IUPUI German-American Archives
755 West Michigan Street
Indianapolis, Indiana 46202, United StatesVisit the Ruth Lilly Special Collections and Archives
The German-American Collections include the records of national and local social, cultural, economic, and athletic organizations started by German immigrants. Particularly significant are the national and local records of the American Turners, a social organization of German origin whose is physical fitness, sports, and the propagation of German culture.
American Turners Local Societies Collection, 1866-2016
Many Germans immigrated to the United States following the failure of an 1848 revolution designed to introduce democratic reforms into the governments of the German states. Among these immigrants were members of the Turners, an athletic and political organization founded in Germany during the second decade of the nineteenth century. Turners quickly established societies (known as Turnverein or Turngemeinde) in the American cities in which they settled. These societies served as athletic, political, and social centers for German communities in the United States. The Turners' most important contribution to American life in their communities has been their advocacy of physical education and fitness. Turners successfully lobbied local school boards in many cities for the inclusion of physical education classes in the curriculum, and Turner instructors served as the directors of physical education programs in many school systems in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Collection ID: MSS038
American Turners Records, 1853-2017
Immigrants to the United States in the nineteenth century founded organizations that served as social centers, maintained cultural identity, and promoted the ideals and the interests of the immigrants and their American-born descendants. The American Turners is an example of such an organization. Established by German immigrants in 1850, the American Turners advocated a liberal political philosophy and fought to protect both the political rights and the German heritage of the immigrants. The Turners encouraged the practice of exercise and physical fitness, and they convinced school boards in many cities to make physical education a part of the educational curriculum. The American Turner records include annual reports, minutes and correspondence relating to the national officers, correspondence with local societies, national convention minutes and materials, financial and membership records, national committee records, records and materials from national sporting events sponsored by the American Turners, records of the Turner Pioneers and the Women's Auxiliary, Turner publications, and materials from the German Turner movement and other organizations related to the American Turners.
Collection ID: MSS030
Athenaeum Damenverein and Women's Auxiliary Records, 1876-2007
This women's organization was founded by the Socialer Turnverein (Social Athletic Club) in 1876 as the Indianapolis Turn-Schwestern Verein. It was initially intended to support the activities of the Turnverein, and especially to promote and oversee the girls' athletic classes, and to help enlarge and preserve the Turner library. Within a few years the Turn Sisters became known as the Damenverein (Women's Club) des Socialer Turnverein and began to undertake broader responsibilities in the community. As with most German societies, membership declined during World War I and use of the German language was dropped. The organization revived with the merging of several societies during the 1930s and becomes known as the Women's Auxiliary. Membership increased again after World War II as their focus drifted away from a wartime role as a service organization and more towards social activities. The gradual decline of the Athenaeum Turners through the 1970s and 1980s also affected the Women's Auxiliary. In the 1990s the Damenverein name was restored to recognize the earlier German connections, and in recent years the very limited activities of the group have become more closely linked with their German-American cultural identity. The records consist of constitutions and by-laws, minutes, correspondence, financial records, committee reports, membership lists and directories, event advertisements and photographs.
Collection ID: MSS039
Athenaeum Foundation Records, 1894-2011
The Athenaeum Foundation was organized in 1991 and incorporated as a not-for-profit foundation operating under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The foundation's purposes was to acquire title to the Athenaeum, located at 401 East Michigan Street in Indianapolis; to raise funds for and supervise and direct the rehabilitation of building to maintain its architectural and aesthetic integrity as a historic structure; to educate the public about the history and significance of the Athenaeum; to foster the use of the building by the foundation itself, the building's tenants, and other organizations; and to oversee the management of the building.
