is the largest service organization in the world with over 1-2
million Rotarians organized into 32,000 clubs in 168 countries. In
2005, Rotary celebrated its 100th year of service worldwide,
having been founded in Chicago by attorney Paul Harris in 1905.
The great humanitarian work done by
Rotary International was extended to Marshfield, Wisconsin
in 1919. The club is comprised of a highly
regarded group of approximately 90 community leaders who are
committed to the principle of "service above self."
Rotary was organized on
May 26, 1919
and admitted to Rotary International Aug 1, 1919 with 25
Harris, Service Above Self program was initiated in 1940. A
member of Marshfield Rotary, or a local business leader is
recognized almost every year. Two honorary members include
Melvin Laird and Frederick Fritz Wenzel.
Rotary has produced three district governors: John Adler
1943-44, William Uthmeier 1969-70, John Cross 1980-81
In 1980 the
club started the Rotary Exchange Program, hosting a foreign
student, and sponsoring a Marshfield student exchange
participant each year.
Learn more about Marshfield Rotary
service project here.
The material on
this page is from the Rotary International website
Definition of Rotary
Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders
provide humanitarian service, encourage high ethical standards in
all vocations, and help build goodwill and peace in the world.
There are approximately 1.2 million Rotarians, members of more
than 29,000 Rotary clubs in 161 countries.
A Brief History
Rotary's first day and the years that followed...
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
The Founder of Rotary
Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, was born in Racine, Wisconsin,
USA, on April 19, 1868, but moved at the age of 3 to Wallingford,
Vermont, to be raised by his grandparents. In the forward to his
autobiography My Road to Rotary, he credits the friendliness and
tolerance he found in Vermont as his inspiration for the creation
Trained as a lawyer, Paul gave himself five years after his
graduation from law school in 1891 to see as much of the world as
possible before settling down and hanging out his shingle. During
that time, he traveled widely, supporting himself with a great
variety of jobs. He worked as a reporter in San Francisco, a
teacher at a business college in Los Angeles, a cowboy in
Colorado, a desk clerk in Jacksonville, Florida, a tender of
cattle on a freighter to England, and as a traveling salesman for
a granite company, covering both the U.S. and Europe.
Remaining true to his five-year plan, he settled in Chicago in
1896, and it was there on the evening of February 23, 1905, that
he met with three friends to discuss his idea for a businessmen's
club. This is commonly regarded as the first Rotary club meeting.
Over the next five years, the movement spread as Rotary clubs were
formed in other U.S. cities. When the National Association of
Rotary Clubs held its first convention in 1910, Paul was elected
After his term, and as the organization's only president-emeritus,
Paul continued to travel extensively, promoting the spread of
Rotary both in the USA and abroad. A prolific writer, Paul wrote
several books about the early days of the organization and the
role he was privileged to play in it. These include The Founder of
Rotary, This Rotarian Age and the autobiographical My Road to
Rotary. He also wrote several volumes of Perigrinations detailing
his many travels. He died in Chicago on January 27, 1947.
Room 711 of the Unity Building at 127 North Dearborn Street in
downtown Chicago, Illinois, was the site of Rotary's first meeting
on February 23, 1905. At that time, it was the office of Gustavus
Loehr, a mining engineer and one of the founding members of the
Around 1980, the Rotary Club of Chicago, the club that originated
from that gathering, set about to preserve the site. It rented the
room and undertook an extensive effort to recreate the office as
it existed in 1905. For several years, the club maintained the
room as a shrine for visiting Rotarians. The Paul Harris 711 Club,
a nonprofit organization comprising Rotarians from around the
world, eventually assumed that responsibility. In 1989, when the
Unity Building was scheduled to be demolished, the 711 Club
carefully dismantled the office, salvaging the original interior
from doors to radiators. Everything was placed in storage until a
permanent place to reconstruct the room could be found. In 1993,
the Board of Directors of Rotary International set aside space for
it on the 16th floor of the RI World Headquarters in Evanston,
First Rotary Club
On the evening of February 23, 1905, Paul Harris and three
friends, Sylvester Schiele, Gustavus Loehr, and Hiram Shorey, met
in Loehr's business office in Room 711 of the Unity Building in
downtown Chicago to discuss Paul's idea that businessmen should
get together periodically for camaraderie and to enlarge their
circle of business and professional acquaintances.
