Solid Anvil Collection

Pound for pound, Texas man's anvil collection is rock solid.

| June 2005

For some collectors, a stationary engine is a portal to the past. For others, sentimental ties are maintained by preserving a tractor that's been in the family for decades. For Chip Barkman of Texarkana, Texas, an anvil used by his father and grandfather is a very solid connection to the roots of agriculture in America.

"We have an old family anvil that was my grand-dad's," Chip says. "Three generations have used it. Last year, we retired it. We regard it as a family heirloom now."

It's also the start of a collection that now numbers more than 30 anvils from the U.S. and abroad. Chip's dad began the hobby with a small collection; Chip has taken off from there. "About two years ago," he recalls, "I saw an anvil for sale, said 'What the heck' and bought it." His wife, Michelle, joined forces with her husband: She collects small anvils, the type used by jewelers. The couple is also interested in related tools: tongs, chisels and hammers.

Anvils were once common on the farm and industry. "Blacksmiths and farriers used large anvils to shoe horses," Chip says. "Anvils were used for all kinds of metal work and welding. They didn't have arc welders back then. Larger anvils were used in industrial shops - machine shops, shipyards and railroad yards."

Although a special anvil created for the Centennial Exposition of 1876 weighed in at 1,400 pounds, the biggest anvil produced by most manufacturers 100 years ago was in the 800-pound range. More typical was a piece at the other end of the scale, Chip says. "The typical Texas farm anvil weighed 100-150 pounds," he says. "Farm anvils in the north and east may have been bigger. With westward migration, people carried everything they owned with them on covered wagons, and they had to be more selective. Those big anvils were just too heavy to haul out here."

Specific anvils were used by makers of plows, coaches, saws and chains. Ultimately, as technology grew more sophisticated, the need for anvils diminished. "There was less dependence on horses," Chip says, "and at the same time, trip hammers and steam hammers replaced anvils in industrial use."