For more than 110 years, Rotary members have been addressing challenges around the world.
Grassroots at the core, Rotary links 1.2 million members to form an organization of international scope. It started with the vision of one man — Paul Harris. The Chicago attorney formed the Rotary Club of Chicago on February 23, 1905, so professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas, form meaningful, lifelong friendships, and give back to their communities. Rotary’s name came from the group’s early practice of rotating meetings among the offices of its members.
From "Rotary," a publication of the University of Chicago, in 1934:
Paul P. Harris occupies an almost unique position among leaders of men, in that the movement which he initiated in the city of Chicago in 1905 has, within his own life-time, become a world-wide force of impressive scope and power. The seeds of the Rotary idea germinated in the mind of Paul Harris for several years before he took any action looking toward the establishment of an organization.
In looking back on these years, he has declared that “he conceived of a group of business men banded together socially; then he thought there would be an especial advantage in each member's having exclusive representation of this particular trade of profession. The members would be mutually helpful. He resolved to organize such a club.”
Rotary Club of Philadelphia
Five years after the founding of Rotary, in 1910, there were five bachelors living together in Philadelphia. One of them, W. Warren Shaw, music instructor, had been a classmate of Rotary’s founder, Paul Harris, at the University of Vermont. That was the connection and the reason for the start of the Philadelphia Club which joined the family of Rotary Clubs, soon to be known as Rotary International.
The Rotary Club of Philadelphia was chartered on April 30, 1911, only the 19th in the world. The club has been the home to two Rotary International Presidents—Glenn Mead, the first International President (1912-1913) and Guy Gundaker (1923-1924). Soon after the Club began, the very active Philadelphia members had founded other clubs in Harrisburg, PA; Washington, DC; Baltimore MD, and Camden, NJ. Decades later, many of the more than 50 clubs in the Greater Philadelphia area can trace their roots back to the Rotary Club of Philadelphia.
Glenn Mead and Guy Gundaker and others campaigned relentlessly to elevate Rotary's "objects and purposes" and gradually became successful in leading Rotary to become the unselfish and respected institution that has led to its present enviable status worldwide.
Select excerpts from Rotary Global History Fellowship @rghfhome.org/first100/clubs/cities/clubs/19philadelphia
Pictured in banner photo above: The first four Rotarians (from left): Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, Hiram E. Shorey, Paul P. Harris.