American Turners Local Societies, 1866-2006


Mss 38
  9.2 c.f (7 cartons and 4 flat boxes)
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ABSTRACT

Many Germans immigrated to the United States following the failure of an 1848 revolution designed to introduce democratic reforms into the governments of the German states. Among these immigrants were members of the Turners, an athletic and political organization founded in Germany during the second decade of the nineteenth century. Turners quickly established societies (known as Turnverein or Turngemeinde) in the American cities in which they settled. These societies served as athletic, political, and social centers for German communities in the United States. The Turners= most important contribution to American life in their communities has been their advocacy of physical education and fitness. Turners successfully lobbied local school boards in many cities for the inclusion of physical education classes in the curriculum, and Turner instructors served as the directors of physical education programs in many school systems in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The American Turners Local Societies Collection includes constitutions and bylaws, anniversary publications, brief histories, event programs, newspaper clippings, and photographs from approximately 162 of the Turner societies that have existed in the United States.

ACCESS

This collection is open to the public without restriction. The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) govern the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material.

PREFERRED CITATION

Cite as: American Turners Local Societies Collection,1866-1997, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.

ACQUISITION

Presented by the American Turners and individual members of the American Turners, May 1987-October 1994.
A89-12, A90-22, A90-30, A90-33, A90-35, A91-11, A91-23, A91-40, A91-45, A93-15, A93-20, A93-21, A93-33, A93-34, A93-60, A94-9, A94-12, A94-13, A94-17, A94-23, A94-31, A94-32, A94-65, A94-66, A94-67, A94-68, A94-69, A94-70, A94-72, A94-73, A94-74, A94-75, A94-77, A94-78, A94-79, A94-80, A94-81, A94-82, A94-84, A94-102, A94-103, A94-104, A94-114, A94-115, A94-116, A94-117, A94-118, A2000/01-024.

Processed by Gregory H. Mobley, April 2002.

HISTORICAL NOTE

The Turner movement began in Germany during the second decade of the nineteenth century. Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852), a teacher in Berlin, began conducting outdoor physical education classes in 1811. Jahn developed a system of gymnastics that emphasized the use of apparatus like the parallel bars, the rings, the balance beam, the horse, and the horizontal bar (all invented by Jahn). His goals were to promote both physical fitness and German nationalism. Over the next three decades gymnastic societies that followed Jahn’s principles of physical fitness opened in many German cities. The societies were called “Turnverein”(gymnastic societies) and their members were known as “Turners” (the German word for “gymnasts”). These societies served not only as centers for exercise but as gathering places for people who advocated democratic reforms in the governments of the German states. When the 1848 revolution began, many Turners actively supported it. Fearing for their freedom or even their lives when the revolution failed, many of these Turners fled to the United States.

The immigrant Turners quickly established gymnastic societies in their new country. The Cincinnati Turngemeinde, organized on November 21, 1848, is generally credited with being the first Turner society organized in the United States. By 1850 Turner societies were operating in Baltimore, Boston, Louisville, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond, and St. Louis. In that year delegates from Turner societies met in Philadelphia and founded a national organization, the Vereinigte Turnvereins Nordamerika (United Turner Societies of North America, now known as the American Turners). The number of Turner societies continued to grow during the 1850s. The majority of the societies were located in an area stretching from southern New England southward to the Middle Atlantic states, then westward through the Ohio Valley and the Great Lakes region to the northern portions of the Mississippi River Valley and the Great Plains.

The 1850s were a time of challenge for Turner societies. The influx of immigrants from Ireland and Germany during the 1840s and 1850s sparked the rise of a nativist movement concerned about the growing numbers of Catholic and German-speaking peoples in the United States. The movement spawned the American or “Know-Nothing” Party (so-called because members would respond “I know nothing” when asked about their activities). The party’s political agenda included a limit on the number of immigrants allowed into the United States and a denial of voting rights to foreign-born residents. Turner societies worked against the Know-Nothing Party, and violent clashes between members of the Know-Nothing Party and German immigrants (including members of Turner societies) occurred in many cities, especially during elections. By the late 1850s the Know-Nothing Party had waned in influence and the violence ended.

