Carl Lueders; Gymnastics Instructor

The dapper young fellow in this photo is my Gr-Gr-Uncle, Karl Lueders. I was given this picture nearly 20 years ago by Carol, a distant Lueders cousin and fellow genealogist.

Recently, I met Skip, another Lueders cousin; that’s his Gr-Grandfather in the picture. As I prepared to share this photo with Skip, I decided to examine it closely and see what else it revealed about Uncle Karl.

I already knew his name, of course, and it is also written on his shoulder; which is how we know that it is him. At the time the photo was taken, he was apparently still close enough to his German roots that he went by “Karl”.  Later in life he adopted the more Americanized version “Carl” which people frequently did. But that change did not come easily for everyone. His mother, “Katharina” is frequently listed in records as “Catharina”, or even “Catherine”, but her grave marker still says “Kath. Lueders.”

His last name was also different than his father’s had used in the old country, but that change happened more quickly and universally. The Germanic “Lüders” became the American “Lueders” practically as soon they stepped off the boat. There is no umlaut in the English alphabet. Nor is there one on our typewriters. Of course, those devices were not even commonly available until the 1880’s

What interests me most about the picture though is the appellation “Turnlehrer” below his name. Germans like to run their words together to make bigger words and this one was formed from the noun “lehrer” which means “teacher” and the verb “turnen” which means “to do gymnastics”. He was a gym coach. Sometimes they were called “Turn Teachers”.  What is so interesting about this?  Well that requires a brief lesson in 19th Century European History.

In the late 1700’s there was no German state. Just a loose bunch of clans, tribes, and city states that happened to speak a similar language. Just after 1800, however, much of what is now Germany was conquered by Napoleon and ruled by the French. (This came up in an earlier post when I found my German ancestor birth record and it was written in French.)   Just imagine how the locals would have felt about being ruled by foreigners.

Nationalistic thinkers and strategists sought a way to unite the Germanic peoples in order to oppose the French. One man who thought he had the answer was Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1852). He was Gymnastics Instructor. He figured that the best way to elevate the spirits of his country men and increase their physical, mental, and moral power was through the practice of gymnastics.

Hence, in 1811 he open his first Turnplatz, or open air gymnasium in Berlin. The Turner movement spread rapidly and soon there were Turnvereins, or Gymnastics Associations, in many cities and towns both large and small. The movement may have had some effect, as the French were soon overthrown, but it was another 60 years before Germany was fully united.

Meanwhile, German immigrants to America in the 1850’s brought the tradition with them and in 1890 we find Paul. A. Lueders (Karl’s father and my Gr-Gr-Grandfather) as a signatory to the Article of Incorporation for the Humbolt Turnverein in Milwaukee. The stated purpose for the Turnverein was to:

“Associate themselves for the purpose of development of the bodily and mental powers by gymnastic and other exercises and the establishment and maintenance of a reading room and library….”

So it makes perfect sense that Karl would have been a Turn Teacher at the Humbolt Turnverein. But exactly how and when that happened is still a bit confusing.

Notice the logo on the picture frame. “S. V. Courtney; McKinley Block; Canton, O” According to City Directories, this photographer was in business from 1881 – 1906; making Karl somewhere between 12 and 37 years old in the picture. That’s not very helpful.

What really muddies the waters though is the location: “Canton, O”.  So far as I knew, Carl Lueders was born in Chicago but lived his entire life in Milwaukee, WI until 1953 when his wife, Rosa, died. Then he moved to California to be near his daughter. Is this really him in Canton, Ohio?  What was he doing 500 miles from home, other than posing for a portrait.  At one point, I nearly discarded the picture thinking it must be somebody else.

But a careful study of City Directories has painted a picture that I can accept.

In 1887, Carl Lueders, age 18, was living at home with his father and working as a photographer
1888, he was still living at home but working as a Turn-Teacher.
1889, Carl Lueders, then 20, disappears from Milwaukee Directories.  And, at that same time, a Carl Lueders suddenly appears in the Canton, OH directory. And, he is a Turn Teacher at Turner Hall. He continues to be listed in the Canton Directory for a few years but then in 1892 he disappears from Canton and, at the same time, he reappears in Milwaukee where his occupation is listed as Teacher, State Normal School.

Whoa!  What is a “Normal” School? Is there such a thing as an abnormal school?  Some would argue that there is. But in 1892, the phrase was understood to mean what we may call today a Teacher College. This was where high school graduates were taught the “norms” of Education, pedagogy and curriculum and such.  Mind you, Carl had never even started High School much less finished it. But he was a Teacher at the Normal School so I assume he must have been teaching Gymnastics.

This particular institution, which was founded in 1885, has since been folded into the University of Wisconsin.

Carl may have continued teaching, part-time, at the Humbolt Turnverein, but after about 1896 his primary occupation was as a merchant in the family business of Scholler and Lueders Feed and Flour.  Later in life he worked as a Payroll Clerk for the American Railway Express Agency.

Carl Lueders lived a long life, and, no doubt, did and experienced many things. But his claim to fame was well established at an early age, as decades later, his obituary leads off with…

Carl Lueders Dies; Gym Instructor

Services for Carl Lueders, 95, a gymnastics instructor at the old Humbolt-Turhall W. Center & N. Richards Sts. will be at 1:30 Saturday….

1958, Carl Lueders and his daughter standing in from of my Grandparents house in Rosemead, California

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