It all started when…
The 1848/49 revolution in Germany brought several thousand political refugees--the so-called 48ers—to the United States. Among these refugees were Turners, who soon after their arrival, started to build Turner societies after their German models. These German/American organizations were for the development of physical education as well as vehicles with which German immigrants could continue their cultural endeavors in North America during the 19th century.
On June 6, 1850, a group of 36 young men, all German, met at Stubenbard’s Restaurant on Duane Street in lower Manhattan and founded what was then called the Socialistischen Turn Verein. In the fall of 1851, this first New York Turner Society established a school for teaching gymnastics to boys. By 1853 there were ten Turner Societies in the nation. On March 20, 1857 the Society was incorporated by a special act of the State Legislature and its name was changed to “The Turn Verein, in the City of New York,” commonly referred to as the New York Turn Verein (N.Y.T.V.). It operated under this name another 126 years until it merged with Mount Vernon Turners to form the American Turners of New York, Inc. in 1983.
Whereas talks about consolidation of Mount Vernon with New York had started some years before, it didn’t become a reality until 1983. (See History of American Turners New York, Inc.) Today the National American Turners membership approximates 13,000. Its Societies have dropped their political engagement but they still promote not only health and physical education through their programs, but also cultural projects, urging their members “to exercise the right of independent thought and action through the ballot and to follow the dictates of their conscience in religious matters.”