Turners participated in the Civil War in large numbers. Many northern societies became inactive or even disbanded because so many of their members were serving in the army. After the war the Turners experienced a period of sustained growth. In 1871 the Turners had a total of 10,200 members in 148 societies. By 1880 the numbers had risen to 13,000 members in 186 societies. 1893 was the highwater mark; membership stood at nearly 42,000 in 316 societies. The Turners drew new members both from recently arrived immigrants who had belonged to Turner societies in Germany and from the descendants of Turners who had arrived in the United States in the 1840s and 1850s.

The Turners’ emphasis on physical fitness extended beyond the gymnasiums of the Turnhall. The Turners’ 1880 national convention passed a resolution calling on its members to work for the introduction of physical education into the curriculum of the nation’s public school systems. The Turners took up the issue with enthusiasm and over the next twenty years enjoyed many successes. Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Milwaukee, and St. Louis were among the cities where Turners’ lobbying helped convince school boards to add physical education classes. Turner instructors served as directors of physical education programs in many school systems.

The twentieth century was generally a period of decline for Turner societies. Many factors contributed to this situation, including anti-German sentiment during the world wars, lost income due to Prohibition and the Great Depression, the movement of Turner members into the suburbs, increased competition from other athletic and physical fitness facilities, and a reduced sense of German ethnic identity. Many societies closed as a shrinking membership base and financial problems left them unable to support their operations. Some of the societies that have survived gave up their athletic programs and became primarily social organizations. By 1999 only 59 Turner societies that were part of the American Turners remained active.

REFERENCES

Metzner, Henry. History of the American Turners. 4th rev. ed. Louisville, KY: National Council of the American Turners, 1989.

Pumroy, Eric L., and Katja Rampelmann, comps. Research Guide to the Turner Movement in the United States. Bibliographies and Indexes in American History, no. 33. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996.

RELATED MATERIALS

American Turners Records, 1855-1999, Mss 030, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.

Athenaeum Turners Records, 1851-1994, Mss 032, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.

Indianapolis South Side Turners Records, 1893-1956, Mss 045, Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives, University Library, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.

Pumroy, Eric L., and Katja Rampelmann, comps. Research Guide to the Turner Movement in the United States. Bibliographies and Indexes in American History, no. 33. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996.

SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE

The collection provides historical information about 163 Turner societies, both active and disbanded, in the United States. The societies come from 26 states and the District of Columbia, with the states of Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin, Missouri, New Jersey, and Iowa being the most heavily represented. The societies are organized alphabetically by state, then alphabetically by city, and then (when necessary) alphabetically by society name within city. The collection is of limited use for genealogical research.

Items found in the collections include constitutions and bylaws, anniversary publications, newsletters, histories, event programs, newspaper clippings, and photographs. Most of the material is written or printed in English, but many of the items from the period before 1918 are in German. The amount of material for each society varies greatly. Some societies have only one or two items in the collection, while the material from other societies fills several folders. Three societies in particular are well-documented in the collection: the Louisville Turners, the American Turners Detroit, and the Concordia Turners of St. Louis. The files for each society include several anniversary publications, event programs, newspaper clippings, and extensive runs of their newsletters. These records offer a detailed description of the histories, activities, and individuals involved with the three societies.

The book Research Guide to the Turner Movement in the United States, compiled by Eric L. Pumroy and Katja Rampelmann, can partially serve as a guide to this collection. Chapter 3 of the book contains a listing of records and publications from many individual Turner societies found in various repositories in the United States. Those items with the location code InIU will be in this collection. The book thus provides more detailed information about the materials available in this collection for each society.

A photograph inventory is located at the end of the series list. While the inventory does not give a description of individual photographs, it does list each society that has photographs in the collection. The photographs are also noted with their societies in the Local Societies box listing.

