The Hammer Museum’s founder, Dave Pahl, originally from Cleaveland, Ohio, moved to Sweard, Alaska in 1973, with the desire to live as self-sufficiently as possible. Dave met his wife Carol, and was married in 1980. In 1981, the Phal’s moved to Haines after winning five acres of land near Mosquito Lake (30 miles from Haines) from the State Land Lottery.
Dave Phal beacame a blacksmith and informally began collecting hand tools. His collection grew over the years through purchases, gifts and “hammer hunting” expeditions. Restoring old tools became a hobby of Dave’s after the purchases of an antique medical hammer from a thift store. Even Carol Phal began collecting, Her “glass hammer” and “table knocker” exibits can still be seen at the museum.
In 2001, the Pahls purchased an 100-year-old building in Haines, with the intention to house their future museum. Many had doubt in Phal’s plan to open a hammer museum, however, after unearthing a ceremonial Tlingit warrior’s pick while hand digging a foundation for the building, Phal knew it was “ment to be.” In May 2002, Dave and Carol Phal opened the world’s first hammer museum.
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 the Hammer Museum to gain valuable tools and knowledge to improve the museum and work within the bounds of best practice. The Hammer 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 2007, with advice from the Alaska State Museum, the Hammer Museum began its intern program. It is a great benefit to both the museum and interns alike. To learn more about the internship program, check out the “Support” page.
In 2007, 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.
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. Since then the museum has been regularly represented as a member of Museums Alaska and have attended several professional development conferences.
In 2008, the museum received some significant donations: “Our oldest hammer” came from archeologist Dr. Ken Ostrand. It is a rock ball made of dolerite and was used around 2500 BC by Ancient Egytians. This “hammer” is associated with the building of the pyramid of Menkure, the third pyramid at Giza. Dr. Ostrand discovered it during his excavation. Another major donation was the Keathley collection. Bob and Yvonne Keathley visited the museum in 2008, and donated items relevant to the hickory handle manufacturing trade. The Keathleys 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.
The Hammer Museum continues to florish with almost 10,000 hammers in the total collection. In 2019 the Museum received yet another great donation. Almost 2,000 hammers were sent to the museum as part of the “Jim Mau” collection. An avid tool collecter himself, Mau passed away in late 2018, leaving his hammer collection and reserch to the Hammer Museum. With his reserch in hand, the Hammer Musuem was able to constuct servel new exibits, incuding the “David Maydole” collection. As well as “What’s it?”, a collection of odd-looking hammers and tools perfectly placed to confuse bystanders for thier purpose.