From their discussion came the idea for a men's club which would
meet weekly and whose membership would be limited to one
representative from each business and profession. After enlisting
a fifth member, Harry Ruggles, the group was formally organized as
the Rotary Club of Chicago. By the end of 1905, the club's roster
showed a membership of 30 with Sylvester Schiele as president and
Ruggles as treasurer. Paul Harris declined office in the new club
and didn't become its president until two years later.
Objectives of Rotary
The Objectives of Rotary are to encourage and foster the ideal of
service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to
encourage and foster:
FIRST. The development of acquaintance as an opportunity
SECOND. High ethical standards in business and professions,
the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations, and
the dignifying of each Rotarian's occupation as an opportunity to
THIRD. The application of the ideal of service in each
Rotarian's personal, business and community life;
FOURTH. The advancement of international understanding,
goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and
professional persons united in the ideal of service.
Avenues of Service
For seventy years (since 1927), The program of Rotary has been
carried out on four Avenues of Service (originally called
channels). These avenues ˜ club service, vocational service,
community service and international service ˜ closely mirror the
four parts of the Object of Rotary:
Club Service includes the scope of activities that Rotarians
undertake in support of their club, such as serving on committees,
proposing individuals for membership, and meeting attendance
Vocational Service focuses on the opportunity that Rotarians have
to represent their professions as well as their efforts to promote
vocational awareness and high ethical standards in business. For
decades, Rotarians having been applying the "4-Way Test" to their
business and personal relationships and in recent years, a
"Declaration of Rotarians in Businesses and Professions" has given
expression to their concern for ethical standards in the
workplace. From offering career guidance in high schools, to
seeking ways to improve conditions in the workplace, Rotarians and
their clubs engage in many different kinds of vocational service.
Community Service includes the scope of activities, which
Rotarians undertake to improve the quality of life in their
community. Many official Rotary programs are intended to meet
community needs, whether it be to promote literacy, help the
elderly or disabled, combat urban violence or provide
opportunities for local youth.
International Service describes the activities, which Rotarians
undertake to advance international understanding, goodwill and
peace. The spread of Rotary clubs across the globe allows for the
concerted Rotary support of humanitarian efforts worldwide.
One of the most widely printed and quoted statements of business
ethics in the world is the Rotary 4-Way Test. Rotarian Herbert J.
Taylor created it in 1932 when he was asked to take charge of a
company that was facing bankruptcy. Taylor looked for a way to
save the struggling company mired in depression-caused financial
difficulties. He drew up a 24-word code of ethics for all
employees to follow in their business and professional lives. The
4-Way Test became the guide for sales, production, advertising and
all relations with dealers and customers, and the survival of the
company is credited to this simple philosophy.
Herb Taylor became president of Rotary International in 1954-55.
The 4-Way Test was adopted by Rotary in 1943 and has been
translated into more than a hundred languages and published in
thousands of ways. Here it is in English:
"Of the things we think, say or do:
1. Is it the Truth?
2. Is it Fair to all concerned?
3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?"
Derivation of the Rotary name
The name Rotary was chosen to reflect the custom, in the early
days of the first Rotary Club in Chicago, of rotating the site of
club meetings among the members' places of business. This
rotation, an integral part of the founder's original concept, was
designed to acquaint members with one another's vocations and to
promote business, but the club's rapid growth soon made the custom
Rotary's principal motto, "Service Above Self" and its other
official precept, "He Profits Most Who Serves Best", evidence the
enthusiam with which Rotarians embraced the ideal of service. The
roots of both of these adages, adopted as official mottos at the
1950 RI Convention, can be traced back to the first decade of
Rotary's existence, when "He profits most who serves his fellows
best and Service not self were both put forth as slogans. In 1989,
the RI Council on Legislation designated "Service above Self" as
the principal motto.
The Rotary emblem
Rotary's first emblem was a simple wagon wheel (in motion with
dust) representing civilization and movement. Montague Bear, a
member of the Chicago club, who was an engraver, designed it in
1905 and many Rotary clubs of the time adopted the wheel in one
form or another.
In 1922, authority was given to create and preserve an official
emblem, and the following year the present gear wheel with 24 cogs
and six spokes was adopted. A keyway was added to signify that the
wheel was a "worker and not an idler." At the RI Convention in
1929, royal blue and gold were chosen as the official colors.