Rotary History Timeline
HOME GLOBAL DISTRICTS CLUBS MISSING HISTORIES PAUL HARRIS PEACE
PRESIDENTS CONVENTIONS POST YOUR HISTORY WOMEN FOUNDATION COMMENTS PHILOSOPHY
LEGAL ISSUES CLUB PRESIDENTS DISTRICT GOVERNORS TRUSTEES DIRECTORS 1ST PRESIDENT TIMELINE
EARLY HISTORY RGHF VOICES FAMOUS WOMEN ROTARY ANN JEAN THOMSON INNER WHEEL SUBSCRIPTIONS
SEARCH

Rotary History Timeline

More RGHF timelines

Women in Rotary,

The life of Paul Harris

First Clubs of each Country

The first 100 and other early clubs

The RI Archives of Early Clubs

The Rotary Foundation

RI's 1905-48 timeline added to Harris' "My Road to Rotary"

The 1905-76 timeline from "Adventures in Service"

Youth History

History Calendar

After you've completed Your "History Tour,"

play Fun history quiz. 

Match wits with the fellowship of Rotary Historians

19 April, 1868

Paul Percy Harris is born in Racine, Wisconsin to George H. and Cornelia E. Harris.
(There is a complete, illustrated history timeline on Paul Harris, his family, Rotary and his career at  www.rghfhome.org/first100/presidents/1910harris/paulharris)

29 June 1870

Paul's client, friend, and founding member Silvester Schiele is born. "Silvester Schiele, my most intimate Chicago friend, and one of the three who first met with me, was made our first president, and has been a constant member." Paul Harris, from "My Road to Rotary"

1871

Paul and his older brother Cecil are brought to live with his grandparents, Howard and Pamela Rustin Harris in Wallingford, Vermont  The 2012 RGHF Institute, Denver, for photos of Paul's parents' graves.

1872

"The advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service."

The Fourth Object of Rotary initially composed by Donald MacRae, born 13 June 1872 and died in 1957.

Just one day later, James Wheeler Davidson, was born  14 June 1872. An American Born, Calgary Rotarian who carried Rotary "Around the World"

1888

While Paul is at Princeton, Howard Harris dies March 17th, 1888. Paul's grandfather had given him a road map for success in life. He had taught him one thing above all else. That was "Tolerance." "I think I inherited something of grandfather's broad spirit of tolerance. Grandfather was an ambassador of good-will in the eyes of the youngster who sat at his table during his impressionable years; he never spoke evil of any man nor of any man's religion or politics."
 (My Road to Rotary, by Paul Harris, page 208, copyright Rotary International)

(There is a complete, illustrated history timeline on Paul Harris, his family, Rotary and his career at 

www.rghfhome.org/first100/presidents/1910harris/paulharris )

1891

Paul gains his law degree and upon hearing a former law student tell his class, "Go to a small town and make a fool of yourself for five years, then go to the big city." Instead Paul gave himself five years to see the world.

(There is a complete, illustrated history timeline on Paul Harris, his family, Rotary and his career at www.rghfhome.org/first100/presidents/1910harris/paulharris )

1896

Harris arrives in Chicago. He becomes one of Chicago's outstanding attorneys.

1900

Invited to dinner by a fellow attorney, Paul Harris is inspired to start an organization where men of different professions could gather in fellowship. He spends some five years considering this possibility.

How Rotary really started, in the words of Paul Harris, Founder of Rotary, recorded on 20 December 1945

1905 
1 Club

First gathering, on Thursday evening,  23 February 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. by attorney Paul P. Harris.  Young Harris, fresh from a wild five years as a reporter, actor, cowboy, seaman, granite salesman, fruit picker and hotel clerk, five years building a successful law practice, then had an idea. It was regarding observations of success and respect which could come from organizing professional acquaintances. More years passed. He had given this much thought by the time he and Silvester Schiele walked over to Gus Loehr's office, in Room 711 that cold winter night in 1905, almost 9 years from his arrival in Chicago.  Several weeks later, Schiele was elected the first president of Rotary when the meeting was held in his office. Harris suggested several names, one of them being "Rotary."

