Hair Dryers and Black Water Discovered in Alden

I have had a wonderful time working at the Alden Historical Society alongside their curator, Karen. She was so excited and welcoming when I first called and informed her that I was interested in volunteering there as a part of my learning experience for my history class. She jumped at the opportunity and as soon as I got the approval from my teacher she put me right to work! For five weeks I sorted through and took inventory of artifacts dating back as far as the late eighteen hundreds. Some of the items I came across weren’t all that interesting, but there were quite a few artifacts that I found incredibly fascinating. Take for example, the old fashioned hair dryer that probably weighed at least four or five pounds! When I pulled this out, I chuckled to myself, thinking, “Who in the world would be desperate enough to dry their hair with this hunk of metal?!” Another interesting object was the old silver lantern I found at the bottom of a dusty bin. It was from the early 1920s I believe, and it was still in moderately good condition. I also found a typewriter, which looked a bit comical, but Karen was very adamant on how it was such an important contribution to man for its time. Some other items I came across during my time there were: an old toaster, kid’s metal toy soldiers, food jars, hunting knives, nineteenth century brass buttons, and even a butter making kit.

I learned something interesting about the town of Alden too. Apparently, in the late eighteen hundreds, black water was discovered. The water had some kind of mineral in it that was believed to have some kind of medical benefit, and so the town started publicizing the idea of having “black water baths”. The baths did actually have some true healing powers, helping relieve the pain from arthritis mainly. People from all over came and Alden grew from a small town to a booming tourist attraction. Obviously, the black water baths are no more now, and Karen didn’t explain to me exactly why it stopped. Nevertheless, I found it to be quite an interesting story!

Overall, my experience at the Alden Historical Society was enjoyable. Karen was wonderful to work with and I certainly learned some new and interesting facts. I truly would like to go back and volunteer there again on my own time, as opposed to doing it for service learning. I really think it’s important to learn and be aware of where you come from, not only for your sake, but also for the sake of others, so that they can know the truth of the past of where they come from, and take pride in it.

By Lindsay Pawlikowski


About Derek Maxfield

Associate Professor of History Genesee Community College
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