BULLETIN

  • Roger Lindley

Rotary International’s 116th Birthday on February 23rd


The first gathering, on Thursday evening, 23 February 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. was initiated by attorney Paul P. Harris. Young Harris, fresh from a wild five years as a reporter, actor, cowboy, seaman, granite salesman, fruit picker and hotel clerk and five years building a successful law practice, had an idea. It was regarding observations of success and respect which could come from organizing professional acquaintances.

He had given this much thought by the time he and Silvester Schiele (a coal merchant) walked over to Gus Loehr's (a mining engineer) office, in Room 711 in the Unity Building on Dearborn Street that cold winter night in 1905, almost nine years from his arrival in Chicago. In addition, a fourth man, Hiram E, Shorey (a tailor) attended this first meeting. Several weeks later, Schiele was elected the first president of Rotary when the meeting was held in his office.

The members chose the name Rotary because initially they rotated subsequent weekly club meetings to each other's offices, although within a year, the Chicago club became so large it became necessary to adopt the now-common practice of a regular meeting place.

The next four Rotary Clubs were organized in cities in the western United States, beginning with San Francisco, then Oakland, Seattle, and Los Angeles. The National Association of Rotary Clubs in America was formed in 1910.

On November 3, 1910, a Rotary club began meeting in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, the beginning of the organization's internationality. On 22 February 1911, the first meeting of the Rotary Club Dublin was held in Dublin, Ireland. This was the first club established outside of North America. In April 1912, Rotary chartered the Winnipeg club marking the first establishment of an American-style service club outside the United States. To reflect the addition of a club outside of the United States, the name was changed to the International Association of Rotary Clubs.

In August 1912, the Rotary Club of London received its charter from the Association, marking the first acknowledged Rotary club outside North America. It later became known that the Dublin club in Ireland was organized before the London club, but the Dublin club did not receive its charter until after the London club was chartered. During World War I, Rotary in Britain increased from 9 to 22 clubs, and other early clubs in other nations included those in Cuba in 1916, Philippines in 1919 and India in 1920.

In 1922, the name was changed to Rotary International.


Rotary Clubs

The Rotary Club is the basic unit of Rotary activity, and each club determines its own membership. Clubs originally were limited to a single club per city, municipality, or town, but Rotary International has encouraged the formation of one or more additional clubs in the largest cities when practical.

Most clubs meet weekly, usually at a mealtime on a weekday in a regular location, when Rotarians can discuss club business and hear from guest speakers. Each club also conducts various service projects within its local community, and participates in special projects involving other clubs in the local district, and occasionally a special project in a "sister club" in another nation.

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