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Rotary history

The first Rotary Club was set up was on the 23rd February 1905 by Paul P. Harris. Together with three friends he called a meeting that would soon be the first ever Rotary Club. He called it to stimulate goodwill amongst his fellow businessmen, and to instill in other people in the community, the vision of friendliness and community that he found as a child in the small village he had grown up in. The town spirit he felt needed to be strengthened as he felt it had waned compared to what he had grown up in. It was time for rejuvenating the spirit of Chicago!

The first rotary Club was born! The small club swelled to thirty members by the end of 1905 and the name of Rotary was contrived and agreed on as well as the familiar 'Rotary Wheel.' The name 'Rotary' came from the fact that each meeting was rotated around each member's business office. This common feeling of community is still shared today by its members.

Three years later a second club was formed in San Francisco. This club also adopted the same symbols and regalia of the Chicago branch and this was to signal the spread of the Rotary Club throughout the world. A third branch opened in Oakland, California and was quickly followed by others in Seattle, Los Angles, and New York City. These clubs were all in America but that was about to change.

In 1910, a mere five years after the birth of Rotary, a club opened in Canada. The Winnipeg Branch in Manitoba opened with the same guiding principles of its founders and this was the start of Rotary International.


By 1921, Rotary was represented on every continent and a year later the title, 'Rotary International' was formally adopted by the organization. This was the beginning of great things for Rotary and now every club and every member is listed under Rotary International allowing many people to work together towards a common goal. It was also during this time that many clubs were established in South and Central America, India, Cuba, Europe, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

As Rotary grew, it was able to use its resources to help humanity in many different ways. Notably in Chicago, public 'comfort homes' were created and food relief projects for needy and helpless families were started.

Rotary has continued through the years until it has come to what it is today; recognized throughout the world and an organization that is there for the individual and humanity in general. Rotary has played an important role in helping out those in greatest need and this has been evidenced in many instances such as Tsunami's, earthquakes and famine relief.

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