Turn of the century photos of the dead

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This article is about the German-American gymnastic club members. For the medical condition, see . For the location in Missouri, see . For plural form "Turners", see .

3,000 Turners performed at the Federal Gymnastics Festival in Milwaukee, 1893.

Turners (: Turner) are members of gymnastic clubs that also served as nationalist political groups that were politically active and often served in German military outfits as well as the in the United States during the American Civil War.

A gymnastic movement was started by Turnvater ("father of gymnastics") in the early 19th century when Germany was occupied by . The Turnvereine ("gymnastic unions") were not only athletic, but also political, reflecting their origin in similar "nationalistic gymnastic" organizations in Europe. The Turner movement in Germany was generally in nature, and many Turners took part in the .

Group portrait of the St. Louis, Missouri Turnverein in 1860.

After its defeat, the movement was suppressed and many Turners left Germany, some emigrating to the . Several of these went on to become Civil War soldiers, the great majority in the , and American politicians. Besides serving as physical education, social, political and cultural organizations for German immigrants, Turners were also active in the American public education and the labor movements. Eventually the German Turner movement became involved in the process leading to .


History in the United States[]

Postage stamp commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the American Turners

The Turnvereine made a contribution to the integration of German-Americans into their new home. The organizations continue to exist in areas of heavy German immigration, such as , , , , , , , , , , and .

Together with , the American Turners helped support the election of as . They provided the bodyguard at his inauguration on March 4, 1861, and at his funeral in April 1865. In the , a large force of German volunteers helped prevent Confederate forces from seizing the government arsenal in just prior to the beginning of the war.

Like other groups, the American Turners experienced discrimination during World War I. The German language was banned in schools and universities, and German language journals and newspapers were shut down, but the Turner societies continued to function.

In 1948, the issued a 3-cent marking the 100th anniversary of the movement in the United States.

and the two World Wars with Germany took a gradual toll on membership, with some halls closing and others becoming regular dance halls, bars or bowling alleys. Fifty-four Turner societies still existed around the U.S. as of 2011. The current headquarters of the American Turners is in .

The Turnverein Vorwaerts of , owned the from 1906 until 1966.:2 It was listed on the in 1980.


Vintage photos of the Milwaukee Turnverein[]

  • 1866

  • 1869

  • 1875

  • 1879

  • 1915

Other Wisconsin Turners in 1915[]

  • Kenosha

  • Madison

  • Madison Bears (seniors)

  • New Holstein

  • Sheboygan

Jahn Monument in Berlin with memorial plaques from American Turnvereine[]

  • Chicago, 1861

  • Cincinnati, 1865

  • Jahn Monument In Forest Park, Saint Louis MO

  • Philadelphia, 1861

  • Washington, D.C., 1911

  • Davenport, Iowa Turngemeinde Monument

Turner Halls[]

  • Germania Singing and Sport Society,

  • Central Turner Hall (1888),

  • East Turner Hall (1891), Davenport, Iowa

  • South Side Turner Hall, Indianapolis, Indiana

  • Detail, South Side Turner Hall, Indianapolis, Indiana

  • Interior ca. 1910, Turner Hall, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

  • Central Turn-Verein, East 67th Street, New York, New York

See also[]


  1. Claire E. Nolte. . Encyclopedia of 1848 Revolutions. Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
  2. Gruen, Mardee. "Milwaukee Turners, local Jews go back 141 years." Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle April 29, 1994; p. 6, col. 1
  3. ^ Annette R. Hofmann (August 3, 1998). . Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Max Kade Center. 
  4. John B. Jentz. "Turnvereins". Encyclopedia of Chicago.  Missing or empty |url= (); |access-date= requires |url= ()
  5. ^ Mary Lou LeCompte. . Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
  6. Scott Williams. . The Missouri Civil War Museum. Archived from on March 3, 2012. Retrieved January 10, 2011. 
  7. . American Turners. Archived from on April 6, 2011. Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
  8. (Searchable database). Department of Natural Resources, Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology. Retrieved July 1, 2015.  Note: This includes Karen Anderson (November 1979). (PDF). Retrieved July 1, 2015.  and Accompanying photographs.
  9. (July 9, 2010). . . National Park Service. 

Further reading[]

  • Gertrud Pfister. "The Role of German Turners in American Physical Education," International Journal of the History of Sport 26 (no. 13, 2009) 1893-925

External links[]

  • The and the , including by-laws, correspondence, minutes and photographs, are available for research use at the .


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