The Turner movement had the biggest long-range effect on American gymnastics as we know the sport. As previously noted, tens of thousands of Jahn's Turners emigrated to the United States during the late 1840s and early 1850s, and they formed societies in major cities. The first was the Cincinnati Turngemeinde, founded on November 21, 1848. Soon, there were other organizations in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Brooklyn, and Louisville.
In September of 1851, the Philadelphia Turngemeinde hosted a gymnastics festival at which a national organization, the Socialistischer Turnerbund, was founded. Arguments over slavery hampered the organization for the next decade, as many local societies adopted abolitionist planks while others wanted to stay out of politics and focus on physical activities.
The Turnerbund dissolved under the pressure during the Civil War, but a new organization, the Nordamerikanischer Turnerbund (North American Gymnastic Union), was organized in 1865. Immigration from Germany reached more than 100,000 a year after the war ended and, by 1867, there were 148 local societies in the the Union.
Turners actively campaigned for physical education programs in schools and colleges and, in many cases, helped set them up. In 1866, the union founded a seminary to train physical education teachers. It had its greatest success after 1874, when it moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, under the leadership of George Brosius.
While the Turner movement was very important to the development of American gymnastics, there were other influences at work. Czech immigrants established Sokols in many major cities, beginning with St. Louis in 1865. Sokol is the Czech word for falcon, a symbol of freedom as well as the beauty of movement. Sokols were similar to the Turner organizations in that they were dedicated to political and social goals as well as physical fitness.
The Swiss American Gymnastics Association was another immigrant group formed during the late 19th century. Since the Czechs and Swiss, like the Turners, both essentially used Jahn's techniques and apparatus, they reinforced the Turners' goals.
The YMCA became active in promoting and teaching gymnastics after the Civil War. Beginning in 1869, gyms were added to many existing YMCAs and virtually every new YMCA building included a gym as a matter of course. The YMCA's International Training Institute, established in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1869, educated a generation of physical education instructors who went on to teach gymnastics and other sports all over the world.
Colleges also became involved in calisthenics, gymnastics, and physical education in general. The leader in that area was Dudley Sargent (1840-1924). Sargent was the director of Harvard's Hemenway Gymnasium from 1879 to 1919 and in 1881 he founded the Sargent Normal School in Boston to train physical education teachers. He invented many kinds of exercise equipment that are in use in gyms today.
Swedish gymnastics, as Pehr Ling's system had become known, also arrived in the 1880s. Catherine Beecher had borrowed ideas from Ling, and Dio Lewis had borrowed from both Ling and Beecher, but no one taught Ling's entire system until 1883, when Hartvig Nissen of Norway arrived in Washington, DC. Two years later, Baron Nils Posse, a graduate of the Royal Gymnastics Central Institute in Sweden, began teaching Swedish gymnastics in Boston. Posse founded his own school in Boston in 1890 and hired Nissen as a teacher. Nissen also taught for Sargent at the Harvard Summer School and at the Sargent Normal School.
After Posse's death in 1895, his widow and Nissen founded the Posse-Nissen Swedish Gymnastics University in Maine.