The Hammer Museum

Photo by Scott Banks

Whether landing in Haines, Alaska, by land or by sea, exploring a hammer museum isn’t likely on your itinerary. But here you are, and beneath a 20-foot hammer is the front door opening to the world’s first hammer museum, listed by the Saturday Evening Post as one of the ten strangest museums in the U.S.

The Hammer Museum houses a collection that belongs to Dave Pahl. What started as hobby became an obsession and, now, fifteen years later, 2,000 hammers from his vast collection of 7,000 cover every inch of wall space. Thankfully, Pahl collects hammers so you don’t have to.

In this world of specialization, you could spend an hour reading hammer history and discovering obscure hammers—both ancient and modern—that you could never imagine. Go ahead and guess what a Turkish taffy hammer is or name the features on the Lovable Bar Bum. The museum’s oldest hammer is a rock ball made of dolerite used by Egyptians around 2,500 B.C.

Some of the hammers are more whimsical. The Mitteldorfer Strauss Goat Head Hammer isn’t used to bop goats on the head, it’s an ornamental hammer. The bronze-head hammer was believed to have been given away as a premium with the purchase of a sack of flower, like a prize from a Cracker Jack box.

Continue your tour in this small museum and find bung starters, hoop sets, snow knockers, cobblers’ hammers and log stamps. It seems that if you can swing it, they have it.

The small town of Haines (pop. 1,713) sits at the top of southeast Alaska’s panhandle, with one highway leading out of town. It’s a frequent cruise ship stop as well as a daily stop on the Alaska Marine Highway System. If you have a few days to linger, reserve a room at Hotel Halsingland at historic Fort Seward.

The Hammer Museum is open May through September. Learn more at hammermuseum.org. Find out more about visiting Haines at visithaines.com.