Collection ID: MSS076
Athenaeum Turners Records, 1876-2005
The Athenaeum Turner organization was founded in 1851 as the Indianapolis Turngemeinde. This athletic and social organization was patterned on German clubs that had supported the 1848 revolutions that attempted to form Liberal republics in several European kingdoms. The men who established the Indianapolis Turngemeinde and the competing Indianapolis Socialistischer Turnverein (merged in 1852 to form the Indianapolis Socialistischer Turnegemiende) tried to create a community focus for the rapidly expanding immigrant population. The activist political backgrounds of many German immigrants led to a strong emphasis on the Turner idea of developing both a strong mind and strong body in order to better serve society. After the American Civil War, for which many Turners volunteered due to anti-slavery beliefs and a desire to demonstrate loyalty to their adopted nation, the reorganized and renamed Indianapolis Socialer Turnverein became the primary focus for German business and culture in the city. Certainly the German House (das Deutsches Haus), built between 1894 and 1898, was designed to serve as more than just a center for physical training since it contained a restaurant, theaters, and a number of meeting rooms. From the 1890s, the leaders of the Turner organization were also directors or important officers in dozens of prominent businesses and cultural organizations. This led to some overlap in the interaction between public, private, and political affairs in the German community of Indianapolis - and this is reflected in the collection. The outbreak of World War I and the anti-German sentiment which followed led to a renaming of the building (as the Athenaeum) and contributed to a decline in the importance of the Turnverein. The organization, now known as the Athenaeum Turners, experienced a revival during the 1950s and remained active into the 1960s, though its activities gradually became more social and less athletic. By the 1970s American acculturation and suburbanization resulted in a rapid decline in membership and financial stability and the near collapse of the Turner society. It currently exists solely as a German cultural organization. The records consist of constitutions and by-laws, board and committee minutes, correspondence, officer and committee reports, financial records, membership lists, event advertisements, brochures, newsletters and photographs.
Collection ID: MSS032
Delta Psi Kappa Records, 1916-1999
Delta Psi Kappa was a "professional fraternity for women in the fields of health, physical education, and recreation". Founded in 1916 at the Normal College of the American Gymnastic Union, Delta Psi Kappa would eventually spread to a large number of other colleges and universities with programs in the aforementioned fields. Active into the 1990s, the organization remained focused on health and physical education and participated in numerous activities with other organizations who shared their goals.
Collection ID: MSS155
Downtown Turners Records, 1973-1977
In 1954 the Athenaeum Turners in Indianapolis withdrew from the American Turners and became an independent Turner society. In 1973 members of the Athenaeum Turners established a separate society known as the Downtown Turners. The new society joined the American Turners, allowing the members to take part in Turner activities at the national and district level. The members also used the new society as a means of encouraging the Athenaeum Turners to rejoin the national organization. This happened in 1977, and the Downtown Turners merged with the Athenaeum Turners.
Collection ID: MSS121
Indianapolis Maennerchor Records, 1866-1991
The Indianapolis Maennerchor (men's choir) emerged from a circle of young men who were part of a wave of immigration that followed the failed European revolutions of 1848. From its formal organization in June 1854 and first performance in May 1855, the Maennerchor provided a cultural focus for the 48ers that was as important as the Asound mind and body@ activities of the Turners. After the American Civil War the Maennerchor emerged as one of the most significant German organizations in Indianapolis. By 1900 the apparent cohesiveness of the German community began to fragment when the Maennerchor, and their main patron, John P. Frenzel, began to distance themselves from the new Deutches Haus (German House) constructed by the Socialer Turnverein. This split was emphasized by the construction of Maennerchor Hall in 1907. World War I hurt the German community as a whole, and in combination with the death of Frenzel, the Maennerchor began to struggle. The Depression forced the Maennerchor to leave their hall in the early 1930s and become affiliated with the Athenaeum (Deutches Haus). In 1943 the Maennerchor joined with the Knights of Columbus and Murat Shrine to present a mixed chorus performance known as the Triad Concert that helped to revive awareness and interest in the group. The decline of German societies in Indianapolis during the 1960s led to strains which prompted a break with the Athenaeum in 1973. An attempt to return to the Maennerchor Hall failed when the building was razed in 1974. Through the 1990s they have struggled with membership and financial constraints, but performed until 2018, when they performed for the last time, singing the national anthem at Victory Field.
Collection ID: MSS040
Sachs-Bauer Family Letters and Documents, 1826-1903
In 1836 German immigrants Philip and Maria Sachs and their two children settled in Indianapolis. Over the years they received letters from family and friends in Germany and in other areas of the United States. These letters provide information about conditions in Germany and about the experiences of German immigrants in the United States.
Collection ID: MSS120