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Guide to the Deutscher Verein Records, 1859-1937 MSS A

Guide to the Deutscher Verein Records, 1859-1937


Summary Information

The Deutscher Verein was a German cultural, social, and musical organization formed officially in 1874 through the consolidation of two much older local German groups from the mid-1850s; namely, the Turnverein, or Turners, and Liederkranz or Singing Society. In 1875 the German Independent School Society also joined the Deutscher Verein. Later names were the Germania Society and the Pioneer Club. The organization dissolved in 1937. Records of the Deutscher Verein von La Crosse (Wis.), consist largely of legal and financial records, 1876-1937, the highlights of which include constitution, articles of incorporation, contracts, directory and inventory, property documents, membership and financial materials, meeting minutes, and dissolution documents. Also available are records from three of the Deutscher Verein’s subgroups, Liederkranz (1859-1881), Turnverein (1865-1874), and the German Independent School Society (1875). Records available from Liederkranz include legal papers, minutes, articles of incorporation, copies of original published musical scores and plays, and sheet music and songbooks used by the society. Turnverein materials consist of a charter and property documents. The German Independent School Society document included is a statement of the merger with the Deutscher Verein in 1875. Some of the early records are written in the German language and are handwritten.
Collection Title
Deutscher Verein Records
Date of Materials
Deutcher Verein (La Crosse, Wis.).
Germania Society.
Pioneer Club.
Call Number
2.4 cubic feet
Physical Description
6 archives boxes and 1 flat box
Language of Materials
La Crosse Public Library Archives

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Deutscher Verein Records, MSS A, La Crosse Public Library Archives, La Crosse, WI

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Historical Note

The Turnverein or Turners’ Society

The Turnverein or Turners’ Society was formed in August 1855 with 18 members in La Crosse. The official charter date was Oct. 21, 1855. At that time, the city of La Crosse had not even been chartered yet. The name "Turnverein" is German and translates to "Gymnastic Society" deriving from the German verb, "turnen" or "to do gymnastics." Therefore, the purpose of the Turnverein was to practice and compete in athletic and gymnastic events. In fact, the society's original name was “Gymnastic Society” but was later changed to Turnverein. Rented space served the group’s purpose until Turner Hall was constructed in 1861. A number of "Turners’" organizations existed in Wisconsin as a result of the strong German immigrant influence in urban areas. Prominent members included, John Pamperin, William Tillman, Gottlieb Heilemann, Henry Heil, and Peter Schintgen.

Germania Hall/Pioneer Hall

The hall was originally built by the Turnerverein, and it stood in the middle of the block on south 5th Street between Ferry and Market Streets. Turners Hall, as the building was known, was moved to the alley on Ferry street sometime in 1876 and the remainder of the property was used as a summer garden. This was to make way for an addition to the building (720 Fifth Ave. South) when the Liederkranz joined the Turnverein to form the Deutscher Verein in 1874.

The building was destroyed by fire on Oct. 24, 1891. Bonds were sold and, together with the insurance money, enough funds were raised to build a new hall. The cornerstone was laid July 18, 1892. Building committee members were John Ulrich, John Pamperin, William Tillman, William Luening, Carl Kurtenacker, Henry Heil, Charles Michel, C.H. Krehs, G.J. Pammel, and Joseph Schwalbe. The architects were Stoltz & Schick of La Crosse, and Joseph Schwalbe and Son were the contractors. The building cost was $21,000.

The building was sold to the Pioneer Hall Labor Association of the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) on Aug. 6, 1937. The CIO used the building for union offices and meetings, dinners and social events, boxing matches and labor education schools. The building was razed in early 1966 to make way for a new Fire Station at Fifth Ave. South and Market Street.

La Crosse Maennerchor or Liederkranz

In the early years of the Turnverein, a portion of its members wanted to form a singing society and have that be the primary activity of the group. This faction then formed its own group called the La Crosse Maennerchor in 1856 and devoted its attention to music. The organization soon renamed itself the Liederkranz, and their first concert was given in Barron’s Hall in May 1857.

Liederkranz mainly performed and practiced singing, but in February 1858, the group premiered a German comedy, which was met with such acclaim by the attendees that the group thereafter formed a Dramatic Section of the group. Liederkranz went on to write and self-publish many original plays and operas, all in the German language.

Along with the Frohsinn Singing Society, another German singing society in La Crosse, Liederkranz held concerts and participated in singing festivals in La Crosse, the greater state of Wisconsin, as well as the tri-state region. The group's musical repretoire included traditional German and American folksongs, with the majority being German.

In 1861 the group purchased lots at the corner of Third and King Streets, and Liederkranz was incorporated as an organization in 1862. Singers’ Hall was constructed a short time later. On July 15-17, 1866, the first Saengerfest of Wisconsin was held in La Crosse and the Northwest Saengerbund was formed through the efforts of John Ulrich. More than 6000 singers from other cities joined in the program. When the Liederkranz merged with the Turnverein to become the Deutscher Verein in 1874,the hall was sold.The building was razed in the 1930s.