SERIES LIST

CONTENTS BOX FOLDER
Local Societies    
  California    
    Various California Turner Societies, 1913-1994 1 1
    Los Angeles Turners, 1910-1971 1 2
      Photographs, 1946-1955 10 1
    Oakland Turn Verein, 1935 1 3
      Photographs, ca. 1940s 10 2
    Sacramento Turn Verein, 1904-1979 1 4
    San Diego Turners, 1937-1951 1 5
    San Francisco Gymnastic Club, 1927 1 6
    Turn Verein Eintracht (San Francisco), 1906 1 7
  Colorado    
    Denver Turnverein, 1901-1970 1 8
      Photographs, 1939-1953 10 3
  Connecticut    
    Bridgeport Turner Association, 1958 1 9
    Hartford Turnerbund, 1912-1928 1 10
    Meriden Turner Society, 1898-1966 1 11
      Photographs, ca. 1920s 10 4
    New Britain Turn Verein, 1912-1913 1 12
    Rockville Turn Verein, 1907 1 13
  District of Columbia    
    Columbia Turnverein, 1911 1 14
      Photographs, n.d. 10 5
      Photographs, 1886 11 1
  Delaware    
    Wilmington Turners, 1914-1965 1 15
  Illinois    
    Turn Verein Frisch Auf (Aurora), 1922-1982 1 16
      Photographs, ca. 1949 10 6
    Belleville Turners, 1908-1952 1 17
    Bloomington Turnverein, 1966 1 18
    American Turners Northwest Chicago, 1955-1985 1 19-20
      Photographs, 1956-1963 10 7
    Aurora Turnverein (Chicago), 1907 1 21
      Photographs, 1914 10 8
      Photographs, 1872 11 2
    Central Turners (Chicago), n.d. 10 9
    Chicago Turners, 1869-1952 1 22-24
    Chicago Turners, 1898 9 1
      Photographs, 1880-1949 10 10
      Photographs, 1914-1926 11 3-6
    Turn Verein Eiche (Chicago), 1931-1990 1 25
      Photographs, 1911-1952 10 11
    Forward Turners (Chicago), 1917-1956 1 26
      Photographs, 1886 11 7
    Grand Crossing Turn Verein (Chicago), n.d. 11 8
    Lincoln Turners (Chicago), 1935-1985 1 27
      Photographs, 1949 10 12
    Social Turners (Chicago), 1916-1945 1 28-29
      1891-1934 7 1
      Photographs, 1953 10 13
      Photographs, 1905 11 9
    Swiss Turners (Chicago), 1925-1956 1 30
      1890-1909 7 2
    Voran Turners (Chicago), ca. 1900 10 14
    Columbia Turnverein, 1896 1 31
    Decatur Turnverein, 1893 1 32
    Elgin Turners, 1958-1983 1 33
    Turnverein Highland, 1893 1 34
    Moline Turners, 1866-1984 1 35-36
      Photographs, n.d. 10 15
    Mt. Olive Gymnastic Society, 1927 1 37
    Peoria Turnverein, n.d. 1 38
    Smithton Turner Society, 1967-1992 1 39
      Photographs, 1992 10 16
  Indiana    
    Central Turners (Evansville), 1951-1982 1 40
      Photographs, n.d. 10 17
    Fort Wayne Turners, 1911-1993 1 41
      Photographs, 1954-1969 10 18
    South Bend Turners, 1863-1983 2 1
      Photographs, 1948-1953 10 19
    Tell City Turners, 1871-1993 2 2
  Iowa    
    Clinton Turners, 1937-1955 2 3
      Photographs, n.d. 10 20
    Central Turners (Davenport), 1858-1994 2 4
      Photographs, 1947 10 21
    East Davenport Turner Society, 1932-1949 2 5
    Northwest Davenport Turner Society, 1938-1971 2 6
      Photographs, n.d. 10 22
    Durant Turnverein, 1912 2 7
    Eldridge Turnverein, 1893 2 8
    Garnaville Sozialer Turnverein, 1895 2 9
    Holstein Turners, 1982 2 10
    Keystone Turners, 1937-1948 2 11
      Photographs, n.d. 10 23
    Muscatine Turnverein Vorwarts, n.d. 2 12
    Postville Turnverein, 1873 2 13
  Kansas    
    Leavenworth Turnverein, 1884-1971 2 14
    Seneca Turnverein, 1897 2 15
    Topeka Turn Verein, 1953-1971 2 16