Who were "Members 2-5?"  From Paul Harris' second book, "This Rotarian Age" 1935, you can now know the truth and very interesting stories of those first men. It also stands as the best textbook on Rotary. For a timeline of the first 100 clubs and other early clubs, visit this page

StatCounter - Free Web Tracker and Counter ROTARY/One presents "The Boys of 1905" circa 1996

1906

Members agree to be on "first name" basis. Singing introduced by Harry L. Ruggles. Rotary "Wagon Wheel" emblem adopted, the first of many variations of "wheel emblems" to be used by different clubs, until 1912, when a geared wheel was adopted, this to be follow by authorization of an official emblem (1924), a wheel of six spokes, twenty-four cogs, and a "keyway."

1907

First community service project: a "public comfort station" in Chicago near City Hall for men and women.  Harris writes that he was pressured by both the saloon keepers and lady's garment stores not to install such a convenience.

1908 
2 Clubs

Second club formed in San Francisco California, U.S.A. by businessman Homer Wood. Paul Harris had asked Chicago Rotarian, Manuel Munoz, who was being sent to San Francisco by his employer, to "spread the word" about Rotary. The timing was perfect. San Francisco businessmen needed a boost. It has been just two years since the devastating earthquake of 1906 which nearly destroyed the city.

1909
7 Clubs

Homer Wood then organized Oakland, California, USA #3, Seattle, Washington, USA #4 and Los Angeles, California, USA #5 by the end of 1909. Two days after Christmas, Seattle #4 organized Tacoma, Washington, USA #8. It was an answer to Paul Harris' prayers. Rotary was an idea that could be taken to many cities.

Now read the order in which Rotary Founder Paul Harris inadvertently counted the first five clubs.

1910

San Francisco Rotarian William Stuart Morrow becomes an unlikely figure in Rotary Global History. His San Francisco business dissolves and he returns home to Dublin, Ireland and brings Rotary with him. He organizes several clubs in Ireland and the UK He has the full the endorsement of Paul Harris and Ches Perry, until he runs afoul of London Rotarians.

1910 
16 Clubs

First Rotary convention was held in Chicago, 15-17 August, with sixteen clubs in Rotary. The National Association of Rotary Clubs was formed. Paul Harris was elected president of the Association and served two terms. Chesley R. Perry began 32 years of service as Secretary, then General Secretary of Rotary from 1910-1942.

1910

Rotary "principles" adopted in form of five objectives

1910

Rotary becomes "international" on 3 November 1910 with the "organization" of Rotary Club of Winnipeg, Canada. Winnipeg then was chartered as Club #35 on 13 April 1912 prior to theDuluth, Minnesota USA convention when Rotary become the International Association of  Rotary Clubs.

1910

Paul becomes a founding member of the Prairie Club of Chicago. On one of the club's early hikes a beautiful young woman from Edinburgh, Scotlandpoints out a tear in his jacket and offers to fix it. Jean Thomson and Paul Harris were married several months later. In two years he bought her a large home and they named their home after a road in Edinburgh, "Comely Bank." There they started their life long friendship garden.

1911
31 Clubs

Convention in Portland. 15 new clubs had joined the ranks of NARC. Many others were organized and "doing" business as those in the United Kingdom were.

By Rotary's 25th anniversary, Rotary had spread rapidly across the Atlantic to Ireland, Great Britain and Western Europe.  Six years after Chicago lawyer Paul Harris had formed the first Rotary club in 1905, clubs were organized in Dublin and Belfast in  Ireland, and  London and Manchester in England. These were  followed in 1912 by clubs in Glasgow and Edinburgh.   Harry Lauder was one among many Britons who embraced Rotary in those early days. As one of the world's most popular entertainers through the first half of the century, Lauder joined the Rotary Club of Glasgow in 1914. A year later he wrote, "Rotary is going to be the greatest and grandest cooperative institution ever founded".

1911

The National Rotarian magazine was born with General Secretary Ches Perry as the editor. Also see editorial.

22 August 1911, Rotarian Frank Collins, introduced what was to become "Service above Self" to Rotary.

At the same convention, "He Profits Most Who Serves Best" was introduced to the convention. This was the work of Arthur "Fred" Sheldon, teacher of business, creator of Rotary's "classification system," author of one of our mottos. One of Rotary's most forward "Early Leaders."

1911

At the 1911 convention in Portland, the Rotary Club of Seattle proposes a platform that becomes the Rotary platform  Today's platform is much the same.

"He Profits Most Who Serves Best" is also part of that platform

1912

50 Clubs meet in Duluth with delegates from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and the organization becomes "The International Association of Rotary Clubs." London joins the same year as the 50th club. 5,000 members. Paul Harris is named President emeritus.

