About Rotary











A presentation by Mrs Gail McCulloch

to the Rotary Club of Attadale

on Monday, September 17th, 2012


I would like to share with you, how Rotary, which began as an idea about 112 years ago has grown. 

In 1900, Paul P. Harris met attorney Bob Frank for dinner in a well-off neighborhood in Chicago.

As the two of them walked around the area, Harris was impressed by the number of friendships Frank had made with many of the shopkeepers. 

Since moving to Chicago to set up his law practice, Harris had not encountered the kind of camaraderie that Frank enjoyed with his fellow businessmen.

He wondered whether there was a way to channel and expand this type of fellowship, which reminded him of the New England town where he'd grown up.

The thought persisted that perhaps many other young men who had come from farms and small villages to establish themselves in Chicago were also longing for fellowship. 

So why not bring them together?

Eventually, Harris persuaded other local businessmen, each in a different profession or line of business to meet and discuss forming a club for commercial trade, community, and fellowship.

This basis for membership- one person only from a profession or business – is much more relaxed now days.

His vision laid the foundation for the Rotary of today.



It was in 1905 ,when the aeroplane had yet to stay aloft more than a few minutes and the first motion picture theatre had not yet opened that the first Rotary Club was formed, when attorney Paul Harris called together a meeting of three business acquaintances in downtown Chicago, at Gustave Loehr‘s office.




In addition to Harris and Gustave Loehr, a mines engineer, Sylvester Schiele, a coal merchant and Hiram Shorey, a tailor were the other two who attended this first meeting.

After enlisting a fifth member, Harry Ruggles, the group was formally organized as the Rotary Club of Chicago.

By the end of that year, 1905, the club’s roster showed a membership of 30, with Sylvester Schiele as president and Ruggles as treasurer.  Paul Harris declined office in the new club and didn't become its president until two years later.

It is significant that each of the members of the first Rotary club was a comparative stranger, from a small town, who had come to the great metropolis of Chicago to go into business.

Each felt a need for personal friendships to replace those severed by moving from their former homes.

The members chose the name Rotary because of the early practice of rotating meetings among members' offices.


The Rotary Emblem





An interesting side story is how the emblem of Rotary developed to what it is today.  In 1905, Paul Harris and his club agreed a wheel should be the emblem of Rotary.  

Harry Ruggles, a printer, chose a buggy wheel that was simple in design, a bold circle with a hub and spokes.

It was enthusiastically accepted by the first Rotary Club. 

Ruggles is therefore credited for designing the first version of the wheel.  







Some thought the design was too plain.  Montague Bear, a member of the Rotary Club of Chicago, who was an engraver, added a few clouds (that looked like dust) and little marks, to the design to indicate a wheel in motion.

It was a simple wagon wheel designed to represent both civilization and movement.

When someone pointed out that a “cloud of dust” could not be raised fore and aft, even by Rotary, the design was changed again.  The clouds of dust were subdued and a ribbon reading "Rotary Club" was added across the wheel.






Other Rotary clubs had been forming and using the wheel as a basic design.  Many added features to identify their club with their city, such as a buffalo for Buffalo, N.Y., and an oak tree for Oakland, California, etcetera.

Finally, in 1922, it was decided that all Rotary Clubs should adopt a single design as the exclusive emblem of Rotarians. 

In 1923, the present gear wheel, with 24 cogs and 6 spokes was adopted by the Rotary International Association. 





I thought the mechanically minded members might be interested to know that a group of engineers advised, that the geared wheel was mechanically unsound and would not work, without a "keyway" in the centre of the gear, to attach it to a power shaft.

So, the keyway was added and the design which we now know was formally adopted as the official Rotary International emblem.



In 1929 an official description of the emblem was adopted.  Royal blue and gold were chosen as the official Rotary colours and the flag of Rotary was designated as a white field with the emblem in its centre


Rotary 4' X 6' Outdoor Nylon Rotary Flag



NOW back to the History of Rotary.



Within the first year, the Chicago club became so large it was necessary to adopt the now-common practice of a regular meeting place.

Those early "Rotarians" realised that fellowship and mutual self-interest were not enough to keep a club of busy professionals meeting each week.

Reaching out to improve the lives of the less fortunate proved to be an even more powerful motivation.


In 1907, while Harris served as president, the club initiated one of its first acts of community service, the construction of comfort stations, or public toilets, for men and women, outside Chicago City Hall.

This step transformed Rotary into the world's first Service Club.

Rotarians began pooling their resources and contributing

their talents to help serve communities in need.






Rotary's popularity spread, and within a decade, clubs were chartered from San Francisco to New York to Winnipeg, Canada.  By 1921, Rotary clubs had been formed on six continents.  In 1922, the name was changed to Rotary International.  By July 1925, Rotary had grown to more than 2,000 clubs and an estimated 108,000 members.

The organization's distinguished reputation attracted presidents, prime ministers, and a host of other luminaries to its ranks.




In 1932, Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor created The Four-Way Test, a code of ethics adopted by Rotary 11 years later.

The test, which has been translated into more than 100 languages, asks the following questions:

Of the things we think, say or do

Is it the TRUTH?

Is it FAIR to all concerned?


Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?




During World War II, many clubs were forced to disband, while others stepped up their service efforts to provide emergency relief to victims of the war.

In 1942, looking ahead to the postwar era, Rotarians called for a conference to promote international, educational and cultural exchanges.  This event inspired the founding of UNESCO. (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).



In 1945, 49 Rotary club members served in 29 delegations to the UN Charter Conference.

Rotary still actively participates in UN conferences by sending observers to major meetings and covering the United Nations in its publications. 



In 1989, the organization voted to admit women into clubs worldwide.

Today, women are an integral part of Rotary's membership.




The 1989 Council on Legislation established "Service Above Self" as the principal motto of Rotary, since it best explains the philosophy of unselfish volunteer service.



After the collapse of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991), Rotary clubs were formed or re-established throughout Central and Eastern Europe.






In honor of that first club, Paul Harris and his colleagues chartered more than a century ago, Rotarians have preserved its original meeting place, Room 711 in Chicago’s Unity Building, by re-creating the office as it existed in 1905.  For several years, room 711 was preserved as a miniature museum by Rotarians from around the world.

In 1989, when the building was scheduled to be demolished, the club carefully dismantled the office and salvaged the interior, including doors and radiators and placed the contents in storage.






In 1993, the Rotary International Board of Directors set aside a permanent home for the restored Room 711 on the 16th floor of Rotary International World Headquarters in nearby Evanston.


As it approached the 21st century, Rotary worked to meet society’s changing needs, expanding its service efforts to address such pressing issues as environmental degradation,                             illiteracy, world hunger, and children at risk.





Today, 1.2 million Rotarians belong to over 32,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries.

Rotary clubs are open to people of all cultures and ethnicities and are not affiliated with any political or religious organizations.

Rotarians  uphold the motto of Service Above Self and try to make a positive difference

in the community, in the workplace, and around the globe.