Saving the Blacksmith’s Shop

Blacksmith museum showcases pieces from old blacksmith’s shops.

| August 2010

Elk City, Okla., is home to the Old Town Museum complex that includes Pioneer Museum, Beutler Brothers Rodeo Hall, Farm and Ranch Museum, Livery Stable, Train Depot and Wagon Yard, as well as the National Route 66 and Transportation museums – all in close proximity and a short drive off Interstate 40 in west central Oklahoma.

The newest member of the group is a blacksmith museum, the result of volunteer curator Bob Kennemer’s involvement with the Western Oklahoma Historical Society after he retired in 1992. The historical society was looking for a project to support and he was looking for something to do with his collection of blacksmithing tools and equipment. He presented a proposal saying, “If you put up a building, I’ll equip it.”

The historical society provided one-quarter of the funding and a local fundraiser generated the balance needed to build a 1,800-square-foot steel structure. After the building was completed on Oct. 13, 2007, Bob and fellow volunteer Gary Seigrist began to display their collections. Another friend, Joe Smith, also contributed tools and equipment. The historical society was so pleased with the display that it funded a recently completed 2,000-square-foot addition. The city owns the property and the inventory is on loan from Bob, Gary, Joe, and the Farm and Ranch Museum (located next door).

Weighing in on anvils

As you’d expect, the museum includes several working forges. But what you might not expect is a collection of 80 anvils, many of which were forged in England, Switzerland or Germany. Several were cast in Sweden, where high quality iron was available.

“Most anvils have their brand name and a serial number embossed on them,” Bob explains. “With that information and a book entitled Anvils in America, you can study the history of the anvil, its date of production and weight.” English anvils, for instance, use a hundredweight system typically cast into the anvil in a string of three numbers.