By Dernell Every
The Fencing Section of the New York Turn-Verein, first organized in 1850, is the oldest fencingclub in New York City and probably in the country. In celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year it will act as a host to a special AFLA competition for which it will supply medals and a suitable plaque.
The fencing group is a completely autonomous section of the Turn-Verein and has elected its own officers each year for the past 100 years. The leader of the Fencing Section is called Fechtward, or Executive Director of the Salle. The first Fechtwart was general Franz Siegel of Civil War fame. Other Fechtwarts have been Messrs. Anton Reith, Jr., Henry C. Prew, John Allaire, Dr. Paul Benzenberg, George Reimherr and the present Fechtwart, Dr. G. A. Santini. Colonel Edwin Emerson and Mr. John R. Hurley are honorary Fetchwarts for life.
Among fencing instructors at the Turn-Verein have been Franz Siegel, Charles Koch, Anthony Greco, Anthony Scafati, and the present fencing master, John P. Knapp.
A picture of the women’s fencing class of 1915, 35 years ago is shown above. Centered in the picture is Charles Koch, the club’s fencing master for many years. In the back row, second from the right is Miss Adeline Gehrig who was U.S. Women’s Foil Champion in 1920, 1921, 1922 and 1923 and represented the United States in the Olympics in 1924. Other winners for the Turn-Verein were Dr. Paul Benzenberg, U.S. Epee Champion in 1908. He placed second in epee in 1907, 1909 and 1910 and third in 1905. G.W. Postgate was U.S. Saber Champion in 1908. George Reimherr was champion three times in three weapon competition and was the first winner of the president’s medal in 1907.
Most beloved of Turn-Verein fencers was John Allaire who, after thirty years of fencing at the Turn-Verein, represented that club at the founders’ meeting of the AFLA in 1891. He was elected Vice President of the AFLA from 1912 to 1929, at which time he was made Honorary Vice President, which position he filled until his death in 1937. The AFLA established a memorial trophy in his honor which is awarded annually to the U.S. Men’s Foil Champion.