In 1871, Liederkranz and the Turnverein combined once again to form the Deutscher Verein. John Ulrich was elected the first president of the combined groups. However, it was not until August 1874 that the two societies officially turned all of their property over to the Deutscher Verein, thus making 1874 the official birth year of the Deutscher Verein.

German Independent School Society

Although not much is known about this group, it is known that they merged with the Deutscher Verein on February 9, 1875, and organized the first kindergarten in La Crosse. This German-speaking school was opened in 1878 by Theresa Doerflinger.

Deutscher Verein

The Deutscher Verein was formed by the merger of Liederkranz and the Turnverein in 1874. Singers’ Hall was sold and Germania Hall at Fifth and Ferry streets was enlarged to accommodate the increased number of members. A summer garden was added. Sundays were popular family days and the main attraction of the summer garden was the beer that flowed freely. Annual events, such as the formal, members-only Sylvester Ball, attracted many dance goers.

Soon other interests arose among the members, and the Deutscher Verein increased its scope of activities to address these interests. Not only were athletics, singing, and social diversions organized, but a dramatic club was formed with Herman Langstad leading the way. Cards and skat tournaments became popular, and the women organized their own clubs within the Deutscher Verein. Bowling was always popular as well.

Nearing the end of the nineteenth century, the membership of the Deutscher Verein became comprised less and less of German immigrants and more and more American born, although generally of German immigrant descent. The Turners and the singers became less active in the years preceding World War I and eventually disappeared. In addition, due to the anti-German sentiment during WWI, more membership dropped off and the name was officially changed to the Pioneer Club in 1918. By 1934, the group decided to sell their beloved Germania Hall (Pioneer Hall) because of the high costs of maintaining the facility. The Pioneer Hall Labor Association of the Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO) purchased the property on Aug. 6, 1937. The CIO used the building for union offices, and the building was razed in 1966. The Deutscher Verein held a farewell dinner at the Linker Hotel on Aug. 16, 1937, and formally voted to dissolve the organization at that time.

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Scope and Contents

Records of the Deutscher Verein von La Crosse (Wis.), consist of a historical background, legal and financial records, 1876-1937, including a constitution (1882, printed in German), articles of incorporation (1892 amendments), cancelled stock shares, contracts (1876-1892), directory and inventory (1886-1893, handwritten in German script), property documents (1876-1935), membership and financial materials (1877-1934, some materials are handwritten in German script), redeemed bonds (issued Dec. 1892), trustee appointments (1910-1935), and dissolution documents (1937). In addition, there is a collection of minutes and financial records ranging from June 1869-August 1937, all minutes recorded prior to September 1918 are in handwritten German script. There is also an accounts journal handwritten in German script (1886-1892).

Also available are records from three of the Deutscher Verein’s subgroups, Liederkranz (records date from 1859-1881), Turnverein (records date from 1865-1874), and the German Independent School Society (record date from 1875). Records available from Liederkranz include legal papers (1859-1881), minutes including articles of incorporation (1880-1898, handwritten in German script), copies of original published musical scores and plays (all handwritten in German script), and sheet music and songbooks used by the society (includes songs in the German language). Turnverein materials consist of a charter (1865) and property documents (1965-1874). The German Independent School Society document included is a statement of the merger with the Deutscher Verein in 1875.

The collection does not include programs of social or entertainment events, or descriptions of the organization’s activities.

Some older portions of the collection are written in the German language and are handwritten.

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Beyond some introductory historical background materials, the records are arranged into three series: Legal Records, 1876-1937, Minutes and Financial Records, 1869-1937, and Subgroups, 1859-1891.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

La Crosse Public Library Archives 1999 May

800 Main St.
La Crosse, Wisconsin, 54601
(608) 789-7136

Revision Description

  2016 August

Access to Materials

Materials in this collection are available for patron use.

Acquisitions Information

(Accession No. x.003) FIC; transferred from South Branch Library in the spring of 1981 which included the legal and business records of the Deutscher Verein and related organizations: German Independent School, Leiderkranz and Turnverein (Accession No. 2007.043) transferred from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, Murphy Library, Special Collections Department which included duplicates from the La Crosse German Materials collection of John Erickson (Accession No. 2005.044) transferred from the La Crosse County Historical Society which included the Deutscher Verein's minutes and financial records, an accounts journal, as well as the following materials relating to the Liederkranz subgroup: minute books and a variety of published musical scores and plays.

Processing Information

Processed by Allan Kovan, 1982; register rewritten & collection reboxed (ATD), May 1999; additions added and reprocessed by Hannah L. Weber, May-August 2016

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Related Materials

Related Materials

Mss CE (Area Research Center at University of Wisconsin-La Crosse)
 Mss CE includes account books, bylaws, concert programs, election ballots, and miscellaneous records (1892-1900) collected by John Erickson.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Deutcher Verein (La Crosse, Wis.).
  • German Independent School Society.
  • Liederkranz (La Crosse, Wis.).
  • Turners Society (La Crosse, Wis.).

