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Encyclopedia Dubuque


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Dubuque Socialer Turnverein and later GERMANIA HALL
DUBUQUE SOCIALER TURNVEREIN. German social group organized in Dubuque on June 6, 1863. Officers were Charles Schaad, president; J. Zwack, vice-president; and F. Michelsen, secretary.

The European founder of the Society was Frederick Ludwig Jahn. Beginning in 1810 Jahn advocated bringing youth together for gymnastic practice and patriotic indoctrination. His motto was, Mens sana in Corpore sano, meaning "a sound mind in a sound body." Prussian government officials liked his plan and established a Turnverein school at Berlin in 1811. Prussian military units adopted his calisthenics. Each regiment had its equipment. In its effort to expand the intellect, the Turnverein became champions of public education that they supported to the point of enforcing attendance by penalty. The Society came to New York in 1848.

The names of the founders of the society in Dubuque were George Weigel (died in 1854), Fred Wetzel, William Smith, Frederick JENKEL, Charles Kerlike, F. E. DEGGENDORF, Hugo Deggendorf, J. Kutscli and Gustave Ebert. (1)

The Dubuque Turnverin, or "Dubuque Social Society", first met in the upper story of a brick building at the southwest corner of Sixth and Iowa STREETS. In 1859 the Society at a cost of $6,000 erected Turner Hall for theatrical and gymnasium purposes on the east side of Clay Street between 12th and 13th street. The building took up the entire corner lot. The second floor had four large rooms. The third floor contained the theater which was sixty feet long and twenty-feet high. (2)

The Society experienced great growth in 1865 and 1866 when the membership reached seventy. In July 1866, the board of education purchased the lease to the upper two floors of the building for use as a new high school. For the sum of $500.00, the board obtained the lease and all the property except for the chairs. A committee of three board members were given the task of "fitting up" the room for the new school. (3)

Joseph A. RHOMBERG presented the Society with a fine library in 1867 and was made an honorary member. A Dubuque resident given honorary membership for his efforts in promoting the welfare of the Society was Christian WULLWEBER, once the United States minister to Quito, Ecuador.

Membership growth led, in 1873, to the Society purchasing a site at the southeast corner of Ninth and Iowa Streets. A building once occupied by a carriage factory was remodeled and equipped with a dance hall, stage, and gymnasium. In 1876 the gymnasium became the meeting place of the DUBUQUE SOCIAL GYMNASTIC SOCIETY. The first floor and gallery could serve one thousand people. (4) This became the well-known Turner Hall in which many fine German theatrical companies and stock companies performed and popular musicals and social activities were held.

In 1877 the Turner Life-Saving Association displayed its training. Organized to save life and rescue people in burning buildings, the group on August 21st held a mock event at the CONNOLLY CARRIAGE MANUFACTORY. Afterwards, Jake Rose treated each member of the Association to a drink at his saloon. (5) Other displays of their talents followed leading to the suggestion in September that contributions should be made to increase the efficiency of the group and that it should be added to the fire department. (6) By February 1878 the organization had been been added to the fire department and a grand ball was held on February 4 to raise money for their new uniforms. (7)

Membership in the Society sank to twenty between 1880 and 1883. The enrollment of many young members in the fall of 1884 ensured the continuation of the organization.

Representatives of the German societies in Dubuque met on March 9, 1890 to discuss plans for a new hall. It was proposed to form a company with $50,000 in capital to issue $25,000 in stock and an equal amount in bonds to build a two story hall, 75' by 100'. Billiard rooms and other recreational activities would be located in the basement. Meeting rooms would be found on the first floor with a hall on the second. A building committee was formed in 1891 and Thomas CARKEEK was hired as the architect. (8)

On Apri1 22, 1897, Turner Hall witnessed a banquet and ball celebrating the reorganization of the Society. With Arbst F. Frudden as president; Charles SASS, vice-president; P. Sahm, secretary; and John PIER, treasurer, the organization was renamed the GERMANIA SOCIETY.

In 1889, with only five hundred dollars to pay on the $13,000 used for remodeling, the Society realized their frame building was no longer adequate. A fair and bazaar, from which a ladies auxiliary formed with the name of "Harmonie Damen Verein," raised money to payoff the remaining debt and begin construction of a brick structure. The building committee was headed by Arbst F. FRUDDEN. The cornerstone of the new building GERMANIA HALL was laid on August 17, 1890, before a crowd estimated at 1,500.



1. Oldt, Franklin T. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Western Historical Company, 1880, p. 129

2. "Turner Hall," Dubuque Herald, July 25, 1866, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18660725&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

3. "Board of Education," Dubuque Herald, July 24, 1866, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18660724&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

4. "New Turner Hall," Dubuque Herald, April 30, 1873, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18730430&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

5. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, August 22, 1877, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770822&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

6. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, September 25, 1877, p 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18770925&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

7. "A Worthy Object," Dubuque Herald, February 1, 1878, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18780201&printsec=frontpage&hl=en

8. "Will Have a New Home," Dubuque Daily Herald, December 9, 1891, p. 4