Rotary History

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 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.

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 first get-together was, in fact, the 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 name was agreed upon, one of the new members suggested a wagon wheel design as the club emblem. It was the precursor to the familiar cogwheel emblem now worn by Rotarians around the world. By the end of 1905, the club had grown to 30 members.

The second Rotary club was formed in 1908 half a continent away from Chicago in San Francisco, California. 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 1922.

Today, Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide, who 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.

History of Spokane Rotary Club 21
Rotary Club 21 is a fellowship of business and community leaders committed to providing opportunities for people in Spokane and world-wide through the ideals of service above self.

There is no record of who got the ball rolling to bring Rotary to Spokane, whether it was by getting in touch with the Seattle club, or whether Spokane volunteered.

About the middle of February, 1911, Ernst L. Skeel, a Seattle Rotary club charter member, and at that time, the secretary of the Seattle club, came to Spokane to discuss with a gathering the possibilities of starting a club in Spokane. Not all 26 present joined the new club, but the application was made for membership in what was then the National Organization of Rotary Clubs of America.

On July 17, 1911, the National Organization advised the Board of Directors that Spokane, with 20 members, became the 21st club in Rotary and 4th in the Northwest. Since that early date of being sponsored by the Seattle club, Club 21 has gone on to sponsor 12 other Rotary clubs. The first was Walla Walla in 1919. The last to be sponsored was Rotary South in 1972. In between were Coeur d'Alene, Wallace, Spokane Valley, Pullman, Colfax, Spokane North, Spokane Hillyard, Cheney, Spokane East, and Spokane West.

Club 21 has had eight members serve as District Governor. One, Fred K. Jones, went on to be an International Director in 1945-46.

Of historical note, Ernst Skeel would eventually organize twenty-one clubs in the Northwest, including Tacoma, Portland, Vancouver, Bellingham, and Yakima. In 1912, Skeel is accredited with writing the famous Four Objects of Rotary into the constitution which, with some minor changes, have been retained almost verbatim through the years.