11 October, 2000
At the close of the last century, Jack M. B. Selway, had little idea who Paul Harris really was. What he did know was mostly folklore from Club #2. There, in San Francisco, many of his fellow Rotarians had taught him that Rotary International really started in the Bay Area.
With time, decided to create a page on his club’s website that celebrated the first fifty Rotary clubs. The least-known club in the first fifty was Pueblo. With just one page on ‘his’ website in the minds of every visitor, could link the Pueblo club with Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Boston, and that’s just a short list.
The list was faxed by then RI field representative Joaquín Mejía. That was the date on the fax which became the research material for the first fifty clubs website. It was actually the day before that began the process. It happened to be the 55th birthday of our future RGHF senior historian Dr. Wolfgang Ziegler.
The Rotary Clubs of Chicago (ROTARY/One), New York City, Hartford, Tacoma and Wichita immediately got on board and the single page became a separate website at with history pages for each club. With the constant help of the other founding members.
At first RGHF was called "Rotary First Fifty," but by June of 2001, the name became "Rotary First 100." In 2003, the organization was briefly call "THOR" for The History of Rotary." Also in 2003 RGHF became "Rotary Global History Fellowship".
The centennial was coming, and as clubs became interested in this work. In no time at all, they came to learn that this “Man in the Medallion TM” was no ordinary man, but a man for our times.
Soon learned that certain UK clubs, formed in 1911, would be left out if the list ended at "50." As more and more correspondents mentioned the approaching "100" year celebration, the project quickly became a much larger website, www.rghfhome.org/first100/ with pages for each of the 100 clubs.
The historical knowledge base expanded further. Soon, a researcher for the growing project discovered that club #100 had company. Five other clubs were arbitrarily assigned numbers that same day. How could you limit the project to 100 clubs when there were actually 105? And volunteers asked, “What about the milestone clubs?” So, it wasn’t long before added the clubs listed in the appendix to the first printing of "My Road to Rotary." The eight new club listings included numbers 200, 300, 400, 500, 1000, 2000, 4000 and 5000.
Expanding knowledge added a special section for the "First 100" clubs in Canada and also in the UK. Rotarians dropped in and out of the project like an inveterate jigsaw puzzle addict tries to fit pieces into a puzzle. Key people around the world became board members of the project, and really special ones became his Executive Committee. And the more that he and his board studied, the greater the need for accuracy, fact checking and documentation of sources. Then, suddenly one Tuesday morning in September of 2001, everything changed. The tragedy of 9-11 occupied the entire project for several months and the letters from that effort were meticulously posted.
As the shock of the horror subsided, members of the history fellowship’s committee slowly began to research and write again. They would never forget, but resumed the day-to-day aspects of the project. While no one can pinpoint the exact moment when realized that the Centennial of Rotary meant that there would soon be 100 years of meaningful history, everyone involved in the project is convinced that the events of 9-11 played more than an insignificant part.
Sites were added that start to tell the histories of Women and Rotary and The Rotary Foundation. Expansion has spread from the collection of history to the quality and quantity of historians and researchers and even to the Board.
There are hundred's of RGHF members continuing this effort and much of Rotary's founder's writing can be found at www.whatpaulharriswrote.org/ where Rotary clubs can avail themselves of bulletin material. In 2008 the RGHF board authorized expanding the board to 12 regular members and up to 34 zone board members to cover all zones of Rotary International. In August of 2009 RGHF Secretary/Treasurer Emeritus Dick McKay, Rotary Club of Chicago, USA, wrote a short history of RGHF. By 2010, the board numbered 61 members and we began The RGHF.
A new self-posting library at www.historylibrary.org was established and a brand new membership website.