Today, Rotary is well known throughout the world for its dedication to service and international goodwill. Changing the world through service, Paul P. Harris founded the organization in 1905. Harris, a lawyer in Chicago, Illinois, USA, had been raised in a rural village in Vermont. He envisioned a new kind of club for professionals that would kindle the fellowship and friendly spirit he had known in his youth.
On the evening of 23rd February 1905, Harris invited three friends to a meeting. Sylvester Schiele, a coal merchant; Hiram Shorey a merchant tailor and Gustavus Loehr, a mining engineer gathered with Harris in Loehr’s business office in Room 711 of the Unity Building in Downtown Chicago. They discussed Harris’ idea that business leaders should meet periodically to enjoy camaraderie and to enlarge their circle of business and professional acquaintances. The club met weekly; membership was limited to one representative from each business and profession. Though the men did not use the term Rotary that night, that gathering is commonly regarded as the first Rotary Club meeting.
As they continued to convene, members began rotating their meetings among their places of business, hence the name Rotary. After enlisting a fifth member, printer Harry Ruggles, the group was formally organized as the Rotary Club of Chicago. The original club emblem, a wagon wheel design, was the precursor of the familiar cogwheel emblem now used by Rotarians worldwide.
By the end of 1905, the club’s roster showed a membership of 30 with Schiele as President and Ruggles as Treasurer. Club membership grew and the meeting was shifted to hotels and restaurants, where many Rotary club meetings are held today. The Rotary commitment to service began in 1907, when the Rotary Club of Chicago donated a horse to a preacher. The man’s own horse had died, and because he was too poor to buy another one, he was unable to make the rounds of hi churches and parishioners. A few weeks later, the club constructed Chicago’s first public lavatory. With these inaugural projects, Rotary became the world’s first service-club organization.
Rotary’s popularity began to spread throughout the USA. The second Rotary club was chartered in 1908 in San Francisco, California, with a third club formed in Oakland, California. Others soon followed in Seattle, Washington; Los Angeles, California and New York. When the National Association of Rotary Clubs held its first convention in 1910, Harris was elected President.
At the following year’s convention, speakers used the phrases “Service, not self” and “He Profits Most Who Serves Best” which became the organisation’s mottoes.Service, not Self” was later changed to “Service Above Self” and has since been adopted as Rotary’s primary motto.
The basis of membership one man from each business and profession in the community still exists in Rotary. At first, the members of the new club met in rotation at various places of business of the members and this suggested the name’Rotary’.
By 1910 there were 16 Rotary Clubs which combined to form a united body the National Association of Rotary Clubs. Rotary became International when a club was organized in Winnipeg, Canada. In the following year (1911) the Rotary idea spanned the Atlantic when clubs were organized in Dublin and London and England cabled its request for admittance to membership. Finally, in 1922 the Constitution and Bye-Laws were revised completely, the adoption of the Standard Club Constitution was made mandatory for all new clubs organized subsequently and the name was shortened to Rotary International. Rotary extended to Asia in 1919 when the Rotary Clubs of Manila, Philippines and Calcutta, India were formed; but the latter received its charger in 1920. Tokyo, the first club in Japan, also came into existence in 1920. Lahore, the second club in India organized in 1927, later went to Pakistan. Bombay and Madras, the third and fourth clubs in India were chartered in quick succession in 1929.