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Adolf Spiess Essay

Adolf Spiess was born February 3, 1810, in Lauterbach, Hesse, and died May 9, 1858. But before he died he was a German gymnast and educator, which he contributed to the development of school gymnastics for children of both sexes in Switzerland and Germany.

Growing up Adolf lived with his father Johann Spiess, whom was a farmer and master smith, but had first prepared himself for a position as teacher in the elementary schools, but after some years of professional experience at Frankfurt am Main decided upon further study, and so completed a course in theology at the University of Giessen; and Adolf also lived with his four other siblings, and he was the oldest of the five. In the spring of 1828, Spiess went to the University of Giessen to pursue the study of theology.

He at once joined the Burschenschaft, which had been organized ten years previously and now concealed itself under the name Waffenverbindung (weaponry association). He practiced fencing, the favorite student exercise, and before the end of the year became proficient. He went on many mountain and castle excursions with friends, and displayed skill in all forms of physical activity — riding, swimming, skating, dancing, and gymnastics. He also pursued music and drawing.

In 1829, Spiess continued his theological studies at the University of Halle, and in late December, Spiess went to Berlin for several months where he used Eiselen’s private gym, and learned many new exercises from Philipp Feddern, Eiselen’s assistant. In the spring of 1830, Spiess went back to Giessen, and he began to give instruction in gymnastics, first to a dozen boys on a garden Turnplatz, and later to nearly 150 in one of the city parks.

He modified the traditional method by gathering the entire number into one band at the commencement of each period for various simple exercises performed in rhythm as they stood or marched, or for running and jumping under the leadership of a single teacher. After graduation, Spiess became private tutor in the family of the Hessian Count Solms-Rodelheim, at Assenheim.

In May 1848 Spiess accepted an offer from Minister von Gagern of Hesse, and moved to Darmstadt, the capital of the Grand Duchy, to undertake the task of introducing gymnastics into the schools of that state, beginning with the higher schools and the common schools of such communities as were prepared to take the step at once. He was also to train the requisite teaching force, and afterwards superintend their work. The salary of the new “Oberstudien Assessor” was fixed at 2000 gulden, or just meaning a lot in lesser words. Lessons were immediately begun with classes in two secondary schools for boys and in the higher school for girls.


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