1912

First districts (then called divisions) are established, 8 in U.S.A., 2 in Canada, one in Britain and Ireland. By year's end there were 54 Clubs

1913
89 Clubs

During 18-21 August of 1913, 930 Rotarians gathered in Buffalo, NY, USA for the fourth convention. The charter process catches up with six UK clubs. See Ireland-UK. & Archives

Rotary contributes $25,000 active relief funds to help flood victims in Ohio and Indiana

30 October 1913, the first meeting of British Clubs which would become RIBI (Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland)

The First Crisis

1914:
100th Club

The 100th club of the International Association of Rotary Clubs is formed on 1 March in Phoenix, AZ, USA.  However, on that particular Sunday, and only that one day in March, there was not one qualified application but six. There is no record of how #100, of the six (#100 - 105) was determined from that selection. And, so this website, with the "Four Way Test" as a guide, has created /clubs/100+ to recognize the "other five" clubs of that day.

1914 Convention
123 Clubs 
15,000 Rotarians

22-26 June and 1,288 Rotarians make the long journey to Houston, TX, USA.  Rotarian Henry Brunier (RIP 1952)  of San Francisco and his wife "Ann" boarded a special train for the convention. Since Ann was the only woman on the train for most of the trip, the other Rotarians began calling her "Rotary Ann". In Houston the Bruniers met Guy and Ann Gundaker ofPhiladelphia. Soon the name "Rotary Ann"  belonged to Guy's wife as well. The term "Rotary Ann" lasted until the late 1980's. Gundaker was RIP 1923-24.

1914

War - British Clubs involved in relief work e.g., housing Belgian refugees

1915

The term "Governor" is established for districts. Columbus, GA., U.S.A. is Charter #200

1916

El Club Rotario de la Habana, capital of Cuba. First club in a non-English speaking country. 1 June 1916

1917

In 1917, Arch C. Klumph, Rotary's sixth president, proposed to the Rotary International Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, the creation of an "endowment fund for Rotary. . . for the purpose of doing good in the world in charitable, educational, and other avenues of community service." A few months later, the endowment received its first contribution of $26.50 from the Rotary Club of Kansas City, Missouri, USA.

Also at the 1917 convention: Klumph insisted that the District Governors know the International Constitution and be acquainted with Rotary Global History.

1917

Club #300 Huntington, Ind., U.S.A.

1918

Club #400 Fort Scott, Kans., U.S.A. 40,000 members world-wide.

One of the less well known Rotary Clubs and, indeed, one that was never chartered was the ALLIED ROTARY CLUB OF FRANCE. Before he left the United States for Europe in the later days of world war one, Ancil Brown, the secretary of the Indianapolis RC and auditor for the YMCA, was authorized by the Board of the IARC to arrange regular meetings for Rotarians stationed in Paris or its vicinity.

1919

First Rotary Club in Asia is chartered in Manila. 1 June 1919

Club #500 Fremont, Nebr., U.S.A.

1921

Club #1000 York, England. Rotarians James W. Davidson, of Calgary, and J. Layton Ralston of Halifax, appointed as commissioners to organize clubs in Australia and New Zealand.

First Club of Europe (except Ireland and Great Britain) 1 January 1921 RC of Madrid

First Rotary Club of Australia 21 April 1921 RC of Melbourne

First Rotary Club of Africa 1 July 1921, RC of Johannesburg

1922

The International Association of Rotary Clubs is shortened to Rotary International

Also see the comment by the King of England.

1923: Another Crisis Met.

1925

Club #2000 Ketchikan, Alaska D5010

The Aims and Objects Plan was adopted by Rotary International at the Ostend, Belgium, Convention in 1927. See editorial

1928

Paul Harris' signature is all that is seen on the cover of his 1928 autobiography "The Founder of Rotary," with a forward by RI General Secretary Chesley R. Perry. Portions of this rare book are displayed here for Rotarians to read.

The entire book is also online to be read or printed

1928

Harris' tour of Europe is described in his personal journal

1932

4-Way Test was formulated by Chicago Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor who, in the summer of 1932 had a serious business problem.  How he solved it is a legend of Rotary.  In 1968 Taylor wrote: "I leaned over my desk, rested my head in my hands, and prayed. After a few moments, I looked up and reached for a white paper card. Then I wrote down the twenty-four words that had come to me: "Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will if be beneficial to all concerned?"  The "Four Way Test" was adopted by Rotary International in January of 1943

(On the right a 1959 Oakland Club 3 billboard. Click to enlarge both images)

1932

Paul Harris' unpublished diary of his journey to Europe in 1932, during which time he planted "Friendship Trees" in many European cities. The first tree, planted by Harris, on foreign soil was in Berlin.

