Rotary Timeline

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 )

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”


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.


“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”


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.”


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.


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


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.

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,


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.”


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.

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.

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.


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.

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.


Rotary “principles” adopted in form of five objectives


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 the Duluth, Minnesota USA convention when Rotary become the International Association of  Rotary Clubs.


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.

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”.


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

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.”


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


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.


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

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)

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. 

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 of Philadelphia. 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.


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


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


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


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.


Club #300 Huntington, Ind., U.S.A.


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.


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

Club #500 Fremont, Nebr., U.S.A.


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


The International Association of Rotary Clubs is shortened to Rotary International


Club #2000 Ketchikan, Alaska D5010

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


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.


Harris’ tour of Europe is described in his personal journal


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:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build good will and better friendships?
  4. Will if be beneficial to all concerned?

The “Four Way Test” was adopted by Rotary International in January of 1943


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.


In 1933, Rotary International held its 24th convention in 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! 

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 dies,   June 14, 1872 – July 18, 1933

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


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.


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.


Club #4,000 Hanover, PA., U.S.A.


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


Club #5,000 Rockmart, GA, U.S.A.


“Ches” Perry retires as the first secretary of the National Association of Rotary and then Rotary International after serving over three decades.  

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


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?”



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


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.

27 January, 1947

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


Paul’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


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:


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.


Donald MacRae died in 1957

23 April, 1959

Harry Ruggles, the “Fifth Rotarian” dies


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


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.


Jean Harris, dies in Edinburgh, Scotland 


Rotary Foundation launches Matching Grants and Group Study Exchange programs


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


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


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


US Supreme Court rules women can be members of Rotary


Council on Legislation changes the constitution and MOP to include women


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


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)


Western Hemisphere declared polio-free


Rotary returns to China, in Hong Kong


Rotary Centers for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution established


(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.


30,000th Rotary club chartered Rotary Global History establishes Rotary returns to mainland China in Shanghai and Beijing


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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…