22 July 2017

der Turnverein

The Turnverein, or gymnastic society, was a large societal group in German-American communities.  The Turners sponsored outdoor athletic festivals that displayed the physical prowess of young German men.  Albany did indeed have Turnvereine; however, most Turner groups in Albany appeared to be short-lived societies.  The first Turnverein in Albany was the Social Turnverein.  It was founded in May 1851 and incorporated in 1860, with approximately thirty men.[1]  August Tolle was the president of the society in 1866.  The group met at 293 Washington Avenue- George Tolle’s lagerbeer garden and saloon- until Turn Halle at 83 Green Street was purchased.  Inside Turn Halle was a saloon which was operated by Stephen Schreiber in 1866; William A. Schneider in 1869; Charles Seifferth in 1872; and Michael Tommaney in 1873.  Turn Halle later became known as Adelphi Hall in 1876.  In 1862, the Social Turnverein organized a Gesangverein- the Turner Liederkranz.  The group utilized the talents of Johann Föhr as their conductor.  However, according to historian Andrew Yox, most Turner singing societies “featured a large ensemble of men that impressed an audience more by their resolve than by their virtuosity.”[2] Nevertheless, the entourage participated in the Tenth Northeastern Saengerfest at Philadelphia on July 13-18, 1867.[3]
Albany’s second Turnverein, the Capitol Turnverein was incorporated on May 5, 1869, and consisted mainly of residents from the western section of the city.  A Gesangverein was created in the Capitol Turnverein in 1877 but, was short-lived and lasted only eight months.[4] However, the ill-fated Capitol Gesangverein hosted a Turner festival with a prize singing contest on July 20-22, 1878.  Visiting societies from Utica and Troy were treated to a reception at 293 Washington Avenue- Ferdinand Lange’s saloon and Biergarten.[5]  The Capitol Turnverein disappeared from the city directories after 1883.  Albany’s German population was not large enough and committed to support two separate Turnvereine; therefore the Albany Turnverein was incorporated on October 4, 1883, after the merger of the Social and Capitol Turnvereine.  The union created a Turnverein with 126 members.  The membership met at the Maenner-Quartett Halle.[6]  The Albany Turnverein vanished from city directories after the 1899 directory.  Another Turnverein, the Teutonia Turnverein, appeared in the city directories only one year- 1893.  In 1911, the Schenectady Herold-Journal announced that the Turners of the South End were preparing for a rebirth of the organization.[7] Unfortunately this desire never materialized.

[1] n. a., Geschichte der Deutschen in Albany und Troy, pp. 91-95.
[2] Yox, “Bonds of Community: Buffalo’s German Element,” New York History 66(2): 146.
[3] n. a., Geschichte der Deutschen in Albany und Troy, p. 77.
[4] Ibid., p. 95.
[5] Albany Evening Times, July 22, 1878, 3:4.
[6] n. a., Geschichte der Deutschen in Albany und Troy, pp. 95-97, 179.
[7] Schenectady Herold-Journal, June 16, 1911, 4:2.