Ladies Society of the Philadelphia Turners. Records
Held at: German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library [Contact Us]611 Spring Garden Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19123
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Ladies Society of the Philadelphia Turners was the women's auxiliary of the Philadelphia Turngemeinde, one of the oldest German-American 'Turner,' or gymnastics clubs in the United States, founded 1849 (preceded only by similar societies founded in Cincinnati and New York, both in 1848). Beginning around the late 1930s the parent club often used the anglicized form of its name: the Philadelphia Turners.
The Turngemeinde's 'Damen-Verein,' or Ladies Society was founded on the 5 September 1877 under the leadership of Miss Mathilda Gohl, who became its first president. Aiming in general to assist the parent club, the Ladies Society also initially oversaw the organization of gymnastics classes for women in the Turngemeinde's school, taught by Henry Heyer . Women's classes had not been offered before, although classes for girls had been offered since 1865 . In the 1890s ladies' needlework was among the several areas of instruction at the school beyond gymnastics, and it was taught under the auspices of the Damen-Verein . In that era and into the 20th century women also participated in the choir (Gesang-Sektion) of the Philadelphia Turngemeinde. Extant records show that in the 1950s the Ladies Society held social events such as card parties, dessert parties, picnics, and dinners. The monies raised at some of these events were used to make contributions to the Philadelphia Turngemeinde; to hold a children's Christmas party; and to make small charitable donations to the Salvation Army and Christ Home.
The Philadelphia Turngemeinde Official directory for 1890 and 1890/1891 reports 132 and 145 active members, respectively, in the Damen-Verein. The records in the present collection suggest that the Ladies Society had at least 175 members in the mid 1930s, and had had over 300 members at some point around that time; however, by the 1950s it seems to have had fewer than 100 members, and events were typically attended by 20 to 80 people.
Throughout its history the women's auxiliary met at the hall or premises of the Philadelphia Turngemeinde, with the locations varying in different eras. From 1858 to 1881 the Turngemeinde owned a hall at 444 N. 3rd Street (Willow and 3rd). After selling that building, it formed a building association and raised funds to build its own specially equipped hall, which opened at 433-435 N. 6th Street, in 1883 (the address became 429-435 N. 6th Street after expansions in 1894 and 1896). Later, the Turngemeinde again had a new hall built, which opened in 1911, on the northeast corner of Broad Street and Columbia Avenue (today, Cecil B. Moore Avenue), where it remained for more than 30 years. In 1946 the Turngemeinde sold that building to Temple University, and by the early 1950s it was occupying temporary quarters at 8401 Frankford Avenue. In 1955 it moved into new permanent quarters at 6128 Germantown Avenue, the last address at which the Ladies Society is documented . After 1960 the Turngemeinde continued for a number of years as a small social club .
 Daum, Haar, and Pemsel (1938) give these details about the founding president and the first women's classes.
 The founding of a girl's school (Mädchenschule) in that year is given in a timeline in Ereignisse der Turngemeinde (1902), p. 2.
 The Official directory of the Philadelphia Turngemeinde for 1890 and 1891/1892 specify that the classes for "weibliche Handarbeit" (women's needlework) are led by the Damen-Verein, and in Ereignisse der Turngemeinde (1902), "ladies' needle work" is still listed as one of the areas of instruction offered at the school, along with gymnastics, fencing, singing, drawing, and writing (i.e. German-language instruction).
 These latter two addresses are reflected on the title page of the cashbook in the present collection.
 According to Pumroy and Rampelmann (1996), the club definitively disbanded in 1982 (p. 224).
