Rotary History


What is Rotary?

ROTARY is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders: men and women of all ages who aim to improve people’s lives by participating in projects that benefit their own and other communities. Projects range in scope from feeding homeless children to the global elimination of polio and are as diverse as the communities Rotarians live in.

ROTARY was founded in Chicago in 1905 and now includes more than 1.2 million individuals, who belong to 35,000 clubs in almost 200 countries around the world. Each Rotarian belongs to a local club and the clubs form the larger organization, Rotary International.

For more information about Rotary and its remarkable variety of humanitarian, educational and cultural exchange programs, visit the Rotary International website at



The History of Rotary

Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, was a lawyer  in Chicago. On February 23, 1905, he and three other gentlemen founded Rotary, the original service club.  The name Rotary was selected because the meeting place rotated from office to office of the members. The following year, 1906, a buggy wheel emblem was adopted. The current emblem with 24 cogs, six spokes, and a keyway, was approved in 1924.

The American West played an important part in the development and growth of Rotary. The second club, San Francisco, was founded in 1908. Oakland was number three, followed by Seattle, Los Angeles, New York City and Boston in 1909. The next year, 1910, the Winnipeg, Canada Club was formed and Rotary became international.

Notable Rotarians

Rotarians are your neighbors, your community leaders and some of the world’s greatest history-makers:

  • Warren G. Harding, U.S. president
  • Jean Sibelius, Finnish composer
  • Dr. Charles H. Mayo, co-founder of Mayo Clinic
  • Guglielmo Marconi, Italian inventor of the wireless radio and Nobel laureate
  • Thomas Mann, German novelist and Nobel laureate
  • Friedrich Bergius, German chemist and Nobel laureate
  • Admiral Richard E. Byrd, American explorer
  • Jan Masaryk, foreign minister of Czechoslovakia
  • H.E. Soleiman Frangieh, president of Lebanon
  • Dianne Feinstein, U.S. senator
  • Manny Pacquaio, Filipino world-champion boxer and congressman
  • Richard Lugar, U.S. senator
  • Frank Borman, American astronaut
  • Edgar A. Guest, American poet and journalist
  • Sir Harry Lauder, Scottish entertainer
  • Franz Lehar, Austrian composer
  • Lennart Nilsson, Swedish photographer
  • James Cash Penney, founder of JC Penney Co.
  • Carlos Romulo, UN General Assembly president
  • Sigmund Sternberg, English businessman and philanthropist

Ready to make history with us? Get involved.