“A sound mind in a sound body.”

In the mid-19th century, Indianapolis saw a tremendous influx of German immigrants to the city. By the 1890s, many German immigrants and their descendants were becoming civic and business leaders in the community. There was a movement to unite several of the German heritage clubs in one location, which spurred the design and construction of “Das Deutsche Haus.” The project was spearheaded by the Indianapolis Turnverein, a group of gymnastics enthusiasts with a desire to promote physical and mental wellness in the community. The building was originally created to advance the Turnverein’s principles of “a sound mind in a sound body” by providing space for athletic and mental endeavors. Since opening to the public in 1898, Das Deutsche Haus has seen many changes, but the commitment to nurturing a sound mind in sound body has endured.

Athenaeum Artifact No.1

Gada Club and Wooden Dumbbells, circa 1894

130 years ago, Turnverein fitness experts agreed, the key to a sound mind, was a sound body. To that end, weights like these were put to use in German gymnasiums across the country.

Here at the Athenaeum, these antique gada clubs and wooden dumbbells were exceptionally popular during the fitness movement of the late Victorian era and would have been used by both men and women alike, to help build arm and grip strength, as well as flexibility.

This original set from the Athenaeum Turnverein, dating back to when the gym opened in 1894, still retains its original logo stamp from the St. Louis manufacturer Medart.

The 1lb clubs and wooden dumbbells were integral to an exercise phenomenon that made its way to the U.S. by way of German immigrants in the middle of the 19th century.

Athenaeum Artifact No.3

Karneval and Sister Cities

The items in the artifact case are a collection of items representing Karneval. Celebrated by pre-Christians as a means of driving out winter and evil spirits and welcoming in the springtime, Karneval was later adopted by the church as a festive period to enjoy food, drink and revelry before Lent. Today, Karneval retains many of the traditions that began in the Middle Ages. The Karneval celebration is often full of live music, dancing, drinking and costumes.

The Athenaeum celebration is modeled after Karneval in Köln, or Cologne, sister city to Indianapolis. Indianapolis, Indiana, and Cologne, Germany, established their sister city relationship in 1988, fostering cultural, educational, and economic exchanges between the two cities. Over the years, numerous exchange programs, art exhibitions, and collaborative initiatives have strengthened the bond between Indianapolis and Cologne. The cities’ vibrant histories and diverse communities have provided a rich backdrop for this enduring international connection, enhancing mutual appreciation and global awareness.

Buy tickets HERE for Athenaeum Presents: Karneval held on January 27th at 7 PM.

Help preserve the history of the Athenaeum and more artifacts like these.

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Athenaeum Foundation401 EAST MICHIGAN STREET

Our Mission

The Athenaeum Foundation preserves a treasured historic landmark that welcomes all to nurture a sound mind and a sound body through arts & culture, wellness and community.

The Athenaeum Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization.