Three of Jahn's followers, Charles Beck, Charles Follen, and Franz Lieber, left Germany before the 1848 revolution and were the pioneers of American gymnastics. Beck was hired in the spring of 1825 to teach Latin at the experimental Round Hill School in Northampton, Massachusetts.
He established North America's first gymnasium at the school and began training students, using Jahn's techniques. He also translated Jahn's book, Deutsche Turnkunst (The German Art of Gymnastics). His translation, titled Treatise on Gymnasticks, taken chiefly from the German of F. L. Jahn, was published in 1828.
Meanwhile, Harvard College had decided to establish a gymnastics program and tried to bring Jahn over from Prussia, but his price was too high. Charles Follen was hired, instead, in December of 1825. His first gym was set up in one of the college's dining halls. In 1826, Follen established an outdoor gymnasium on a piece of land called the Delta (where Memorial Hall is now located).
Inspired by Harvard's example, a group of prominent Bostonians launched an effort to start a public gymnasium. Follen was appointed interim superintendent when the gym opened on September 28, 1826. The following year, Franz Lieber took over.
All of these efforts were short-lived. The Boston gym closed in 1828, Round Hill School went out of business for lack of money in 1834, and Harvard students tired of gymnastics about the same time. However, the seeds of the gymnastics and gymnasium movements had at least been planted.
In the United States, gymnastics was virtually synonymous with physical education during the 19th century. Catherine Beecher (1800-1878), an early proponent of education for girls and women, developed a system of calisthenics for the "female seminaries" she established in Hartford (1828) and Cincinnati (1830). Her system emphasized light exercises, usually performed to music.
Beecher was later involved in founding women's colleges in Burlington, Iowa; Quincy, Illinois; and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 1856, she published a manual of physiology and calisthenics designed for schools and families, Diocletian Lewis (1823-1886), a homeopathic physician, introduced what he called the "new gymnastics" at an 1860 meeting in Boston. The following year, he founded the Boston Normal Institute for Physical Education to train teachers in his system.
During the 1860s, Dio Lewis and his system became quite well known. He wrote magazine articles, pamphlets, and two books, New Gymnastics (1862) and The New Gymnastics for Men, Women, and Children (1864). Lewis also lectured on temperance and on the importance of physical education for everyone. Many of the normal schools that were founded in the years after the Civil War adopted his system. That system included dance and social games, along with exercises using dumbbells, indian clubs, wands, beanbags, and hand rings.