History & Mission
February 23, 1905. The airplane had yet to stay aloft more than a few minutes. The first motion picture theater had not yet opened. Norway and Sweden were peacefully terminating their union. On this particular day, a Chicago lawyer, Paul P. Harris, called three friends to a meeting. What he had in mind was a club that would kindle fellowship among members of the business community. It was an idea that grew from his desire to find within the large city the kind of friendly spirit that he knew in the villages where he had grown up.
The four businessmen didn't decide then and there to call themselves a Rotary club, but their get-together was, in fact, the first meeting of the world's first Rotary club. As they continued to meet, adding others to the group, they rotated their meetings among the members' places of business, hence the name. Soon after the club name was agreed upon, one of the new members suggested a wagon wheel design as the club emblem. It was the precursor of the familiar cogwheel emblem now worn by Rotarians around the world. By the end of 1905, the club had 30 members.
The second Rotary club was formed in 1908 half a continent away from Chicago in San Francisco, California. It was a much shorter leap across San Francisco Bay to Oakland, California, where the third club was formed. Others followed in Seattle, Washington, Los Angeles, California, and New York City, New York. Rotary became international in 1910 when a club was formed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. By 1921 the organization was represented on every continent, and the name Rotary International was adopted in 1922.
The main objective of Rotary is service - in the community, the workplace, and throughout the world. Rotarians foster and encourage the ideal of "service above self" through the betterment of business and professional ethics, promote international understanding and goodwill, and provide humanitarian service.
Rotary International has a decentralized structure, with local clubs that are autonomous and community-based. Each service club works to improve the quality of life at home and around the world.
Rotary members have the collective expertise and skills to implement dynamic and sustainable programs in the areas of hunger, poverty, and illiteracy, with particular emphasis on children, the aging, and the disabled.
We are 1.2 million neighbours, friends, and community leaders who come together to create positive, lasting change in our communities and around the world.