After being in Chicago and feeling as though he was only able to make “acquaintances, but not real friends” he began to wonder if others in the big city had the same thoughts and if they too were searching for the fellowship of the small towns they left behind.
Paul Percy Harris was born on April 19, 1868 in Racine, Wisconsin and at the age of three was moved to Vermont to live with his paternal grandparents.  He attended college at Princeton University and became a Lawyer, making his business in Chicago.
 
After being in Chicago for some time, and felling as though he only was able to make “acquaintances, but not real friends.”  He began to wonder if others in the big city had the same thoughts, and, if they too were searching for the fellowship of the small towns they left behind.
 
It all started with an idea that stayed with him for years, as Paul Harris stated in his book “My Road to Rotary” which was published posthumously in 1948 “I did not act upon my impulse at once; months and even years passed. In the life of great movements it is necessary that one man who has faith walk alone for a time. I did walk alone but eventually in February 1905 I called three young business men to meet with me and I laid before them a very simple plan of mutual co-operation and informal friendship such as all of us had once known in our villages. They agreed to my plan.”
 
In 1905 Paul founded Rotary in Chicago for fellowship and mutual helpfulness.  At that time, membership was limited to one man from each business or profession, as is still the practice today.  The name “Rotary” was chosen for the club’s practice of holding each meeting rotating at different member’s locations of business.
 

||Rotary’s first community service project was a public comfort restroom installed in City Hall in Chicago, Illinois.||

 
In 1908, the second Rotary Club was organized in San Francisco, California and a year later club number three was organized.  The third club was started in Oakland, California which is where the regular weekly luncheon meetings were started and continue to this day.

The first national convention of the Rotary Clubs of America was held in Chicago, Illinois at the Congress Hotel on South Michigan Avenue on August 15 through 17 in 1910 with 60 members in attendance.  In his inaugural convention opening address, Mr. Harris stated “This is going to be a convention in which we will get down to business and endeavor to launch the National Association of Rotary Clubs.”  This first convention centered on joint resolutions, the club’s constitution, and its by-laws.
 
By 1912 there were 50 clubs and 5,000 members.  The members of the Rotary Club continued to steadily grow and flourish until 1930 with 11,000 registered members from 58 countries –breaking all current records up to 1930.  However, during the 1932 world-wide depression 27 clubs were terminated and the membership roles were reduced by 2,000.
 
You can discover more amazing facts through Paul Harris’ own writings and learn about the growth of Rotary at the Rotary Global History Fellowship Website or at the Rotary site.
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