When Louis Histed published his version of the trick that has become known by this name, he wrote, “I originally saw Chris Van Bern perform the Rod and Beads many years ago, about ten years before it came on the market in this country. It is reputed to be very ancient, but although I gave some thought to the problem I don't think I succeeded in discovering the principle. The method which I give here for achieving a similar effect was soon discovered. Later, I found that that prolific inventor Tom Sellers had been struck by exactly the same idea. Fairly recently I bought a bound volume of his collected works, and I find that he describes the effect almost exactly as set down here.” (See The Magic of Louis S. Histed, 1947, p. 55.)
A pocket version of this trick, called the “Devil Stick”, was marketed by Abbott's Magic Novelty Co., c. 1938 (see Tops, Vol. 4 No. 1, Jan. 1939, p. 57). This prop did not break apart in the middle to prove a lack of connection between the cords. Instead, it was passed for inspection at the end, and failed to work as it had in the magician's hands.
Histed may have been referring to “Solomon's Pillars” when he mentioned that the trick “is reputed to be very ancient”. “Solomon's Pillars” (dating back to the 1600s) consists of two sticks, joined at one end and with a cord apparently strung through the opposite end. The cord is seemingly cut between the sticks, and then restored. This trick and the similar “Nose Bridle” (see Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft, 1584, p. 351) seem to have been the simple parents of the more deceptive Chinese Sticks and Pom-pom Prayer Stick.