1933

Hear Paul Here!  In 1933, Rotary International held its 24th convention in Paul Harris "on the air" speaks to non-Rotarians, who he says may be "Rotarians in their hearts."Boston, MA, USA, from 26-30 June with 8,430 in attendance. Rotary's president was from Albuquerque, NM. General Secretary was Chesley Perry. Paul Harris remained active as president emeritus. During the convention, a radio broadcast was arranged heard "around the world" and addressed to "non-Rotarians." Perry introduced Harris who told his audience "of the air" that if they have "Love of 'men' in their heart," then they are potential Rotarians! Now you can listen to a recording of this famous broadcast.

The first of what may be several non‑English editions of THE ROTARIAN, very appropriately named REVISTA ROTARIA, was published in Spanish

James Wheeler Davidson   June 14, 1872 - July 18, 1933

An American Born, Calgary Rotarian who carried Rotary "Around the World"

1935

Paul Harris writes his second autobiography, "This Rotarian Age,", this time mostly about the evolution of Rotary in the first 30 years of the organization.

1935

 Paul and Jean travel, on behalf of Rotary, to Hawaii, Japan, China, The Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. He records their travels, meetings and his philosophy in Peregrinations II.

Paul writes a statement of international philosophy from Parramatta, Australia. Along the way they plant many of the Friendship Trees, now on display as part of our project.

1936

Club #4,000 Hanover, PA., U.S.A.

1936

Paul and Jean travel, again, at the invitation of the board of directors, to Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, Peru Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Harris writes about the travels, but continues to record his philosophy of Rotary's power for peace.  They also plant many more Friendship Trees

The travels are published as Peregrinations III and copyright is by Jean Harris

1939

Club #5,000 Rockmart, GA, U.S.A.

1942

"Ches" Perry retires as the first secretary of the National Association of Rotary and then Rotary International after serving over three decades.  See tribute in The Rotarian

Seven Rotarians conferred honorary membership on General Douglas Macarthur, in a dark tunnel amongst wounded soldiers, prior to the fall of Corregidor.

1943

January, 1943 Adoption of the Four Way Test, written by Chicago Rotarian Herb Taylor: "Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will if be beneficial to all concerned?"

1945

Rotary and the UNROTARY AND THE UNITED NATIONS:

Forty-nine Rotarians help draft the United Nations Charter in San Francisco. Many of the delegates from around the world were also members of Rotary clubs. Question? How did it come to pass that the U.S. government called upon Rotary to become involved in this peace movement in 1945?

17 December 1945 Silvester Schiele dies

1946

Adventures in Service was first published in the last year of Paul Harris' life, 1946. It continued to be updated and printed for many years.  For Rotary Global History it constitutes a summary of our project in that it reflects the history and Rotary orientation of the "Paul Harris" years.

January 271947

After a many years of ill health, Rotary founder Paul Harris dies (see obituary)  Paul Harris was prominent in other civic and professional work.

1947

 aul's widow, Jean Thomson Harris, suffers a nervous breakdown. Then, alone and childless, sold "Comely Bank" and lived in a Chicago hotel. Until 1955, she was involved incharity and philanthropy.

Also, in 1947 the first 18 Rotary Foundation scholarships were granted.

Both Paul's and Silvester Schiele's graves have become a memorial www.paulharrismemorial.org

1948

"My Road to Rotary," the third book and second autobiography, written by Paul P. Harris is published. The first edition included 14 pages of highlights from 1905 - 1948.These were written for the publisher A. Kroch and Son, by Rotary International under the direction of Rotary's second General Secretary, Philip Lovejoy.

 In this book you'll hear Paul tell how Rotary came to be. How he became the person who had the vision to create this great movement. It is the only way to understand the values of Rotary from the man who taught them.  For his words, sent to you each week by email: www.whatpaulharrissaid.org

1955

Rotary's Golden Jubilee is celebrated on 23 February with much fanfare in Chicago. Then on May 29 through June 2, the 46th Convention again celebrates the 50th year of Rotary and features a last appearance by Rotary's "First Lady." Following the 50th anniversary convention (1955), held in Chicago, Jean Thomson Harris returned to Edinburgh.

