How this man from east Dallas built the world’s most impressive anvil collection
AAndrew Alexander got caught in a traffic jam, so he did what anyone else would: he took a shortcut. But when he saw an old Studebaker truck decomposing in the yard of a dilapidated house, he did what few others would do: stop and knock on the door to see if the truck was for sale. . Alexander often does this, and sometimes it causes problems. “I’ve been kicked off people’s property before,” he says. “I called the police. “
But this time Alexander hit the jackpot. The owner took him to a large corrugated iron building behind the house which once contained a foundry. Inside, he saw piles of old machines. Much of it was still working.
Finding treasures like these is what drove Alexander to become one of the world’s premier vintage tool collectors. Even when he was graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in New York City and working at the Mansion on Turtle Creek, finding and restoring old tools was his first love. In fact, the 42-year-old bought his first tool (“A 127-pound Peter Wright anvil, the biggest piece of junk you’ve ever seen in your life,” he says) at the age of 17. years.
Today, more than a decade after leaving the culinary world, he considers his collection (1,553 anvils) to be one of the most important and, according to him, “the most historically important anvil collection in the world. »(See box). The walls of his East Dallas office, which he is working to transform into a museum space, are cracking from the weight. “There are 88,000 books in this one room,” he said, surrounded by anvil supports. “I had to bring in an engineer to help me understand. “
Anvils aren’t the only things he collects and displays. It has more than 2,000 vintage stalls and several warehouses filled with vintage lathes, presses and drills that delight its nearly 100,000 Instagram followers (@blacksmithtools).
Its goal is preservation. “I am motivated by the history of these pieces,” says Alexander. “I like to restore them and give them new life.” So he’s going to keep knocking on doors.
Bear the weight
In 2018, Alexander bought the collection of anvils belonging to Richard Postman, author of Anvils in America (the anvil collector’s bible). This collection was documented in the Encyclopedic Book, and it took Alexander two 18-wheelers to transport it from Michigan to Dallas. “I took an 18 wheeler there, but it was way too heavy,” he says. “So I had it parked at a friend of a friend of a friend’s house and another 18 wheeler came to meet us.”