How We Began: The first four Rotarians in the world met on the evening of February 23, 1905 in a rather dreary office in the Unity Building on Chicago’s Dearborn Street. They were Paul P. Harris, a lawyer; Silvester Shiele, a coal dealer; Gudtavus E. Loehr, a mining engineer; and Hiram E,. Shorey, a merchant tailor.
The four met to discuss an idea that Paul Harris had been pondering for five years. Quite simply, it was that business relations not only could, but should, foster friendly relations. Harris was convinced that there was no reason why business should be a barrier to friendship.
As the men talked of ways to foster business-social relations, they decided that the formation of a club might best serve their aims. Although there was nothing formal about the discussion that evening, it was in reality the first meeting of the world’s first Rotary club.
By the end of 1905 there were 30 Rotarians in Chicago. The new club was named Rotary because the members met, in rotation, in their various places of business.
Now, more than a century later, this idea of Paul Harris has grown to become an organization of 1.3 million members in over 32,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries territories throughout the world.