Rotary was born in the City of Chicago on the night of February 23, 1905. It was not the thought of the founder, Paul Harris, a lawyer, and his three friends—a coal merchant, a tailor and a mining engineer—that they were founding an organisation that would some day have world-wide recognition. Rotary came about through the loneliness of one man and the lack of fellowship between men of varied professional and business interests. Thus, Rotary was founded by men who recognised the need for fellowship to be developed through contacts with other businessmen.
In the early stages of Rotary, meetings were held in the various business locations of the individual members. From this process of rotation evolved the name of the organisation, Rotary. As the club grew, it became necessary to have a single meeting place and then followed the idea of making it a luncheon club where men of all faiths could break bread together.
The idea of mutual helpfulness grew and the momentum it created carried the movement from coast to coast. New clubs were being organised in the larger cities throughout the United States. In 1910, the movement spread to Canada and thus Rotary became inter-national. In 1911, the first club was organised outside the Western Hemisphere at Dublin, Ireland. Soon afterwards clubs were organised on the mainland of Europe. By 1921 the movement had spread to New Zealand and flourished to such a remarkable degree that within a few decades there were more Rotarians per population in New Zealand than in any other country.
Today the movement has grown to more than 33,000 Rotary clubs in 210 countries with a membership of over 1.2 Million Rotarians.
On the passing of Paul Harris in 1947, the Rotary Foundation plan was dedicated as a memorial to him and more than 10,000 awards have been granted after the first thirty years it had been in operation.
WHAT IS ROTARY?
Rotary is an ideal in action.
Rotary is thoughtfulness and helpfulness to others.
Rotary is the experience of men of different faiths, different opinions and different nationalities growing in fellowship, wherever they may be. In Rotary, thoughtfulness of others is regarded as the basis of service and helpfulness to others as its expression. Together they constitute the Rotary ideal of service.
Rotary is not a secret organisation nor does it seek to supplant or to interfere with any religious or political organisation. Rotary expects all Rotarians to be faithful to their religion and loyal in their citizenship.
Using the classification principle of one leader from each business or profession, Rotary has had the guidance of many outstanding business and professional men. It has continually been undergoing change but these changes have not been those of the shifting sands or aimless in purpose. Paul Harris, the founder, once said: "That in a changing world the story of Rotary will have to be rewritten many times." Later, in comparing Rotary with a great river with many tributaries, be said: "The great river of Rotary is the sum total of the contributions of many.