The Hammer Museum opened in 2002. Its founder, Dave Pahl, had been collecting long before that. The desire to get back to the land and to live as self-sufficiently as possible took Dave to Alaska in 1973. Dave and his wife, Carol, homesteaded near Haines, Alaska, without the luxury of electricity or running water for many years. Their lifestyle had Dave collecting and using many different hand tools. Working with wood, stone, and metal provided Dave with a steady diet of hammering! The variety of hammers needed to achieve the various tasks soon piqued his interest in the many uses and the history of the tool.
As Dave’s interest in hammers grew, so did his collection. Before long the walls of their log home were near full of hammers! The need for more space for a growing passion became apparent. In 2001, the Pahls bought a building on Main Street in Haines to house the future museum. The 100-year-old building needed a little TLC. While digging under the building for a new foundation, Dave unearthed a Tlingit warrior’s pick. This artifact is a hammer-like tool used in battle as well as ceremonial occasions. Dave took the discovery of this stone hammer as an omen that he was on the right track by giving man’s first tool its own museum.
Over the years, the museum has enjoyed world-wide recognition through numerous television and radio shows as well as magazine and newspaper articles. Our educational outreach includes school programs, tours, and community events. We also reach a wide audience through our website. Even though the museum has a wide reach, our home is Haines, where we enjoy great local support. The museum personnel participate in community events including the nail- and spike-driving contests at 4th of July, operation of the High Striker at the Southeast Alaska State Fair, and The annual Craft Beer and Homebrew Festival. Some highlights in Hammer Museum History are shared here.
The Hammer Museum really came to life with the addition of five life-sized mannequins. A gift from the Smithsonian Museum of American History, they were given to the Pahl family for their fledgling museum while touring the Smithsonian. In their previous lives they were colonial timber frame builders. We are really honored to have been able to put these guys back to work here in Alaska. This guy is carving out a saddle notch.
In 2004, with encouragement and guidance from the Alaska State Museum, the Hammer Museum became a 501c3 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 withing the bounds of best practice.
The Hammer Museum participated in the AAM’s Museum Assessment Program (MAP) The MAP assessment required completion of a self-study workbook and a visit from a museum surveyor. The program identified specific tasks that needed to be addressed.
With guidance from the Alaska State Museum, the Hammer Museum began its internship program. It has been a great benefit to both the museum and interns alike. To learn more about the internship program, check out the Support page.
Dave Pahl completed and installed the BIG HAMMER in front of the museum in July. 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 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 Standards and Excellence Program for History Organizations is a self-study assessment which identifies areas to strengthen and helps to organize goals and projects intended to help get there.
This year we had a visit from Bob Yvonne Keathley. The Keathleys donated many items relevant to the hickory handle manufacturing trade. Bob’s family owned and operated the IXL Handle Manufacturing Company for five generations. Prior to selling the company to Ames Corp 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 industry.
We were honored to host fellow hammer enthusiast Antanas Kibiickas and his friends and translator Algimantis Grigelis on their visit from Lithuania.
Antanas has a radio station and a publishing company as well as Lithuania’s only Hammer Museum! Antanas learned about us from our website and after a few years of corresponding by email he finally made the week-long stay, checking out the museum and many of the local sites.
Miranda Traudt is hired through the Alaska State Museum internship placement program. Miranda was with us for 10 weeks and split her time between cataloging the 1,000 piece Keathly collection and helping out in the museum.
This year we displayed this astronauts’ hammer. It was on a one-year loan from the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
It is made from a non-sparking alloy and has a velcro-covered grip. There is an eye to fasten a lanyard to keep the hammer from floating off.
What is the HAMMER was the answer to the question. On January 1st ,the New Year came in swinging with TV show Jeopardy’s famous game show host Alex Trebek asking the question.
The family of long-time hammer collector and dedicated tool researcher Jim Mau donated Jim’s incredible collection to the museum. Jim’s research into hammer history included repeated trips to the Patent Office in Washington D.C. and Norwich, New York, home of the former David Maydole Hammer Company. Jim had a special interest in Maydole and the collection includes many Maydole hammers and other products. Jim’s research material is a great asset to our mission of preserving hammer history.
HAMMER MUSEUM TURNS 20
A hammer hoedown marked the 20-year anniversary of the museum.
Live music, food and drink and a smashing good time!