Turner Day Parade June 12, 1910
Contributed by Richard Falk
A German gymnastic movement was started by Turnvater ("father of gymnastics") Friedrich Ludwig Jahn in
the early 19th century when Germany was occupied by Napoleon. 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 liberal in nature, and many Turners took part in the Revolution
After its defeat, the movement was suppressed and many Turners left Germany, some emigrating to the United States.
Several of these Forty-Eighters went on to become Civil War soldiers, the great majority in the Union Army, 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 German unification.
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 Iowa, Texas, Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota,
Missouri, Syracuse, NY, Kentucky, New York City, and Los Angeles.
Together with Carl Schurz, the American Turners helped support the election of Abraham Lincoln as president of
the United States. They provided the bodyguard at his inauguration on March 4, 1861, and at his funeral in April,
1865. In the Camp Jackson Affair, a large force of German volunteers helped prevent Confederate forces from seizing
the government arsenal in St. Louis just prior to the beginning of the war.
Like other German-American 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 U.S. Post Office issued a 3-cent commemorative stamp marking the 100th anniversary of the movement
in the United States.
Cultural assimilation 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 Louisville, Kentucky.
The Turnverein Vorwaerts of Fort Wayne, Indiana, owned the Hugh McCulloch House from 1906 until 1966. It was listed
on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.
Source Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turners)
Contributed by Richard Falk