The Hammer Museum opened in 2002. The museum’s founder, Dave Pahl, had been collectiong hammers for many years. The 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.
In the spring of 2015 the museum board hired the musuem's first executive director, Ashleigh Reed.