WHEN DID ROTARY BECOME "INTERNATIONAL?"
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When did Rotary become "INTERNATIONAL?"
Winnipeg - The (unofficial) 17th Club of Rotary
Organized 3 November 1910 under the National Association of Rotary Clubs
Chartered 13 April 1912 by the National Association of Rotary Clubs

From the collection of Wolfgang Ziegler
Winnipeg, was *organized on 3 November 1910 and chartered on 13 April 1912. Rotary continued to be called the "National Association of Rotary Clubs" until after the "Charter" of Winnipeg and the convention of 1912 in Duluth, Minnesota, USA. At that time, Rotary became the International Association of Rotary Clubs. London was also chartered that year.

So, when did Rotary become "international?" Most early clubs and even clubs today have an attachment to their "organizational" date rather than their "Charter." But, "officially" it would have to be said that in 1910, there was a club "organized" outside of the US. Therefore we were an "international" organization, were we not? But, Rotary did not "officially" call itself "international" until August 1912. Bottom line: Rotary became "International" in 1910!

And that's your "Four Way Test" for today!

Winnipeg was asked to send a delegation to the Portland Convention in 1911. President Harris sent a letter to the club after they declined.

"I am sorry indeed that you cannot have one representative present at the convention. Many of your difficulties would vanish in the enthusiasm and exchange of ideas".

So, we know that if Winnipeg had gone to Portland they would have been admitted to Rotary and made the movement International in 1911.

The club that made Rotary "International"

Our Winnipeg Rotary Club held it's first meeting on November 3rd, 1910, and again 4 days later making it the oldest Rotary Club outside the United States of America. The club was started by Mr. P A C McIntyre who had met with members from the Chicago Club.

In December of 1911 the Winnipeg Club became affiliated with the National Association of Rotary Clubs and on April 1912 the charter was signed by Paul Harris, with a charter also issued to the Winnipeg Rotary Club Limited by the Province of Manitoba on September 14th, 1912.

On July 1st, 1917 the Rev. Leslie D. Pidgeon, a member of the Winnipeg Rotary Club, became President of our International Organization and presided at the 1918 convention in Kansas City.

In the centennial anniversary year, 2010, of the Winnipeg Rotary Club, a new club, the Innisfil RC was chartered meeting in the same place as Canada's first club, the YMCA. 

The Winnipeg Rotary story begins when PAC McIntyre (known simply as PAC) brought the idea of a Rotary Club with a colleague A W Morley who with a few friends met in the old YMCA building on Portage Road at 8pm on November 3rd 1910. They met again on the 7th at Morley's office - 601 McArthur Buliding where George A Kobold was elected the first President.

Chesley Perry wrote to the club to make contact with Winnipeg. The club at this time didn't have any by-laws and also didn't adopt the ritual of the Rotary year running from July to June - Winnipeg's year followed the calendar. The club would join the, then, national association at $1 per capita.

Winnipeg's charter is dated 13th April 1912 and officially makes them Club #35 but try telling Winnipeg this! As their 50th anniversary booklet, which covers 1910-60 says, "…and it (Winnipeg) became the 17th Rotary Club". There was a great deal of disenchantment with the lengthy delay and lack of progress in the Clubs chartering amongst the members.

Before official recognition, the Club did their own thing, as they were removed from 'official' Rotary in Chicago. However, Paul Harris corresponded with the Club, giving sage advice, and wrote "he hoped the members would look beyond tomorrow's business".

The 2nd Object of the Winnipeg Club was to "advance the best interests of the city concerned and to spread the support of civic pride and loyalty among and between her citizens and her commercial enterprises".

Chicago visited in 1911 with Arthur Sheldon who as guest speaker, gave a 95 minute talk on Trade Schools. On the 14th, National Association Treasurer Mac Martin of Minneapolis Rotary Club also attended the meetings and was happy to give members hints, suggestions and explanations of Rotary.

Winnipeg was asked to send a delegation to the Portland Convention in 1911. President Harris sent a letter to the club after they declined.

"I am sorry indeed that you cannot have one representative present at the convention. Many of your difficulties would vanish in the enthusiasm and exchange of ideas".

So, we know that if Winnipeg had gone to Portland they would have been admitted to Rotary and made the movement International in 1911.

Harris himself never made it to Winnipeg as the Club couldn't afford the expense.

By March 1914, the Club had 81 members, though 14 members, including Winnipeg Charter Member PAC McIntyre, were no longer members for non-payment of dues. PAC McIntyre was later re-instated.

In January 1916 Leslie Pidgeon joined the club and immediately made an impact. He gave his first talk on February 9th on community service.
By June, Pidgeon had been nominated by the club for the position of International Vice-President. A year later, Pidgeon was International President. He saw the Winnipeg Club take the lead in the formation of the National Council for Education - it helped raise over $10,000. Another new member in 1916 was Charlie Sayer - founder of the Spokes Club.

1916 also saw the ritual of the weekly meeting commence.

Sir Harry Lauder addressed the club both in 1918 and 1919 - the latter event was marred when a row erupted between Lauder and Charlie Bamford who accused the Scottish Rotarian of perpetuating his 'farewell tours'. The records show that a 'sharp exchange took place'. 'Bamford was not worsted'.

The club magazine, "The Whizz" appeared first on November 5th 1918 under William Wallace.

Delegates didn't make it to the 1919 Convention because of the notorious Winnipeg General Strike. Club members filled in by driving the fire trucks and milk trucks and delivered food.

Winnipeg Rotary Club had many money raising ideas such as their Minstrel Shows. The club supported the Knowles Boys Home. The Manitoba Summer Camp opened in 1924 ably supported by Winnipeg. The club made an enormous impact with their International Goodwill Meetings which began February 1925 with Leslie Pidgeon as the main speaker.

In 1929 Paul Harris was guest speaker. Harris paid tribute to the club at their silver anniversary in 1935. 86 other clubs also sent their best wishes. The Rotary Club of New York said of Winnipeg: - "the first stepping stone towards the Rotary goal of world-wide understanding through a world fellowship of business and professional men united in the ideal of service". Jerusalem Rotary Club paid their tributes with these words: - "Your Club set the Rotary Wheel in motion on a journey which shall never end until the desired achievement of world peace is accomplished".

Calum Thomson
*From the RI Archives Department: 
The Winnipeg Rotary Club was organized (formed) and held it's first meeting on November 3, 1910. This information is according to 50th Anniversary Winnipeg Rotary Club 1910-1960 celebration pamphlet. I believe it to be a reliable source as it includes congratulatory letters from RI President J. Edd McLaughlin and RI General Secretary George R. Means. The National Association of Rotary Clubs admitted Winnipeg on 13 April 1912.

Sincerely,
Cyndi Beck
RI Archives

At the international convention of 1912, in Duluth, Minnesota, USA, Rotary changed its name to the International Association of Rotary Clubs with Winnipeg 35 and London 50 chartered. There were also several Irish and UK clubs organized at that time, but not yet chartered.


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