Archival Adventures in Small Repositories
A Story of Perseverance at the Welsh Valley Preservation Society
When Hugo Fischer emigrated from Germany to Towamencin Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania in the early 1900s, he bought a mill. At the time it seemed like a solid investment, but by the 1920s, the mill already wasn't doing as well as he had hoped. But then--opportunity! Fischer's mill was on a beautiful 14-acre property, and motorists began picnicking and asking for permission to camp in the scenic environs. Fischer recognized the lucrative possibilities, and started building facilities to entice more guests--for a fee, of course--a candy and ice cream pavilion, a boardwalk over the dam, cabanas, and a swimming pool. Before long, Fischer's Pool was a recreation destination!
Fischer himself tragically died in 1930 (drowned, somewhat ironically, although he perished in a flash flood and not his newly-built pool). But his widow's nephew, Eric Arneth, took over the business and continued to improve the facilities. Among other projects, he demolished the mill, built the "upper club pool," filled in the mill raceway, and made additions to the houses. Arneth, like his uncle, was good at turning obstacles into opportunities. In the midst of World War II's fuel and rubber shortages, for example, Arneth ran contests for the most creative mode of transportation to the park. The winners came "in" a "horse"-drawn cart: the "horse" was actually two men in costume! Arneth's creative ideas and fun atmosphere kept visitors returning to Fischer's Park--by hook, by crook, or by man-powered "horse"-cart.
This entertaining and inspiring story is told in photographs, newspaper clippings, and documents in the "Elizabeth Arneth collection on Fischer's Park," housed at the Welsh Valley Preservation Society. (Which, I would be remiss not to mention, is itself located at the fabulous Morgan Log House. The Morgan Log House, a restored Colonial-era Germanic cabin, is on property once owned by Daniel Boone's grandparents.) Eric Arneth's wife Elizabeth kept one of Fischer's own account books (1922), copies of promotional materials and advertising proofs, photographs of the park and its visitors, and much more in scrapbooks, binders, and boxes. The collection today tells the story of 20th century leisure and recreation, the development of a commercial amusement industry, and changing advertising and marketing trends. It also tells the personal story of one family's perseverance, and their creative ability to find opportunity in obstacles.
About the Author
Unless otherwise noted, all images in this blog post are property of the organization profiled, not the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. To reproduce any image or obtain a higher quality version, please contact the organization directly.