1957

Donald MacRae died in 1957

23 April 1959

Harry Ruggles, the "Fifth Rotarian" dies

1960

Chesley Reynolds Perry, secretary of Rotary 1910-1942 dies 21 February 1960. Called the "Builder of Rotary" by founder Paul Harris.

Article from the April issue of The Rotarian

1962

First Interact club was formed by Melbourne, Florida U.S.A. Rotary Club. In August of 1962, Jean Harris attends a small reception for the 50th anniversary of RC of Edinburgh. RI president elect Carl P. Miller was in attendance. RC of Edinburgh kept in close touch with Mrs. Harris until her death. The club maintains signs and remembrances to this day.

1963

Jean Harris, dies in Edinburgh, Scotland 

1965

Rotary Foundation launches Matching Grants and Group Study Exchange programs

1976

Homer Wood, founder of RC of San Francisco, and instrumental in the formation of Oakland, Seattle, and Los Angeles, dies in June.

1978

Tokyo convention, R.I.'s largest ever — 39,834 registrants

1985

Rotary announces PolioPlus program to immunize all the children of the world against polio

1987

US Supreme Court rules women can be members of Rotary

1989

Council on Legislation changes the constitution and MOP to include women

1990

Rotary Club of Moscow charted first ever club in then Soviet Union

1990-1991

Preserve Planet Earth program inspires some 2,000 Rotary-sponsored environmental projects. A re-birth of Paul and Jean Harris' "Friendship Trees" good-will trips of the 30's and 40's results in the planting of hundreds of thousands of trees under the leadership of another "Paul" PRIP Paulo Costa, 1990-1991 Brazil (d2000)

1994

Western Hemisphere declared polio-free

1997

Rotary returns to China, in Hong Kong

1999

Rotary Centers for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution established

2000

(Rotary Global History) is organized 11 October 2000 by club #43 in Pueblo, Colorado USA The first Rotary Global History Day

First provisional Rotary Club in Mainland China since WWII in Shanghai.

2001

30,000th Rotary club chartered Rotary Global History establishes www.30000partners.org Rotary returns to mainland China in Shanghai and Beijing

2003

Rotary Global History adds the "First Club" of each Rotary country to the project.  Following the convention in Brisbane, the Centennial Bell begins its journey to all of the "First 100 Clubs" of Rotary to conclude that tour at Chicago for the convention in 2005.  Rotary Global History combines 12 websites into 1 and surrenders 59 domain names to Rotary International in compliance with newly written domain policy. RI's board officially congratulates the ambitious project.

3 October 2003, the Board of Directors of Rotary International officially recognizes Rotary Global History as the newest fellowship of Rotary, under the name "Rotary Global History

2005

23 February 2005: The Rotary Club of Chicago and Rotary International celebrated the centennial of the first meeting of four men whose gathering became a world wide movement.

Centennial of the "Room 711" meeting

2005

Rotary International convened the Centennial Convention 19-22 June 2005 in Chicago, Illinois, the birthplace of Rotary.

2006

Rotary opens extension to China and Cuba (source Rotary International) Only four countries remain polio-endemic: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Polio cases worldwide have dropped by 99 percent since 1985.

2007

The Rotary Foundation celebrates the millionth Paul Harris Fellow by recognizing 34 individuals – one from each Rotary zone. The donors receive plaques and certificates honoring their contributions.

2008

Rotary officially launches its effort to match a US$100 million challenge grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help eradicate polio. 

In 2009, Rotary receives another grant of $255 million from the Gates Foundation and launches Rotary's US$200 Million Challenge to match a portion of the grants and further support efforts to End Polio Now.

2009

Rotary celebrates the 100th RI Convention in Birmingham, England. The event welcomes guest speakers Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, actress and UNICEF goodwill ambassador Mia Farrow, and renowned primatologist and humanitarian Dr. Jane Goodall.

2010

The centennial of Rotary in Canada, and Rotary's claim as an international organization. 2010 COL approves a Fifth Avenue of Service, eClubs become permanent, support recommended for Comely Bank, and more...


Go to All RGHF Menus


RGHF members, who have been invited to this page, may register

RGHF members, who have been invited to this page, may register
If a DGE/N/D joins prior to their year, they will have more exposure to Rotary's Global History by their service year.
This will be beneficial to all concerned.
*Based on paid members, subscribers, Facebook friends, Twitter followers, mobile app users, History Library users, web pages, and articles about Rotary's Global History

RGHF Home | Disclaimer | Privacy | Usage Agreement | RGHF on Facebook | Subscribe | Join RGHF |