Cleveland #18, 1911
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Cleveland #18, 1911
District 6630
Cleveland, site of the 1925 and 1939 Rotary International Conventions
Birthplace of the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International
Home Club of Rotary International Presidents
Arch Klumph 1916-17 and A. Z. Baker 1955-56
Arch Klumph, 6th President of Rotary International 1916-1917
RIP Klumph's Essay on The Rotary Foundation

Read about Arch Klumph, one of Rotary's early leaders

It was Arch Klumph who told his district governors to learn the Rotary constitution and Rotary's History!

A. Z. Baker, RI President 1955-56, a member of RC of Cleveland held his convention in Philadelphia, that city's first convention.

RIP Baker's Home Page

Arch Klumph, 3rd from the left, Paul Harris seated 2nd from the right. A breakfast during the 25th anniversary of Club #18 Paul Harris planted a Friendship Tree, during the 1939 Convention at Cleveland

See our delegation at Rotary's 2nd convention in Portland, Oregon, USA in 1911.


A rare, early Rotary Global History Fellowship photo, with Arch Klumph holding our banner.

-A Short History Of The Founding Year Of The Rotary Club Of Cleveland
by Leon H. Swartout, Executive Director Emeritus

When the late Leon H. Swartout became Executive Director Emeritus of The Rotary Club of Cleveland at the end of 1996, he immediately embarked upon a mission to write the history of the Club. What follows is a condensation of his account of the Club's founding year.

The Founding

Some time before 1910, Major Charles R. Miller, a prominent Cleveland attorney and a veteran of the Spanish-American War, found himself in the company of Rotary's founder, Paul Harris. They met on a train going from Chicago to San Francisco. Paul Harris told Major Miller about this new and unique club, which was now called "Rotary Club," that he and three other young men had organized in the city of Chicago. Paul explained to Major Miller about the distinctive classification system and that each member was expected to favor other members in the club with his business. Major Miller was well respected in Cleveland and was a cousin of President William McKinley.

In August of 1910, Major Miller went to Denver, Colorado to an encampment of Spanish-American War veterans, and there he met up with an old comrade, Army Captain Chesley R. Perry. In 1908, Mr. Perrry had joined the newly formed Rotary Club of Chicago and was "on fire" for Rotary. He had been involved earlier that year as Chairman of the Extension Committee of the Chicago Rotary Club, calling together the 16 Rotary Clubs that existed at the time to a meeting in Chicago. The purpose was to discuss the formation of a National Association. As a result of this meeting, the first Rotary convention was held at the Congress Hotel in Chicago. The National Association of Rotary Clubs was formed and Chesley Perry was elected the Secretary. All of this early Rotary Global History was related to Major Miller at the Denver encampment.

During the very next month, September of 1910, Ches Perry was attending a meeting of the Perry's Victory Commission in Cleveland, and he and Major Miller again talked about Rotary. Ches went into all the details regarding the organization.

As a result, Major Miller began to build interest locally and finally asked Ches Perry to again come to Cleveland, which he promised to do. In October of 1910, Major Miller, assisted by Thomas Goss, gathered about a dozen or so men and they met for lunch in a small room in the old Chamber of Commerce building. These men set about becoming an organizing committee to form a Rotary Club. Major Miller was the acting President and Arthur E. Merkel, a patent lawyer, became the acting Secretary.

The names of the first twelve to fifteen men who were involved is a bit fuzzy in the records of the Club and in the memories of those who later commented about the meeting. Also, it seems that, to these early Rotarians, there was a mixing up of who was Ches Perry and who was Paul Harris. It is most likely that Ches Perry attended the October 1910 meeting while Paul Harris and Ches Perry both were in attendance at the subsequent December 1 organizational meeting.

Certainly present at the October meeting, in addition to Major Miller and Arthur Merkel, were: William Downie, master painter of the William Downie Painting Company; Herman R, Neff, an architectural engineer; Herman Moss of the Equitable Insurance Society; and William Storch, water heater sales.

At this meeting, a temporary organizational committee was set up. A Nominating Committee was formed as well as a Constitution and By-laws Committee. Each man present was to bring a list of ten names to the next meeting. By October 29, 1910, they had some 50 members pledged. The goal was to get 100 names and then schedule a dinner and get a permanent organization started. They were advised to go slow with a view to making the best selections possible for new members.

Eventually, on Thursday, December 1, 1910, a formal organizational meeting was held at the Chamber of Commerce, with 35 men present. Paul Harris and Chesley R. Perry were both in attendance. They answered questions and made presentations to the new Rotarians. Officers were elected for the fiscal year beginning on January 1, 1911. Charles R. Miller was elected as the first President of the Rotary Club of Cleveland.

It was voted to hold meetings on every second Monday, and an entertainment committee was instructed to decide on the next place of meeting. At this organizational meeting it was moved that a member absenting himself without a written excuse for three consecutive meetings be dropped from membership. This idea exists in various forms in Rotary yet today. The cost of the dinner at the organizational meeting was $1.00.

Annual dues were set at $15 and it was carefully pointed out to the membership that this included twelve meals as well. Thus the luncheon plan subsequently set up in 1985 by the Rotary Club of Cleveland was nothing new; it had been in existence in 1910-1911.

After the meeting on December 1, Paul Harris and Ches Perry, along with others, adjourned to the Hollenden House (I'm guessing it was actually the bar) for further talk and relaxation, beginning yet another tradition that continues to this day. So, there you have a little bit of Rotary Global History.


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