Geographic Name(s)

  • La Crosse (Wis.)--Societies, etc.


  • German Americans--Wisconsin--La Crosse--Societies, etc.

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OCLC Number


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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Historical background, n.d. 

1 1

 (Series 1) Legal records 1876-1937 

Box Folder

Constitution, 1892 

1 2

Articles of incorporation (amended), 1892 October 12 

1 3

Cancelled stock shares, 1877 September-December 

1 4

Contracts, 1876-1892 

1 5

Directory and inventory, 1886-1893 

1 6

Property documents, 1876-1935 

1 7

Membership and financial materials, 1877-1934 

1 8

Redeemed bonds, 1892 December (issue date) 

1 9

Trustee appointments, 1910-1935 

1 10

Dissolution, 1937 

1 11

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 (Series 2) Minutes and Financial Records, 1869 Jun-1937 Aug 

Box Folder

 1869 Jun-1874 Feb 

2 1

 1885 Mar-1892 Aug 

2 2

 1891 Oct-1894 Apr 

2 3

 1894 Apr-1911 Mar 

2 4

 1911 Apr-1930 May 

3 1

 1930 Jul-1937 Aug 

3 2

Account journal, 1886-1892 


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 (Series 3) Subgroups 1859-1898 

Liederkranz, 1859-1898 

Business Records 1859-1898 

Box Folder

Legal Papers, 1859-1881 

3 3

Minutes, 1876 

4 1

Minutes (with Articles of Incorporation), 1880-1891 

3 4

Minutes (with Constitution), 1891-1898 

4 2

Published Musical Scores and Playscripts, n.d., 1876-1880 

Box Folder

Plays; loose script pages of various unknown plays, n.d. 

4 3

Play; unknown title, n.d. 

4 4

Play; "Die Lichtensteiner," n.d. 

4 5

Play; "Wir denken von inhnen ueber?," n.d. 

4 6

Play; "Der Sohn auf Reisen," n.d. 

4 7

Play; "Der Weiberfeind," n.d. 

4 8

Play; "Heirat von der Traumel-Vaunderville in 3 Acts," n.d. 

4 9

Play; "Die Raeuber auf Maria Culn," n.d. 

4 10

Play; "Die Zillerthaler," n.d. 

4 11

Play; "Dorf und Stadt," n.d. 

4 12

Play; "Ein Weisser Othello," n.d. 

4 13

Play; "Graefin Hoecherchen," n.d. 

4 14

Play; "Lotte ist Todt," n.d. 

4 15

Play; "Pomponettchen und Pompadour," n.d. 

4 16

Play; "Preciosa," n.d. 

4 17

Play; "Richard's Wanderleben," n.d. 

4 18

Play; "Sachsen in Preussen," n.d. 

5 1

Play; "S. Lieserl," 1876 

5 2

Play; "Schwab und Schwaebin," 1876 

5 3

Play; "Wenn Leute kein Geld haben," n.d. 

5 4

Play; "Wer Zuletzt Lacht," n.d. 

5 5

Play; "Zwei Pistolen oder Geschossen und Lebendig," n.d. 

5 6

Opera; "Martha" (manuscript copy), n.d. 

5 7

Sheet music; unknown title, n.d. 

5 8

Sheet music; "Ragtime Life" n.d. 

5 9

Sheet music; "Penny" n.d. 

5 10

Sheet music; "Tell Me Your Dream" n.d. 

5 11

Sheet music; "Run Bru-der Possum, Run" n.d. 

5 12

Sheet music; "The Reuben Come to Town" n.d. 


Sheet music; "Church Bells" n.d. 

5 15

Sheet music; "Male Butterfly" n.d. 

5 16

Sheet music; "The Blue and the Gray" n.d. 

5 17

Sheet music; "Es kommen Blaetter" n.d. 

5 18

Sheet music; "Liederkranz und Bummellied" n.d. 

5 19

Sheet music; "Waldes Wacht" n.d. 

5 20

Sheet music; "Zigeuner Sieben" n.d. 

5 21

Songbook; unknown title (books 1-11), ca. 1880 

5 22-23

Songbook; "Quodlibet" 1890 

5 24

Songbook; "Sammlung E" n.d. 

5 25

Songbook; "Sechs Lieder v. Franz Abt (books 1-12)," n.d. 

1 2-3

Songbook; "Waidmanns Lust" n.d. 

6 3

Songbook; "Wilkommen zum Saengerfest" 1883 

6 4

Turnverein, 1865-1874 

Box Folder

Charter, 1865 

6 5

Property documents, 1865-1874 

6 6

German Independent School Society, 1875 

Box Folder

Transfer of chattel mortage and note, 1875 

6 7

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