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Marie Ward collection of New York Turn Verein memorabilia


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 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

In reaction to Napoleon's occupation of Germany in 1811, Friedrich Jahn founded Turnvereine (gymnastic unions), a political and athletic movement that trained men in gymnastics and instilled a sense of nationalism. The first followers of Jahn's movement to settle in America arrived in the 1820s, but they did not open any Turn Vereins. After the Turnverein movement suffered political defeat in Germany in 1848, many more of Jahn's followers (Turners) moved to America as political refugees, bringing "Turnerism" with them. German-American gymnastic societies (Turn Vereins or Turnerbunds) focused on gymnastic competition and social activities as well as developing American patriotism. Many immigrants felt strongly about showing their devotion to the United States and that they supported their adopted nation politically, regardless of the political views of their homeland.

The New York Turn Verein was founded in New York City under the name Sozialistischen Turnverein of New York in June 1850. The organization was granted its corporate charter by the New York State Legislature in March 1857. The first permanent home for the club was opened in 1859 but over the years the group would relocate and build new facilities as the German-American community expanded to different parts of the city. In 1898 the NYTV's newest facility, the Turn Hall, was dedicated. The Turn Hall had a restaurant, bowling alleys, classrooms, a gymnasium, and spaces for dancing, fencing, chess, and other activities. In addition to social and athletic activities, the NYTV also offered cultural enrichment, including a German School with a library, a singing group, and a monthly publication called "Bahn frei!" In the 1980s a new facility, today known as the American Tuner Club, was built in the Bronx. The Turn Hall was sold to developers and demolished in 1984.

Initially, the business of the NYTV was conducted in German and membership was only granted to those who had come from Germany or whose family had come from Germany. After World War II, membership expanded to those who did not have a German background and English became the predominant language. In 1983 the NYTV merged with the Mount Vernon Turners and changed its name to American Turners New York.

This collection of memorabilia dates from the 1920s to the 1970s and consists of anniversary programs, copies of bylaws, objects, and other materials related to New York-based Turn Verein and other German-American amd gymnastic clubs. There is also a small amount of printed matter related to travel in Germany and Austria between 1925 and 1940.

Most of the materials are from the New York Turn Verein, including anniversary programs, invitations, and menus; issues of the organization's monthly magazine "Bahn Frei!"; anniversary paperweights; and materials relating to social activities at NYTV, including a flyer for a Hawaiian-themed dance and a script, advertising materials, and other items that relate to a NYTV production of Peter Pan. There are also bylaws, anniversary programs, and other materials from additional German-American and gymnastic organizations, including anniversary programs and other materials from the New York Turner Club, programs and textiles from the 1966 Swiss-American National Gymnastic Contest, a souvenir booklet from the concert-ball celebrating the 100th anniversary of the German-American singing society Gesang Verein Frohsinn, constitution and bylaws for the Long Island City Turnverein, statutes of the American Turners, and a 25th anniversary booklet for New York Turner Post No. 1680 of the American Legion, which was organized in 1946 for German-American World War II veterans returning from combat.

This collection also includes a few items related to travel in Germany and Austria. There are two publications: Deutsche Burgen und feste Schlosser ("German Castles and Strongholds") by Karl Robert Langewiesche from 1925 and Osterreichische Reisezeitung (an Austrian travel serial publication) from July 1931. The former has an inscription in German on the title page. There is also a 1940 roadmap of Germany. The map was published by the Der Deutsche Automobileclub (DDAC) and bears the group's symbol, the Nazi eagle with DDAC on its chest, clutching a swastika in a red circular border. From 1933 to 1945, when German politics were dominated by the Nazi Party, the DDAC was established to replace and gain control over the various automobile clubs that existed at that time. This map depicts Nazi Germany and its roadways as they existed near the beginning of World War II.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Sarah Leu.
Finding Aid Date
; 2017.
This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Collection Inventory

New York Turn Verein: 75th anniversary program, 1925.
Box 1 Folder 1
New York Turn Verein: 100th anniversary program, 1950.
Box 1 Folder 2
New York Turn Verein: 110th anniversary program, 1960.
Box 1 Folder 3
New York Turn Verein: 120th anniversary program, 1970.
Box 1 Folder 4
New York Turn Verein: 125th anniversary program, menus, and invitations, 1975.
Box 1 Folder 5
New York Turn Verein: 125th anniversary paperweight (2), 1975.
Box 2
New York Turn Verein: Bahn Frei!, 1966-1967, 1975.
Box 1 Folder 6
New York Turn Verein: Social activities, 1966.
Box 1 Folder 7
New York Turner Club: Anniversary programs and bylaws, 1946, 1966, 1971.
Box 1 Folder 8
Miscellaneous anniversary programs and bylaws, 1971-1972.
Box 1 Folder 9
Miscellaneous turner events prize ribbons (2), 1967, undated.
Box 1 Folder 10
Swiss American National Gymnastics Contest: Programs and souvenir textiles, 1966.
Box 1 Folder 11
Travel: Publications, 1925-1931.
Box 1 Folder 12
Travel: Strassenkarte von Deutschland [Road map of Germany], 1940.
Box 1 Folder 13

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