The hammer was man’s first tool, and the Hammer Museum is the first museum dedicated to the hammer.
The Hammer Museum provides a unique view of the past through the use of the hammer. From ancient times, through colonial days and the industrial age, the hammer tells the story of man’s progress and ingenuity.
The Hammer Museum opened in 2002. It became a 501 c 3 non profit in 2004. The museum does not have any paid staff, it is run by volunteers and has a five member board.
The mission of the Hammer Museum is to research, identify, exhibit, and preserve the history and use of hammers for the education of the general public. Central to our mission is the intent to benefit both a worldwide and local community.
The Hammer Museum reaches out to the larger community through the Internet, newspaper and magazine articles, television and radio segments, and through our annual newsletter. Click to see 2009 annual newsletter. Our website features unique hammers in an online exhibit and provides information for those who have questions about hammers. Museum staff regularly respond to email and telephone inquiries from collectors, other museums, individuals and historians worldwide. The museum is open to visitors May through September. We offer tours and answer questions about the approximately 1,500 hammers that are on display. The majority of our summertime visitors are cruise ship passengers or tourists traveling through Haines by RV. Over the past few years, we have found that the unique nature of the Hammer Museum has played a part in bringing travelers to Haines. The museum is noted in several travel guidebooks, and our distinctive 19'8" hammer statue located in front of the museum on Main Street provides a point of interest to visitors headed into town. Likewise, the Hammer Museum has been featured in numerous television and radio segments broadcast in the United States, Canada and Australia.
Although we work to cultivate tourism in Haines, the Hammer Museum is also active in the local community. Haines residents are encourage to come to the museum free of charge during the summer. During the winter, the museum provides tours for local school and youth groups. We also participate in the Southeast Alaska State Fair, community events sponsored by the Haines Chamber of Commerce, fund raising drives for KHNS radio and programs at the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center.
The museum is open May through September. It is open Monday through Friday, 10 AM - 5PM.
Admission is $3 for adults, kids 12 and under free.
The Hammer Museum opened in 2002. The museum’s founder, Dave Pahl, had been collectiong hammers for many years. A pioneer dream and a desire to live as self sufficiently as possible took Dave to Seward, Alaska in 1973. Dave met Carol, and they were married in 1980. They won a five acre homesite in the 1980 state land lottery at Mosquito Lake (30 miles from Haines) and moved there in 1981. They lived without running water and electricity for many years. Their lifestyle required frequent use of handtools.
Restoring old tools became a hobby. On a rare trip "Outside", the lower forty eight states, the hobby became more of an obsession after a visit to an antique store and Dave’s decision to start collecting hammers. He became so intrigued with the history associated with the hammers that he decided to open a museum to research and preserve the history.
In 2001, the Pahls purchased a building on Main Street in Haines, Alaska, to house the future museum. The building needed a lot of TLC. The Pahls decided to dig a basement and put in a foundation for the museum building to rest on. This was done using hand shovels, removing the dirt with a wheel barrow and sled.
During the excavation process, Dave unearthed an artifact that turned out to be a Tlingit warriors pick, or slave killer. The Tlingits are indigenous to this area. Dave took the discovery of this stone hammer as more than just a coincidence. He decided he was on the right track in giving man’s first tool its own museum.
During a trip to Washington DC in 2002, the Pahl’s had the privilege of viewing some hammers that were in storage at the Museum of American History. There were also five mannequins which had been in storage since the early 1970's. The curator donated them to the Hammer Museum since they were no longer needed by the Smithsonian. They are now wielding hammers at the Hammer Museum, and are a great addition to our volunteer staff!
In 2004, the museum became a 501 c3 non profit organization The main benefit of becoming a non profit has been the strengthening of ties to the greater museum community. It has enabled us to gain valuable tools and knowledge to improve the museum. The museum participated in the AAM’s Museum Assessment Program (MAP) in 2005. It required completion of a self study workbook, and a visit from a museum surveyor. The program identified twelve specific tasks that needed to be addressed. Several have been completed and the rest are in progress.
In 2008, the museum was one of 48 national museums to be selected to participate in a pilot program to evaluate the AASLH (American Association of State and Local History) new STEPS program. The Hammer Museum’s area of focus was how to enhance our visitors experience.
Three areas for improvement were identified and implemented. A museum representative also attends the Museums Alaska annual conference when possible.
In 2007, with help from the Alaska State Museum, the Hammer Museum began it’s intern program. It has been a great benefit to both the museum and interns alike. Click to see application details.
In 2007, Museum founder, Dave Pahl, constructed and erected a BIG hammer in front of the museum. The handle of the 19'8" claw hammer is constructed from a 26" diameter spruce log. The hammer head is made of styrofoam and fiberglass. The hammer is currently featured in a Planters peanut internet ad for the Big Nut Bar Click here to see ad
In 2008, the museum received some very significant donations Our oldest hammer came from archeologist Ken Ostrand. It is called a dolorite ball and was used around 2500 BC by ancient Egytians. This one is associated with the building of the third pyramid at Giza. It was found by Dr. Ostrand. Another very major donation was the Keathley collection. Bob and Yvonne Keathley visited the museum in 2008, and donated many items relevant to the hickory handle manufacturing trade. The Keathleys had owned and operated the IXL handle manufacturing company for five generations, prior to selling the business to Ames Company in 1997. Bob had the foresight to keep much of the vintage machinery and hundreds of photos and other historical documents. The museum is using these collections to help tell the story of a once robust American industry.