Digital Commonwealth

American Turners

Lawrence Public Library

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The American Turners is a national organization founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1848 by German immigrants. Our motto, "A Sound Mind in a Sound Body," explains the purpose of the American Turners. We are a family organization, encouraging people of all ages to be mentally and physically active.

Lawrence Turn Verein was the creation of Fritz Matthes and Wilhelm Patschkel. In the year 1853, these two with a number of followers began to practice a variety of gymnastics at a house on Union Street. The gym was composed of a high bar and parallel bars. The dedication was enlivened by a five-man band, which was composed of three guitars, one accordion, and one fife. Financial difficulties led to a dwindling of membership. In 1859, with an increased number of German immigrants, another Turn Verein was started at the corner of Jackson and Common Streets. Continued membership and financial difficulties were eventually overcome when the original Mr. Matthes, along with Fritz Schubert and fifteen others, laid the groundwork for a Lawrence Turn Verein. The new headquarters was on the third floor of a house on Essex Street. Two years later in 1867, a summer Turnfield was prepared on a lot on Park Street. The membership had reached 50 men. In an effort to raise money to build a Turn Hall, the membership presented a theatrical production. At a cost of $1,675, Turn Hall of the first German Hall was built in 1868. Lawrence Turn Verein joined the Boston Turn District. In 1872, a large hall was built. On November 23, 1894, the hall burned to the ground. The new Turn Hall, which was dedicated June 12-14, 1896, was located at 44 Park Street. The membership had reached 500 by the year 1900. Women were first admitted in the 1950s.

The 42nd national convention of the National American Turner Association met during the first week of September 1948 at Turn hall in Lawrence. 300 delegates met over several days. The Ladies Auxiliary met at the same time at the Hood School. At the end of the first day, a banquet was served at Turn Hall with a Kommers cabaret scheduled for evening entertainment.

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