Rotary began as an idea more than 100 years ago. The world’s first service club Rotary International was founded on 23 February 1905 when lawyer Paul P. Harris and three friends met in a small office in downtown Chicago. These men wanted to rekindle in the turn-of-the- century city the spirit of friendliness they had known in their hometowns. World of the club soon spread and others were invited to join. They named their new club Rotary to describe the practice of meeting in rotation at the members’ various places of business.
Originally formed for fellowship, the first Rotary club quickly evolved to use the talents and resources of its members to serve the community. By the end of 1905, the Rotary Club of Chicago had 30 members. Three years later a second club was established in San Francisco, California, USA. The next year three more clubs were established on the west coast of the United States and a fourth in New York City. Within a few years other groups formed service clubs based on the Rotary model.
The first Rotary convention was held in the Congress Hotel in Chicago in August 1910. The National Association of Rotary Clubs was organized at that time with 16 member clubs. Rotary Founder Paul Harris was elected the association’s first president.
As Rotary grew, its mission expanded beyond serving club members’ professional and social interests. Rotarians began pooling their resources and contributing their talents to help serve communities in need. The organization’s dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its motto: “Service above Self”.
By July 1925, Rotary had grown to more than 2,000 clubs and an estimated 108,000 members. The organization’s distinguished reputation attracted presidents, prime ministers, and a host of other luminaries to its ranks — among them author Thomas Mann, diplomat Carlos P. Romulo, humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, and composer Jean Sibelius.
Rotary’s main objective is service — in the community, in the workplace, and around the globe. Rotary is an international humanitarian service organization.