Rotary started with the vision of one man — Paul Harris. The Chicago attorney formed the Rotary Club of Chicago on 23 February 1905, so professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships. Over time, Rotary’s reach and vision gradually extended to humanitarian service. Members have a long track record of addressing challenges in their communities and around the world.
“Whatever Rotary may mean to us, to the world it will be known by the results it achieves.”
Paul P. Harris (1868-1947), a lawyer, was the founder of Rotary, the world’s first and most international service club. Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide who provide humanitarian service, promote high ethical standards in all vocations, and help build good will and peace in the world.
Born in Racine, Wisconsin, U.S.A. on 19 April 1868, Paul was the second of six children to George N. Harris and Cornelia Bryan Harris.
At age 3 he moved to Wallingford, Vermont where he grew up in the care of his paternal grandparents. Married to Jean Thompson Harris (1881-1963), they had no children. He received an LL.B. from the University of Iowa and received an honorary LL.D. from the University of Vermont.
Paul Harris worked as a newspaper reporter, a business teacher, stock company actor, cowboy, and travelled extensively in the U.S.A. and Europe selling marble and granite. In 1896, he went to Chicago to practice law. One evening Paul went with a professional friend to his suburban home. After dinner, as they strolled through the neighbourhood, Paul’s friend introduced him to various tradesmen in their stores. This reminded Paul of his New England village and it occurred to him “Why not have a fellowship composed of businessmen from different occupations, without restrictions of politics or religion?”
On 23 February, 1905, Paul Harris formed the first club with three other businessmen: Silvester Schiele, a coal merchant; Gustavus Loehr, a mining engineer; and Hiram Shorey, a merchant tailor. Paul Harris named the new club “Rotary” because members met in rotation at their various places of business. Club membership grew rapidly. Many members were from small towns and in the Rotary club they found an opportunity for camaraderie. When Paul Harris became president of the club in its third year, he was convinced that the Rotary club could be developed into an important service movement and strove to extend Rotary to other cities.
Founder of Rotary
“The thought persisted that I was experiencing only what had happened to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others in the great city. … I was sure that there must be many other young men who had come from farms and small villages to establish themselves in Chicago. … Why not bring them together? If others were longing for fellowship as I was, something would come of it.”
– Paul.P.Harris, My Road to Rotary
The second Rotary club was founded in San Francisco in 1908. In August, 1910, when there were 16 clubs, the National Association of Rotary Clubs was organized. When clubs were formed in Canada and Great Britain, the name was changed to the International Association of Rotary Clubs in 1912, and was later shortened to Rotary International in 1922. Paul Harris was the first president of both the National Association and the International Association. As Rotary spanned the globe, branch offices were opened in Europe and Asia. In 1932 the Four Way Test was created. Two world wars changed the face of Rotary Eastern Europe was closed to Rotary until 1989 when clubs were re-established in Poland and Hungary. In 1990 the first club was opened in the Soviet Union.
Paul maintained his law office for most of the remainder of his life. In fact his law firm after partnership, with which he was associated until 1946, continues to this day in Chicago under the name of Davis & Cichorski. In addition, office space was maintained for him, as First President and President Emeritus, at the Rotary International World Headquarters in Chicago. He spent much time travelling and was invited to speak to Rotarians at Annual conventions, district and regional meetings and other functions.
When President emeritus Paul Harris passed away on 27 January 1947 his dream had grown from an informal meeting of four to some 6,000 clubs brought together through the service and fellowship of Rotary.
The founders of Rotary: Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, Hiram Shorey, and Paul Harris
What is Rotary?
Rotary International is a voluntary organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world.
There are approximately 1.2 million Rotary Club members belonging to 35,893 Rotary Clubs in more than 200 countries.
Founded in Chicago in 1905, Rotary is celebrating 110 years of service this year. The Rotary Foundation has awarded more than US$2.1 billion in grants, which are \ administered at the local level by Rotary Clubs.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF ROTARY?
Rotary clubs exist to improve communities through a range of humanitarian, intercultural and educational activities. Clubs advance International understanding by partnering with clubs in other countries. Rotary also encourages high ethical standards in all vocations.
WHAT DO ROTARY CLUBS EXECUTE ?
Rotarians meet every week for fellowship and organise interesting and informative programs dealing with topics of local and global importance, providing health care and medical supplies, clean water, food, job training, youth development and education to millions of people in need.Membership reflects a wide cross-section of community representation.
Birthplace of Rotary
The number 711 has a very special significance for Rotary. Room 711 of the old Unity Building, formerly located at 127 North Dearborn Street in Downtown Chicago, Illinois, USA, was the birthplace of Rotary. It was in that historic room, which was the office of engineer Gus Loehr, where Paul Harris first met with several friends, Silvester Schiele, Gustav Loehr and Hiram Shorey, to discuss his idea of a club for professionals and businessmen. It took extensive research and dedication by a few Chicago Rotarians to preserve the room and restore it to its 1905 authenticity. For years, Room 711 was preserved as a miniature Rotary museum by Rotarians and contributed annually to the Paul Harris 711 Club, which provided funds for leasing, maintenance, and preservation.
