This page has information for Rotarians (new, experienced and potential) about Rotary and being a Rotarian.  The articles will be divided into installments for easy reading.  Additionally, you can read the booklet, Rotary Basics, by clicking the name in this section or in the left column.
Part 1:  Background, History & Highlights
Rotary illustrates the Power of One combined with the Power of Many.  It all started with a lonely lawyer named Paul Harris.
Paul moved his legal practice from Des Moines, Iowa to Chicago in 1896.  He missed the collegiality of rural Vermont, where he was raised, so decided to form a social organization for local business leaders. 

On February 23, 1905, Paul held the first meeting with three of his clients:  Hiram Shorey (a merchant tailor), Silvester Schiele (a coal dealer) and Gustavus Loehr (a mining engineer) in Loehr's office.  Harry Ruggles (a printer, often called the fifth Rotarian) joined at the second meeting along with two others.
The group decided to call their organization "Rotary" due to the early practice of rotating meetings between member's businesses.  Soon, the group became too large and started meeting at a hotel, but kept the name.
Silvester Schiele was the first president of the Rotary and initially the primary purpose of the group was to build friendships and to promote business with each other.  Membership was exclusive for the top business leaders of Chicago and only one member from each occupation.
Paul Harris became the third president in 1907 when the club undertook its first public service project - building public toilets in downtown Chicago.  Originally done for business purposes (so that ladies would be able to remain downtown and shop longer), Rotary received a great deal of public praise and thus began a long history of service to communities. 

When Rotary member, Homer Wood, moved from Chicago to San Francisco, he was given Paul's approval to start a second Rotary club.  Wood also formed Rotary clubs in Oakland (#3), Seattle (#4) and Los Angeles (#5).

In August, 1910, the 16 Rotary clubs in the United States held their first convention in Chicago.
Later in 1910, Winnipeg became the city that made Rotary "International", soon followed by clubs forming in Dublin, Ireland and then London, England.

At the second (1911) Rotary Convention in Portland, Oregon, Rotarians adopted the mottos "Service, Not Self" and "He Profits Most Who Serves Best".  These later were adapted to Rotary's official motto of "Service Above Self".