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Founding Years


Starting with the first club meeting in 1905, our founding years focus on building an organization that encourages community connections based on friendship and service.

The first four Rotarians: Gustavus Loehr, Silvester Schiele, Hiram Shorey, and Paul P. Harris.

1905: Rotary begins

Attorney Paul P. Harris convenes the first Rotary meeting on 23 February in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Harris envisions a professional club that brings together local men from a variety of vocations.

1907: Early service project

The Rotary Club of Chicago meets with civic organizations to discuss the need for comfort stations (public toilets) to improve sanitation in the city.

Program for the meeting to discuss public toilets, October 1907.

An early Rotary Club of San Francisco emblem, circa 1911.

1908: Rotary's second city

San Francisco, California, USA, becomes the second city to have a Rotary club in November.

1910: Clubs form an association

Members representing 16 Rotary clubs gather at the first Rotary Convention, in Chicago in 1910. They create the National Association of Rotary Clubs of America, adopt a constitution and bylaws for the organization, and elect a board of directors. As members of the association, Rotary clubs remain autonomous but share core values.

Notice for a convention to establish an association of Rotary clubs, May 1910.

The Rotarian magazine was originally called The National Rotarian. The first issue included an essay written by Paul Harris and club news items.

1911: The Rotarian magazine

Rotary publishes the first issue of The Rotarian magazine in January 1911, with the purpose of delivering standard messages to all clubs and sharing news from clubs and members. The magazine's name changes to Rotary in 2020.

1911: Our Motto

Rotarians at the 1911 convention embrace an early version of our primary motto, Service Above Self. They also adopt an early version of our secondary motto, One Profits Most Who Serves Best. Two slogans were formally approved as official mottoes in 1950: He Profits Most Who Serves Best and Service Above Self.

A name badge from the 1928 Rotary convention features both mottoes

Explore more of Rotary's history