Daum, Charles F., Haar, and Adolph Pemsel, "History of the Philadelphia Turngemeinde" (installment covering the years 1875 to 1879). In: The Turners' Bulletin (published by the Philadelphia Turngemeinde), vol. 27, no. 7 (March 1938), p. 4. Part of a series of articles on the history since the founding, by various authors, that appeared in the Bulletin at intervals from around 1937 through some time in the 1940s. (GAC Oversize AZ 884+)
Metzner, Henry. History of the American Turners (3rd rev. ed.). Rochester, N.Y. : National Council of the American Turners, 1974. (GAC Pamphlet AE 1260.7)
Philadelphia Turngemeinde. Ereignisse der Turngemeinde -- Turnhalle, 444 Nord Dritte Strasse -- Entstehung und Entwickelung der Turnhalle, 429-435 Nord Sechste Strasse, aus dem Notizenbuch von L. Hillebrand, 1849-1902. [Philadelphia, 1902]. (GAC Pamphlet AE 1255)
Philadelphia Turngemeinde. Official directory of the Philadelphia Turngemeinde for 1890, 1891/1892, 1893/1894 (Troelsch & Pfizenmayer), and Official directory list of members for 1900 (Thos. Pfizenmayer). (GAC Pamphlets AE 1250 and AE 1257).
Pumroy, Eric L., and Katja Rampelmann (compilers). Research Guide to the Turner movement in the United States (Bibliographies and indexes in American history, no. 33). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. Includes: "Historical overview of the Turner movement in the United States," p. xvii-xxx; entry on the Philadelphia Turners, p. 223-226.
"Turner endowment." In: American Turner topics, vol. 17, no. 11 (December 1955/January 1956), p. 14. Tells about the opening of the new headquarters of the Philadelphia Turngemeinde at 6128 Germantown Avenue.
This collection comprises partial records of the Ladies Society (Damen-Verein) of the Philadelphia Turners (Philadelphia Turngemeinde), consisting of a membership ledger and a cashbook from two different periods. The membership ledger records member information and dues paid from 1933 to 1938. It was apparently kept by the financial secretary, whose name is given as Mrs. T. Schafgan on a dues notice that is laid in, and as Mrs. Anton Schafgan in the member records (probably: Theresa Schafgan -- a member of that name also appears in the cashbook). The cashbook was kept by treasurer Lucy Herold from 1954 to 1959. It lists the names of members who paid dues, and includes annual reports dated in September for 1954 to 1958. At the front are notes by Herold on banking transactions dating back to 1951, as well as her copy of a set of notes dated 1949, describing the contents of a safe deposit box that the Ladies Society held at that time (interestingly, the latter notes mention among the contents a set of minutes of the society dating to the founding on 5 September 1877).
- German Society of Pennsylvania: Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Violet Lutz
- Finding Aid Date
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from the Max Kade Foundation, as part of the grant project "Retrieval and Cataloging of the German-American Experience, 1918-1960."
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may apply. Please contact the German Society of Pennsylvania with requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote or reproduce the material.
Loose-leaf ledger (half-calf binding over cloth), with alphabetical tabs. Contains records of dues paid, 1933 to 1938, for approximately 175 members. Member pages usually indicate name; address; date proposed for membership; and the name of the member who proposed the person for membership. On the tabbed pages beginning the alphabetical sections are summary lists of names for each section, including names of members whose records are no longer found in the book, with some noted as deceased or resigned; the lists contain a total of approximately 330 names. Laid in at the front is a dues notice, addressed to Mrs. F. Endersen, on a printed form of the society (Damen-Verein of the Philadelphia Turners, Broad St. & Columbia Ave., Philadelphia), circa 1938, indicating the annual dues for 1939, due on 1 January 1939. The form indicates Mrs. T. Schafgan as financial secretary; and there is a member page in the book for Mrs. Anton Schafgan, financial secretary
Bound volume, 132 p. Blue cloth cover with leather corners ("S.E. Ledger" on front). Handwritten title page reading: Cash Book of Ladies Society – Phila. Turners ... starting Jan. 1, 1954 – Lucy Herold, Treas.," with the address of the organization given as 6128 Germantown Ave., Phila., Pa.; an earlier address, crossed out, is: 8401 Frankford Ave. At the front of the book Herold copied into the cashbook a set of notes, dated September 1949, pertaining to the contents of a safe deposit box; there are also notes on deposits and withdrawals from a bank account, dated 1951-1957. The latest cashbook entries are in February 1959