Today the Rotary Club has about 1,200,000 members worldwide in approximately 34,300 branches. This great organization was conceived precisely on this day in Chicago.
On this day in 1905 the world famous Rotary Club was founded in an unusually spontaneous way. Namely, on that day in Chicago four business acquaintances met at the encouragement of one of them – Paul P. Harris. This 36-year-old Chicago lawyer organized a meeting with the intent to make it a friendly and collegial gathering. The very name “Rotary Club” came from the idea that the locations of future meetings would be rotated – every week they would meet alternately in the office of one of them.
However, the meaning of these meetings soon surpassed the initial idea of simple friendly gatherings and became something much more. Namely, they began to organize humanitarian activities and have grown into the so-called “Service Club”. The mentioned organizer Paul P. Harris was apparently quite ambitious in terms of the expansion and soon established similar clubs in four other U.S. cities except the aforementioned Chicago: San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
Paul P. Harris was the president of the Chicago branch, and until his death Rotary Club already had about 200,000 members in 75 world countries. Today, the Rotary Club has approximately 1,200,000 members in approximately 34,300 branches in the world. Some of the Rotarian symbols and their hierarchical organization today may remind people of Masons, which is a misconception, given that the club was formed for a humanitarian purpose and not the purpose of concentrating power.
By the number of branches and total number of members, the Rotary Club is second club of its kind in the world – behind the Lions Club International, which has about 1,370,000 members. Interestingly, the Lions Club International was also established in Chicago, about 12 years after the Rotary Club.