your life-preserver –– you may want to hit!
Act II
Sketch of Life preserver