The late Paul Harris was often asked: " When you founded Rotary on a cold, wintry day in Chicago, did you think it would grow into a worldwide movement ?
His best answer to this question may be the one he gave in his last anniversary message written shortly before his death on 27 January, 1947 " No. I did not in 1905 foresee a world wide movement.... When a man plants an unpromising sapling in the early springtime, can be sure that someday here will grow a mighty tree? Does he not have to reckon with the rain and sun-and the smile of Providence ? once he sees the first bud-ah, then he can begin to dream of shade."
The Rotary movement was born on the evening of 23rd February, 1905, when Paul Harris, then a young lawyer who felt somewhat lost and alone in the sprawling city of Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. met with three friend to discuss an idea that he had been developing. The three men were Sylvester Schiele, a coal dealer; Gustavaus E. Loehr, a mining engineer; and Hiram Shorey, a merchant tailor. They met in Gus Loehr's office in the Unity Building, which is still standing at 127 North Dearborn Street.
Paul's idea was that businessmen should get together periodically in the spirit of camaraderie to enjoy each other's company and to enlarge their circle of business and professional acquaintances.
Out of their discussion came the idea of a men's club whose membership would be limited to one representative from each business and profession. Weekly meeting were to be held at each member's place of business in turn. The rotation of meetings was designed to acquaint the members with one another's vocations and to promote business. Hence, the name " Rotary " was adopted early on.
The founding four were of U.S.A., German, Swedish, and Irish ancestry professing Protestant, Roman Catholi, and Jewish faiths. All were products of the American melting pot, and in that respect, they were fitting progenitors of the international organization they were to bring into being.
After enlisting a fifth member, Harry Ruggles, a printer, the group was formally organized as the Rotary Club of Chicago. The first roster (1905) . showed a membership of 30 with Sylvester Schiele as president; Will Jensen, a real estate broker, as corresponding secretary; Ruggles as treasurer; and Dr. Will R. Neff, a dentist, as the " official greeter " Paul Harris declined any office in the new club and did not become its president until two years later. Ruggles was the man who began the custom of group singing, which is still practiced at many Rotary meetings.
World of the new organization spread rapidly. Soon, member-increased to the point at which it as no longer practical to meet at a member's place of business. Thus' began the practice of holding weekly meeting at restaurants and hotels
In 1910 Rotary held its first convention, in Chicago, and the '16 clubs were united as " The National Association of Rotary Clubs. Paul Harris was elected president of the association and Chesley R Perry, who had become a member of the Chicago club in 1908, was elected secretary and served in that capacity until 1942, when he retired Elmer A. Rich was the first treasurer, but Rufus Chapin occupied that post from 1912 until his death in 1945 The service ideal began taking shape during this early period when Arthur Frederick Sheldon joined the Chicago club. As a teacher of the new " science " of salesmanship, he beueved, that business should be regarded as a means to serve society, and at Rotary's first convention in 1910 he proposed that " He Profits Most Who Serves His Fellows " The next year another of Rotary's early leaders, Benjamin Franklin Collins, also spoke of the importance of serving others and promoted the idea that a club should be organized on the principle Service, Not Self." The two sayings, modified to "He Profits Most Serves Best " and "Service Above Self" were quickly embraced by all Rotarians and became proud slogans of Rotary club's escutcheons. But 40 years passed before they were officially designated as Rotary mottoes -at the 1950 Convention in Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.
Once the movement had spanned the Atlantic it spread rapidly As a result, at the Rotary Convention held in 1912 in Duluth, Minnesota, U.S.A., the name was changed to The international Association of Rotary Clubs," which was shortened in 922 to " Rotary International. 1." The first president from outside the United States of America - E.Leslie Pidgeon of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada- was elected in 1917 at the Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.
Rotary's early emblem was a simple wagon wheel (in motion with dust) representing
"civilization and movement." It was designed in 1905 by Montague M. Bearm Member of the Chicago Club, who' was an engraver, and most of the early clubs adopted the wheel in one form or another. Eventually, in 1922, authority was given to create and .preserve an emblem for the exclusive use of all Rotarians.
Accordingly, in 1923, the present gear wheel with 24 cogs and six spokes was adopted, and a key way added to signify that the wheel was a worker and not an idler " An official description of the emblem was adopted at the 1929 Convention in Dallas, Texas, U.S.A. Royal blue and gold were chosen as the official Rotary colors, and the flag of Rotary was designated as a white field with the Rotary wheel emblazoned on its center. The emblem, worn as a lapel button, now identifies Rotarians around the world
The 1920's were formative, exciting, battling years and 1926 was a year to remember in that the Rotary Club of London, England made one of its lasting contributions to the Rotary movement. Two of its members, walking one Sunday morning over the Surrey hills, evolved what was called the " Aims & Objects " Plan. They directed their thoughts on service into four channels-Club Service, Community Service, Vocational Service, and International Service. The two men were Sydney W. Pascal, who later served as president of Rotary International 1931-32), and Vivian Carter, at that time secretary of R.I.B.I.(the association of Rotary clubs in Great Britain & Ireland).
This new idea was widely discussed and was presented to the R.I. Convention at Oostende, Belgium, in 1927. It was accepted, and so the four channels (later called "avenues") of service became a part of the Rotary program and operate today wherever Rotary functions Immediately after Paul Harris1 death in 1947, the first plan for the Foundation's educational awards was formulated and dedicated as a memorial to Rotary's founder, who had believed so strongly in the fourth Avenue of Service. An auspicious start was made by granting 18 Fellowships (now called Scholarships)' to students from seven different countries for the scholastic year 1947-48. The Rotary Foundation has since remained entirely dependent on voluntary contributions from both Rotarians and non-Rotarians around the world. A major source of funding is derived from Paul Harris Fellow recognitions (endorsed by Foundation Trustees in 1957), which are granted to persons who contribute US$ 1 ,000 or more to the Foundation. Paul Harris Fellow recognitions may also be granted to persons-Rotarians and non-Rotarians alike-in whose honor the ame sum is donated.
By the mid-1980's, general contributions to the Foundation were exceeding US $ 20 million annually. Well in excess of US $ 100 million in educational grants had been appropriated by the Foundation to send more than 25,000 qualified young men and women as "goodwill ambassadors" into over 130 countries as Rotary Scholars and Group Study Exchange team members to further international understanding and friendly relations among peoples of different countries." More than 110,000 Paul Harris Fellows had been designated.
The five types of educational awards granted by The Rotary Foundation are: Graduate, Undergraduate, Vocational, and Journalism Scholarships and Scholarships for Teachers of the Handicapped. In addition, the Foundation funds the Group Study Exchange awards program (which enables teams of young business and professional persons to exchange visits in different countries); Special Grants (to support worthwhile educational and charitable projects of Rotary clubs and districts); Grants for the Health, Hunger, and Humanity (3-H), Program launched in 1979 to commemorate Rotary's 75th Anniversary "to improve health, alleviate hunger, and enhance human and social development as a means of advancing international understanding, goodwill, and peace").
In his autobiography, My Road to Rotary, Founder Paul Harris spoke of the power of Rotary in terms of a broad flowing river "The great river is the sum total of contributions of hundfeds, perhaps thousands of little brooks and rivulets which come tumbling down the hillsides and mountains, singing as they go, eager to cast themselves into the channel of the great river. That is like the growth of Rotary It has become great because of the self-sacrificing contributions of thousands of Rotarians of many lands."