Symbols on the steins


The items in this collection bear many of the symbols and expressions associated with Father Jahn and the Turnvereine in Germany.  One predominant theme is the four F’s (“Frisch, Fromm, Froh, and Frei”), which appear on the steins as either words or are arranged as a cross emblazoned on a shield, also known as the 4F shield.  Additionally, the phrase “Gut Heil!” which loosely translates as “To your good Health!” was a frequent expression of the Turners (gymnasts).




A variation on the 4F shield was a combination of two F's, an S and T, which represents "Frish, Frei, Stark, und Treu" ("fresh, free, strong, and true").  This variation indicates the Turners’ criticism of religion in the 1850s; they replaced “fromm” (devout) with “stark” (true), even though the term “devout” signified loyalty to the Turner ideals, rather than religious devoutness.  Three decades later, the latter expression became the motto of the German Workers Turner Union (see Hofman's “From Jahn to Lincoln:  Transformation of Turner Symbols in a New Cultural Setting” in the 'Sources' section of this collection).

Other visual symbols of Turnvater Jahn’s ideas that appear on the steins and in the memorabilia include gymnastic equipment such as barbells, parallel bars, and a pommel horse, underscoring his emphasis on physical fitness.  Occasionally steins will display a combination of a torch, sword, and owl, which represent Freethinker symbols, underscoring the Turners' association with Freethinkers’ values of enlightenment (the torch), the political and religious fight for justice and equality (the sword), and wisdom (the owl). 

Nearly every item in this collection bears some combination of the 4F shield, images of Father Jahn, young men engaged in gymnastic exercises or using barbells, and the phrase “Gut Heil!”  The steins in this collection also depict 19th and early 20th-century sporting events and competitions (Turnfests) held in Frankfurt, Leipzig, Münich, Nüremberg, and other cities; these steins were used as a means of commemorating these events and fostering national pride.

It was rare for artists to sign their initials or names on steins, but a few steins in this collection do bear artists’ names or initials.  Two sets of steins in Springfield College Archives' collection, each commemorating Turnfests in Frankfurt and Leipzig, bear the initials of artist Franz Ringer, a notable stein artist in late 19th- and early 20th-century Germany.  (For an example of this work, see "Stein with gymnast and pommel horse" in this online collection.)  Two additional vessels in the physical collection, known as pokals, were signed by artist Jean-Baptiste Stahl, noted for his use of cameos on steins.  (See the stein labeled "Cameo pokal with gymnasts" in this online collection.)

The most common marks on steins, including those in this collection, are manufacturers’ marks, which were nearly always stamped on the bottom of the stein.  Within this collection, steins bear marks from manufacturers such as Eckardt & Engler, Simon Peter Gerz, Gebruder Vonficht Ingolstadt, Schellenberg's Kaisermagazin, Reinhold Merkelbach, J.W. Remy, Schierholz & Sohn, Steinzeugwerke, and Villeroy & Bosch.  The latter company, Villeroy & Bosch, made steins commonly known as Mettlach steins; “Mettlach” is from the Latin word for mid-lakes, and is a small village where the steins were made.  These steins are particularly valued by collectors because of their high-quality etchings, glazes, and cameos.  Interestingly, no one knows precisely how these steins were made, because in 1921 a fire destroyed all the molds, production records, and formulas for the production processes and materials.