William Vogt

  Wilhelm Vogt was the prototype of a respected and true gymnast of the pre-1848 people of Germany. He was a bold, accomplished gymnast, and an equally fearsome wrestler and fencer, a friendly, cheerful companion, a faithful friend, a zealous reveler, and a man enthusiastic about his fatherland.

 Born in Hanau on 11 July 11, 1823, he received his education under the competent gymnast August Schärtner, which at that time was one of the best of the gymnastics clubs. After he had completed his training, his wanderlust attracted him to beautiful Swabia, where he worked in various cities, but mostly in Pforzheim. His reputation as one of the most capable gymnasts spread throughout southern Germany, and he always won one of the first prizes at the gymnastics in Heilbronn, Mainz, Offenbach and so forth.

Many a bold venture was linked to his name, and his intrepidity on the equipment knew no bounds. It was said that at a Turnfest in Hanau, after he had climbed up the high climbing mast, he accomplished a handstand on the cross at the top of the mast in a perfect position, with his arms outstretched, his legs slipping quickly around the mast, darting quickly, to the horror of the spectators; a firm grip brought him a firm grip to a sudden stop a foot above the floor. Of course, those who witnessed his other daredevil gymnastic feats did not fail to spread the word of his accomplishments.

In 1846 he moved to Frankfurt am Main, where he earned the name "the Butterfly" in the Gymnastics Club, because of his gymnastic shills.. His beautiful tenor’s vocals, as well as other social qualities, made him the center of numerous circles. In Frankfurt, the Hessen-Darmstadt government offered him the position of gymnastics teacher in Darmstadt, which he declined because he, as he said, did not want to neglect his business, which had to support him in his old age.

Even before 1848, he became suspicious to and watched by the police because of his agitation for the freedom movements, and especially through the distribution of radically liberal papers and pamphlets. In Frankfurt it was also where he was introduced by Schärtner to the old Jahn with the words: “Jahn, that is also one of mine,” and Jahn replied: “If he is one of yours, he is also one of mine.”

As early as the spring of 1848, Vogt could no longer remain in Frankfurt, and because a wealthy Frankfort citizen wanted to send his son to America to buy land, he suggested to him that he go to America as an associate and a consultant. He accepted and the two of them went on the journey, with plenty of money. On the evening of the 25th of May 1848, shortly before departure, a festival was held in honor of Vogt by Hanau’s Turner group, which was also attended by [Turnvater] Jahn. In the circle of the gymnasts he wrote the following leaflet for Vogt: (Leaflet omitted)

Vogt and his comrade landed in New York. There they were told to go to the "new city of Chicago,” to which the two comrades proceeded. Arriving in Chicago, however, the many "waterholes," as Vogt later put it, did not please us, and, because Vogt's companion was homesick, they parted company. Vogt traveled to Louisville and his comrade returned to Germany. In Louisville, Vogt founded a small business, and at the same time, with a few young Germans who had settled there, a Turnverein, which, however, was short-lived. The right material was not found until 1850. He belonged to the Louisville gymnastics community during his lifetime, and by advice or example, promoted all physical and spiritual endeavors. Mention has already been made of the fact that he received the first prize at the Cincinnati Turnfeste, a magnificent, silver-studded drinking horn. This, along with Jahn's leaflet, is still honored by his family as a treasured souvenir. During the Civil War he was a Sutler of 6th Kentucky Inf. for a time. He sold his jewelry business later, and joined the "Phoenix Brewery" as a participant. However this was a terrible step for him; his otherwise strong body began to deteriorate, and with all the signs of an imminent serious illness, he disposed of his share of the brewery and bought a farm near Louisville. But the country's life did not improve his health, He died on September 16, 1871, generally respected and revered by a large circle of warm friends, a true gymnast and a strong fighter for intellectual freedom and enlightenment.

William was survived by his wife and three children.

Source: Jahrbücher der deutsche-amerik: Turnerei, Voluee 1–3. Ed. Henry Christian Anton Metzner. New York: 1892. Pp. 181–83.Translated by Joseph R. Reinhart

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