  Kentucky    
    Covington Turner Society, 1947-1994 2 17
    Louisville Turners, 1917-1991 2 18-50
      1977-1993 3 1-17
      1994-2006 6 37-47, 49-51
      1917 9 2
      Photographs, ca. 1950s 10 24
    Newport Gymnastic Association, 1927 3 18
  Maryland    
    American Turners-Baltimore, 1939-1974 3 19
      Photographs, n.d. 10 25
    Turnverein Vorwaerts (Baltimore), 1892-1934 3 20
  Massachusetts    
    Adams Turners, 1906-1950 3 21
    Boston Turnverein, 1886-1949 3 22
    Clinton Turn Verein, 1942-1994 3 23-25
      1992 9 3
      Photographs, ca. 1950s 10 26
    Fitchburg Turners, 1936-1983 3 26
      Photographs, 1956 10 27
    Holyoke Turn Verein, 1921-1971 3 27
    Springdale Turners (Holyoke), 1945 3 28
    Lawrence Turn Verein, 1931-1965 3 29
    Malden Turn Verein, 1916 3 30
    Springfield Turnverein, 1918-1974 3 31
  Michigan    
    American Turners Detroit, 1920-1983 3 32-38
      1947-1959 4 1-9
      1934-1936 8 1
      1907 9 4
      Photographs, 1870-1970 10 28-33
      Photographs, 1937-1940 11 10-12
  Minnesota    
    St. Anthony Turners (Minneapolis), 1916-1932 4 10
    New Ulm Turners, 1899-1996 4 11
    St. Paul Turners, 1924-1985 4 12
  Missouri    
    Kansas City Turners, 1908-1987 4 13-14
      Photographs, 1951-1958 10 34
    St. Louis Turnvereins, n.d. 4 15
    Concordia Turners (St. Louis), 1925-1974 4 16-29
    Corondelet Germania Turnverein (St. Louis), 1916 4 30
    LaSalle Turn Verein (St. Louis), 1994 4 31
    North St. Louis Turners, 1920-1985 4 32
      Photographs, 1945-1950s 10 35
    St. Louis Turnverein, 1893 4 33
    Schiller Turners (St. Louis), 1956-1981 4 34
      Photographs, 1949-1951 10 36
    Southwest Turners (St. Louis), 1912-1950 4 35
      Photographs, 1938 10 37
    Tower Grove Gymnastic Society (St. Louis), 1937-1957 4 36
    West St. Louis Turnverein, 1904 4 37
    Warrensburg Turners, 1989-1997 4 38
    Washington Turnverein, 2002 4 39
  Nebraska    
    South Side Turners (Omaha), 1901-1993 4 40
  New Hampshire    
    Manchester Turn Verein, 1945-1992 4 41
      1946 9 5
  New Jersey    
    Carlstadt Turnverein, 1957-1982 4 42
    Turn Verein Vorwaerts (Elizabeth), 1921-1947 4 43
    Hoboken Turn Verein, 1907 4 44
    Hudson City Turnverein, ca. 1880s 10 38
    Greenville Turn Verein (Jersey City), 1949 4 45
    New Brunswick Turners, 1948-1952 4 46
    Newark Turnverein, 1894-1906 4 47
      1911-1918, 1937 8 2-3
      Photographs, n.d. 10 39
    Union Hill Turners (North Bergen), 1952-1956 4 48
    Passaic Turners, 1892-1945 4 49
      Photographs, n.d. 10 40
    Riverside Turners, 1940-1972 4 50
    Trenton Turnerbund, 1932 4 51
  New York    
    Buffalo Turners, 1895-1986 5 1-2
      Photographs, 1952 10 41
    Corona Turnverein, 1902 5 3
    Long Island Turners (Long Island City), 1975-1994 5 4
    Mount Vernon Turners, 1891-1991 5 5
      Photographs, 1954 10 42
    American Turners Bronx (New York City), 1949-1951 5 6
      Photographs, ca. 1952 10 43
    American Turners Brooklyn (New York City), 1883-1983 5 7-11
      Photographs, 1925-1952 10 44
      Photographs, 1928-1937 11 13-14
    American Turners New York (New York City), 1857-1986 5 12-14
      Photographs, 1948-1949 10 45
    Brooklyn Eastern District Turn Verein, 1920-1922 6 48
    Central Turn-Verein (New York City), 1927 5 15
