The Beginnings of Rotary International

The first four Rotarians: Silvester Schiele, Paul P. Harris, Hiram Shorey, and Gustavus Loehr, circa 1905-1912.Courtesy of Rotary International

Rotary was born in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. on 23 February 1905. Its founder was Paul Harris, an attorney. On that day Paul met with three friends – Silvester Schiele, a coal dealer; Gustavus E. Loeher, a mining engineer; and Hiram E. Shorey a merchant tailor. Paul’s idea was to promote fellowship among business acquaintances.

Because the men met in rotation at each other’s places of business, their club adopted the name Rotary. To make the club a representative cross-section of the business and professional community, only one representative of each business or profession was admitted. This was the beginning of the classification of principle of membership

While the original basis of Rotary was fellowship, service to others soon became its hallmark. Today each club determines its own service activities which it channels through four ‘Avenues of Service’. These are Club Service, Vocational Service, Community Service and International Service. These avenues are based on the four-part Object of Rotary

In 1932, Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor created a few guiding principles the club later adopted and upon which they based all of their decisions. It’s known throughout the world as the Four-Way Test


Of the things we think, say or do:
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

The Four-Way Test has been adopted by businesses, schools and cities all over the world, to guide their decision making and encourage everyone to consider their choices carefully.

So what does all of this have to do with being a brilliant entrepreneur and master marketer?

To be a brilliant entrepreneur, surround yourself with other brilliant entrepreneurs, leaders, and business people. (Hint: There are a bunch meeting this week at a Rotary club near you. Visit to find your local club and ask to join them for a meeting.) After all, business is done with the people you know and these are the people doing business.

To be a master marketer, you need to have a network of supporters singing your praises and you have to believe in what it is you have to offer. Part of that means doing the right thing while serving others. The Four-Way Test can guide you and your business in all of your decisions.

Today, Rotary International is the world’s largest humanitarian service organization with over 1.2 Million members worldwide. Its members are the reason Polio has been eradicated in all but three countries, schools have been built all over the world, water and sanitary conditions are improving in some of the poorest countries, and women and children are receiving better healthcare. Its members are some of the most successful leaders and entrepreneurs of our time. If nothing else, Paul Harris’s founding of Rotary is proof that one person can make a difference in our world. And it’s proof that there are plenty of people in the world just like you who want to be in the business of serving others.