5¢ Physical Fitness
Issue Date: February 15, 1965
City: Washington, D.C.
Printed by: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Giori Press
Color: Maroon and black
U.S. #1262 commemorates the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Sokol program. It pictures the famed discus thrower statue that stands near the State Department in Washington, D.C.
First American Sokol Organization
On February 14, 1865, the first Sokol organization in the United States was established in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Sokol movement began in the Czech region of Austria-Hungary, Prague. It was loosely based on the Ancient Greek practice of training athletes and warriors. It was also directly influenced by the German Turnverein (also called the Turners) that were founded in 1811.
The first Sokol organization was founded on February 16, 1862, in Prague. The founders developed a system of calisthenics and gymnastics that would help members develop a sense of individual discipline. Their name, Sokol, is Czech for falcon, chosen because “The Falcon, is a bird who, by his swiftness and energy, symbolizes the active, vigorous, strenuous, real Spartan life, which is the ideal of Sokol programs.”
The Sokol motto was “A Sound Mind in a Sound Body.” The fitness-training center provided lectures, discussions, and group outings that encouraged physical, moral, and intellectual training. They focused heavily on gymnastics, relating their studies back to those of the Ancient Greek athletes.
As more and more Czech people immigrated to the United States, they sought a sense of community and reminisced about the Sokol organizations back home. On February 14, 1865, a group of Czech immigrants formed the first Sokol organization in America in St. Louis, Missouri. Soon more Sokol groups were established and by 1878, the US had 13 Sokol chapters. At one point, there were 120 separate Sokol groups in the US.
In 1879, all the different chapters joined together to form the National Sokol Union. And in 1897, another group formed, the Fügner-Tyrs Sokol District. In 1917, these two major groups merged to become the American Sokol Organization. At its height, the American Sokol Organization had some 20,000 members ranging from Texas to Canada.