In 1989, when the Unity Building was about to be torn down, members of the 711 Club carefully dismantled the landmark room and placed its contents in storage. There it stayed until 1994, when the re-created Room 711 found a permanent home at the RI World Headquarters in Evanston, where this piece of Rotary’s heritage is preserved.
History of the Rotary Wheel
The Rotary wheel is one of the most familiar symbols in the world today. But for many years, there was no standard Rotary emblem. Rotary clubs designed their own. In its early years, the Rotary Club of Chicago used a wagon wheel emblem, an idea attributed to Paul Harris, who reasoned that it symbolized civilization and movement. The appearance changed from time to time.
When an engraver joined the club, he offered to design a permanent emblem. Members rejected his first idea—a plain buggy wheel—as looking lifeless and meaningless. To give the appearance of action, the engraver added clouds of dust ahead of and behind the wheel. He also placed the words “Rotary Club” above it. One observant Rotarian pointed out that a wheel would not generate clouds of dust in front of it. He removed the offending cloud and that design remained the emblem for Chicago until about 1912.
At the 1911 national convention in Portland it was suggested that delegates adopt a standard emblem, based upon the wheel, which had become the generally accepted emblem of Rotary clubs. The Board of Directors appointed a committee to come up with a design. Everyone was amazed how quickly the committee acted.They were appointed in August and had the emblem ready in September. All they did was copy the emblem used by the Rotary Club of Philadelphia.
The Philadelphia club had been chartered in 1910 as the 19th club in the world. [Bay City was the 134th club in 1915] The Philadelphians thought that the Chicago wagon wheel design did not convey the Rotary idea very well. They added cogs to create a working wheel, symbolizing the members working together, literally interlocked with one another to achieve the organization’s objectives. They used 19 cogs in honor of their club. The club started producing metal lapel pins in 1910 with this design for its members to wear on their coats. Today, the millions of pins worn by Rotarians around the world had their genesis in the minds of a club president and a jeweler in Philadelphia in 1910.
The 1912 Rotary convention in Duluth approved the Philadelphia design for the whole organization. To ensure uniformity, the club’s name was replaced by the association’s name, Rotary International. It probably didn’t hurt that the president of the Philadelphia club [who had designed that club’s emblem] became president of the International Association of Rotary Clubs at the Duluth convention.
Even after approval by the convention there was still a divergence in design of the emblem. Many local clubs still had their own wheel. Some wheels had 8 spokes, some others had 10, some none at all. Some wheels had 16 gear cogs, some 20, some none. Even the Rotary staff at headquarters was confused. In April 1919, the Rotary wheel on the cover of The Rotarian magazine had 19 cogs. On the May issue’s cover the wheel had 20 cogs. On the June cover it had 27 cogs.
In 1918, a Rotarian engineer from Minnesota petitioned Rotary to amend the design of the wheel. He said that a cogwheel with 19 cogs would not work. He said that the emblem had square-cornered teeth of disproportionate size, that the cogs were irregularly spaced. This Rotarian, Oscar Bjorge, said the emblem was “an insult to engineering that only the brain of an artist could conceive.” So he sketched a new wheel, with 6 spokes [symbolizing the 6 Objects of Rotary at that time] and 24 cogs or teeth. He also added a keyway, which locks a wheel to a hub, thus making it “a worker and not an idler.” In 1928, the exact specifications of this engineer were written into the Manual of Procedure, approved at the 1929 Dallas convention. The specifications have been unchanged ever since. The geared Rotary wheel appears today throughout the world on millions of lapel pins, flags, ties, jewelry of all sorts, etc. It has been pasted on billboards and postage stamps in more than 100 countries. The Rotary wheel started as an idea in the mind of founder Paul Harris nearly 100 years ago. It remained in its present exact form for 75 years, until 25 August 2013.
Although the words ‘Rotary International’ are embedded in the wheel, they are hard to read from a distance. So, in 2013 Rotary expanded the official logo to include the word ‘Rotary’ next to the wheel. The Rotary wheel remains our mark of excellence. In addition to being part of the official logo, it may be enlarged for greater impact and used separately but near the logo.
Using the emblem
The Rotary emblem, like Rotary’s name and other logos, is a registered trademark. Clubs, districts and Rotary entities are welcome to use the Rotary emblem subject to the guidelines for the use of the Rotary Marks as set forth by the RI Board of Directors. These guidelines govern the use of the Rotary Marks on all merchandise, promotional materials and publications, including domain names and websites.
Rotary Bangalore Southwest was chartered on 14th December 1981, is sponsored by Rotary Club of Bangalore South.