THE HISTORY OF
A presentation by
Mrs Gail McCulloch
to the Rotary
Club of Attadale
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
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
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.
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.
basis for membership- one person only from a profession or business – is
much more relaxed now days.
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.
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.
felt a need for personal friendships to replace those severed by moving
from their former homes.
members chose the name Rotary because of the early practice of rotating
meetings among members' offices.
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.
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
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,
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
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
back to the History of Rotary.
the first year, the Chicago club became so large it was necessary to
adopt the now-common practice of a regular meeting place.
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.
transformed Rotary into the world's first Service Club.
pooling their resources and contributing
their talents to
help serve communities in need.
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.
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
Of the things we
think, say or do
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all
Will it build
GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
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
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
actively participates in UN conferences by sending observers to
major meetings and covering the United Nations in its
In 1989, the
organization voted to admit women into clubs worldwide.
Today, women are an
integral part of Rotary's membership.
1989 Council on Legislation established "Service Above Self" as the
principal motto of Rotary, since it best explains the philosophy of
unselfish volunteer service.
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
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
illiteracy, world hunger, and children at risk.
Today, 1.2 million
Rotarians belong to over 32,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200
Rotary clubs are
open to people of all cultures and ethnicities and are not
affiliated with any political or religious organizations.
the motto of Service Above Self and try to make a positive
in the community, in
the workplace, and around the globe.