    Deutscher Arbeiter Turnverein (New York City), 1941 5 16
    Newburgh Turnverein, 1894 5 17
    Rochester Turners, 1927-1994 5 18
      Photographs, 1926-1955 10 46
    Schenectady Turnverein, 1904-1991 5 19
    Syracuse Turners, 1949-1994 5 20
      Photographs, ca. 1950s 10 47
    Troy Turnverein, 1904-1990 5 21
    Utica Turn-Verein, 1904-1913 5 22
  Ohio    
    Akron Turner Club, 1910-1993 5 23
      Photographs, 1954 10 48
    Cincinnati Central Turners, 1932-1998 5 24
      Photographs, n.d. 10 49
    North Cincinnati Turnverein, 1910 5 25
    Cleveland Turner societies, 1950 5 26
    American Turners S.T.V. (Cleveland), 1904-1968 5 27-28
      Photographs, 1943-1963 10 50
    Cleveland East Side Turners, 1890-1968 5 29
      Photographs, n.d. 10 51
    Heights Maennerchor (Cleveland), 1948 5 30
    Dayton Turners Association, 1919-1957 5 31
    American Turners-Toledo, 1858-1981 5 32
      Photographs, 1866-1956 10 52
  Oregon    
    Portland Socialer Turnverein, 1899-1908 5 33
  Pennsylvania    
    Harmonie Maennerchor, Gesang and Turn Verein (Ambridge), 1945 6 1
      Photographs, 1912-ca. 1948 10 53
      Photographs, 1939-1946 11 14-15
    Beaver Falls Turners, 1884-1968 6 2
      Photographs, ca.1930s-1950s 10 54
    Charleroi Turn Verein, 1932-1935 6 3
      Photographs, n.d. 10 55
    East Erie Turners, 1980 6 4
    Eintracht Music and Turn Hall Association (Homestead), 1921-1950 6 5
      Photographs, 1950 10 56
    Johnstown Turners, 1923-1988 6 6
      Photographs, n.d. 10 57
    McKeesport Turners, 1921-1988 6 7
    Monaca Turners, 1948-1982 6 8
    Monessen Turners, 1947-1955 6 9
      Photographs, n.d. 10 58
    Monongahela Turners, 1927-1989 6 10
    Philadelphia Turngemeinde, 1900-1954 6 11
      Photographs, ca. 1930s-1964 10 59
    Roxborough Turners (Philadelphia), n.d. 6 12
    West Philadelphia Turn- und Schul-Verein, 1904 6 13
    Allegheny Turn-Verein (Pittsburgh), 1911 6 14
    East Pittsburgh Turn Verein, 1910 6 15
    Central Turn-Verein (Rochester), 1941-1956 6 16
      Photographs, 1954 10 60
  Rhode Island    
    Pawtucket Turners, n.d. 6 17
    Providence Turners, 1889-1985 6 18
      Photographs, n.d. 10 61
  South Carolina    
    Charleston Turnverein, 1996 6 19
  Tennessee    
    Chattanooga Turners, 1946-1966 6 20
      Photographs, 1965 10 62
  Texas    
    Gruenau Turn and Schuetzen Verein, n.d. 6 21
    Fredericksburg Social Turn Verein, 1910-1990 6 22
  Washington    
    Sahalie Ski Club (seattle), n.d. 10 63
    Seattle Turn Verein, 1910 6 23
    Spokane Turn-Verein, 1897 6 24
  West Virginia    
    Turnverein Concordia (Morgantown), 1904 6 25
  Wisconsin    
    Appleton Turnverein, 1932 6 26
    Farmington Turn Verein, 1962 6 27
    Green Bay Turn Verein, 1918 6 28
    Madison Turners, 1937-1980 6 29
      Photographs, 1954 10 64
    Turn Verein Mayville, n.d. 10 65
    Milwaukee Turner Foundation, 1927-1994 6 30-31
      Photographs, 1988 10 66
      Photographs, n.d. 11 17
    Turnvereines des Nordseite (Milwaukee), 1890 6 32
    Monroe Turners, 1898 6 33
    Oconto Turners, 1969 6 34
    Sheboygan Turners, 1925-2004 6 35
      Photographs, 1950 10 67
    Two Rivers Turn Verein, 1981 6 36
    Watertown Turnverein, n.d. 10 68
    Waukegan Turners, n.d. 10 69
Photograph [available online] 10-11  
Last updated by bburk on 06/09/2009