Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Turnvereins


Turner Camp, 1919
Like their counterparts here and abroad, Chicago's Turnvereins grew out of the nineteenth-century liberal German effort to unite the numerous independent German states into one nation. The Turnvereins were designed to train patriotic citizens of the new republic—not just physically through gymnastics, but also morally and intellectually.

The defeat of the German Revolution of 1848 sent a wave of political exiles abroad, reinforcing the liberal and radical groups already in the United States. Drawing on such immigrants, Chicago's Turners founded their first organization in the mid-1850s.

"Chicago Turngemeinde 1852-1927"
The political culture of Chicago's Turners changed with the aging of the generation of 1848 and the arrival of new groups of German immigrants. By the late nineteenth century Chicago's Turnvereins ranged from elite clubs to hotbeds of socialism.

Like German American ethnic culture, Chicago's Turnvereins declined amid the twentieth century's two world wars and the slackening of German immigration. At the end of the twentieth century Turnvereins in Aurora and Elgin continued to promote cultural education and physical exercise.

Barney, Robert K. “Forty-Eighters and the Rise of the Turnverein Movement in America.” In Ethnicity and Sport in North American History and Culture, ed. George Eisen and David K. Wiggins, 1994, 19–42.
Pumroy, Eric L., and Katja Rampelmann. Research Guide to the Turner Movement in the United States. 1996.
Wagner, Ralf. “Turner Societies and the Socialist Tradition.” In German Workers' Culture in the United States, 1850–1920, ed. Hartmut Keil, 1988, 221–239.