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Brief histories of the "First 100" Clubs

Rotary Club of Joliet 78

Rotary International District 6450

A Historical Look At Rotary in Joliet

(Provided by Joliet Rotary Club Historian Bill Lauer)

What was to become in 1913 the Rotary Club of Joliet, began in 1910 as the Study Club, whose purpose was to study business building, efficiency, and character development.

In 1910, George Lennon attended the first convocation of a proposed school of business organized by Arthur Frederick Sheldon of Chicago.  It was held as a summer session on a North Shore location, which subsequently became the campus of Mundelein College.  George was so impressed by the course that he arranged to have a speaker come to Joliet to give the course to the 16-member Study Club on a biweekly basis.

Upon completion of this course by Study Club members, it was suggested by Maurice Lennon that for the mutual benefit of the group, biweekly meetings be held to follow up the fellowship established and to review the lessons of the course.  Harry N. Tolles was sent by the school to act as organizer and instructor.  Arrangements were made by the group to have dinner meetings at the Commercial Club and that each member take his turn at being chairman of the meeting, thereby rotating the chairmanship.  From this procedure, it was suggested that the group be called Rotary Club, not knowing, at the time, about Rotary International.

With Harvey Weeks as president, the group embarked upon an ambitious venture.  In the Adam-Arcade Building (later destroyed by fire and now the site of the Chicago Title and Trust Company at Ottawa and Van Buren streets), which was just completed and still without tenants, they staged the Joliet Business Show and Efficiency Congress, June 11-14, 1913, with exhibitions of modern business and office equipment.  The manufacturers were permitted to exhibit without fee.  Local schools added interest with educational exhibits.  Mayor Harvey E. Wood made the opening address and the public attended by the thousands.  It was an unqualified success. 

Up to this time, Rotary International had maintained its policy of opposition to affiliation of clubs in cities with less than 75,000 population.  Harvey Weeks had approached the organization earlier and had met with firm rebuff, inasmuch as Rotary International believed Rotary would not be workable in a town the size of Joliet. 

Attracted by the widespread favorable publicity the show was receiving, a Chicago Rotary delegation, headed by Chesley R. Perry, Secretary, came to give the show and the group a critical examination.  So impressed was the delegation that it requested a meeting with a committee to discuss the ways and means to receive the Joliet group into Rotary International membership.  The meeting was held on June 14 at the Hobbs Hotel. 

In commenting upon the show, Harvey Weeks said, "It was evident to the committee that we had practiced Rotary and what it preached as to 'Service Above Self'.  Everything in that show was absolutely free.  We had spent much time in Chicago getting exhibits, and manufacturers could hardly believe it would be free advertising for them, whereas all other large cities charged fees to finance the undertaking.  We got the building free, for it was great advertising for the Adam Arcade.  The total amount spent was about $150 for everything, which the members paid by voluntary contributions."

In the minutes of the June 24, 1913 meeting, a motion was made by Mr. Brooks that the Joliet Rotary Club apply for membership in the International Association of Rotary Clubs.  Seconded by Mr. Al Bannon. The motion carried unanimously.  

Joliet Rotary was accepted into membership at the International Convention held in Buffalo, August 18-21, 1913.   

July 8, 1913, was considered the last regular meeting of the Study Club, and all members and their lady friends were invited to attend.

It should be remembered that we were officially chartered August 1, 1913, then officially certified at the International Convention.  We became the first Rotary Club from a city of less than 75,000 people, therefore we are Number ONE in many respects.

The September 4, 1913 minutes show that the following men were elected:  President--Mr. Brooks, Vice President--John Anderson, Treasurer--Ed Lennon, Secretary--James Bannon, and Sgt.-at-Arms--Frank Fitzgerald.  For the first Board of Directors:  Mr. Lord, one year, Mr. Weeks, two years, and Maurice Lennon, three years.

Mr. Lord moved that we adopt a membership fee of $10.00 and annual dues of $2.00.  He also moved that the constitution formerly adopted be abrogated and that we adopt the model constitution of the International Association.  The motion carried.  Later at the September 11, 1913 meeting, they adopted a membership fee of $5.00 and annual dues of $5.00.

Noon luncheons were started in place of dinner meetings on September 22, 1914, in the Hobbs Cafe.  Since then, Joliet Rotary has held its luncheon meetings in the Universalist Church parlors, Snapps Cafeteria, Chamber of Commerce, Masonic Temple, YMCA, Woodruff Hotel, Louis Joliet Hotel, and Louis Joliet Renaissance Center.

Since 1913, the Joliet Rotary Club, by recommendations to Rotary International, has ceded territory as well as helped establish new territories by starting Rotary Clubs in Ottawa (1914), Morris (1915), Kankakee (1915), Streator (1919), LaSalle (1920), DeKalb (1921), Aurora (1923), Manteno (1937) Wilmington (1938) and Lockport (1966).  The Club has produced four District Governors:  J. Stanley Brown 1918-19, Rev. Henry E. Rompel 1923-24, Ralph E. Morgan 1957-58, and Robert E. Leckrone 1986-87. 

In 1987, Rotary International extended membership to women in the United States.  The first women inducted into Joliet Rotary were:  Mary Jane Broncato, Ruth Calvert Fitzgerald, Carolyn Healy and Sister Dismas Janssen.

 

(Provided by Joliet Rotary Club Historian Bill Lauer)  

Land of Lincoln Clubs

Chicago #1

Peoria #76

Joliet #78

Springfield #83

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