BACK IN CHICAGO it was still necessary to eat
humble pie but my appetite remained good. Week days, though they brought
me many disappointments, had one advantage-business kept me from thinking
about myself. Sundays and holidays were my days of sorrow, I could go to
the downtown churches Sunday mornings, but during the long Sunday
afternoons I was desperately lonely. Oh, for the green fields of my New
England Valley and the voice of a kindly old friend! Strolls through city
parks were far from satisfying; there was too much artificiality, and
among the thousands of strollers there was not one familiar face. There is
no place like a city park on a Sunday afternoon to feel one's loneliness;
the very presence of so many strangers accentuated it more than boundless
expanses of land and water could have done. Even the music of excellent
bands failed to dispel my gloom. My truant thoughts drifted back to the
scenes of my boyhood; the swimming hole by the covered bridge over Otter
Creek and many other sacred places; I was at times inundated by tidal
waves of memories of rambles with friends over hills and mountains.
There were certain spots in the Chicago parks
which reminded me of my valley but they were frequented by so many other
persons that they gave me little repose. Some Sundays, I went farther out
into the country but even there tranquility was lacking. All-day
excursions across Lake Michigan by boat gave me temporary relief but
afforded no escape from the crowds; in fact, the boats were always loaded
to their capacity with men, women and children. I took my scanty meals at
German, Scandinavian, Italian, Greek, and Hungarian restaurants. I made
acquaintances but not real friends. Chicago beaches swarmed with bathers
and picknickers and played their important parts in the recreational life
of hundreds of thousands of city toilers. All praise to the indefatigable
efforts of unselfish men and women responsible for the establishment of
parks and playgrounds to which all could have access without price.
Everywhere there were people but nowhere a familiar face.
To me one essential was lacking, the presence of
friends. Emerson said, "He who has a thousand friends has not a friend to
spare. In my earliest days in my adopted city, I had neither the thousand
nor the one.
Betterment in human affairs comes through travail.
Someone first has to visualize the need and suffering clarifies the vision
as nothing else could. I saw the great need of human companionship as I
never could have seen it without such experiences as above outlined.
Perhaps it was part and parcel of the cosmic scheme; surely it was made
apparent to me that men must have the companionship of those of their
The thought persisted that I was experiencing only
what had happened to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of others in the great
city, came to me. I was sure that there must be many other young men who
had come from farms and small villages to establish themselves in Chicago.
In fact I knew a few. Why not bring them together? If the others were
longing for fellowship as I was, something would come of it.
One evening I went with a professional friend to
his suburban home. After dinner as we strolled about the neighborhood my
friend greeted by name various tradesmen at their stores. This reminded me
of my New England village. The thought caine to me why not in big Chicago
have a fellowship composed of just one man from each of many different
occupations, without restrictions as to their politics or religion, with
broad tolerance of each other's opinions? In such a fellowship could there
not be mutual helpfulness?
I did not act upon my impulse at once; months and
even years passed. In the life of great movements it is necessary that one
man who has faith walk alone for a time. I did walk alone but eventually
in February 1905 I called three young business men to meet with me and I
laid before them a very simple plan of mutual co-operation and informal
friendship such as all of us had once known in our villlages. They agreed
to my plan
Silvester Schiele, my most intimate Chicago
friend, and one of the three who first met with me, was made our first
president, and has been a constant member. Gustavus Loehr and Hiram Shorey
were the other two but they failed to follow through. On the other hand
Harry Ruggles, Charley Newton, and others who were quickly added to the
group, with hearty zest joined in developing the project.
We grew in numbers, in fellowship, in the spirit
of helpfulness to each other and to our city. The banker and the baker,
the parson and the plumber, the lawyer and the iaundryman discovered the
similarity of each other's ambitions, problems, successes and failures. We
learned how much we had in common. We found joy in being of service to one
another. Again I seemed to be back in my New England Valley.
At a third meeting of the group, I presented
several suggestions as a name for the club, among them Rotary, and that
name was selected as we were then holding our meetings in rotation at our
offices and places of business. Later, still rotating, we held our
meetings at various hotels and restaurants. Thus we began as "Rotarians,"
and such we continue to be.
I took no office of any character during the first
two years of the Chicago club but I nominated the officers and my judgment
was generally followed in the administration of the club. As I look back
at it now I must have seemed very dictatorial at times. If so it was
because of my devotion to the undertaking. The third year I was elected
president and my ambitions then were-first, to advance the growth of the
Chicago club; second, to extend the movement to other cities; third, to
intensify community service as one of the club's objectives.
That was the genesis of a great movement, the name
of which is familiar to many who read this book. From that humble start
has grown a present fellowship of a quarter-million business and
professional men. Rotary has made itself at home in seventy different
countries; in truth it is said that the sun never sets on Rotary.
My reward has been exceedingly great. To have
friends all over the world is a great blessing. To know that these friends
are also friends of each other is a satisfying thought. The salutation,
"Good Morning, Paul!" which gladdened my heart in boyhood days in my
valley is now the greeting of my fellow Rotarians and continues to be
sweet music in my ears, whether it be spoken by rich or poor, young or
To the members of the small group which came
together in the big city of Chicago, Rotary was like an oasis in a desert.
Their meetings were different from the meetings of other clubs in those
days. They were far more intimate; far more friendly. All hampering and
meaningless restraint was thrown off; dignified reserve was checked at the
door; the members were boys again. To me, attendance at a club meeting was
very like being back home in my valley.
The original concept of Rotary has expanded; its
ideals have been formulated; its objectives have been set forth; but
intimate and informal fellowship remains a vital element in its structure.
Sir Henry Braddon has said:
"One way in which Rotary develops the individual
is in preserving the boy in him. Deep down in the heart of every good
fellow there is a boy, a boy whose outlook on life is rather wonderful,
unspoiled, with no prejudice, no intolerance, with keen enthusiasm, ready
friendliness. It is a sad day for a man when the boy can be said to have
passed away. As long as a man keeps his mind resilient, his nature open to
friendly influences, he will never grow entirely old. Rotary encourages
and helps to develop him by keeping the boy alive in him"
Several of the original Rotarians had been raised
on farms and the majority of them were country or small town boys who had
gravitated to the big city. While not self-made men they were in the
process of making and most of them had made sufficient progress to justify
the assumption that success in considerable degree was to be realized in
the future. Some had received the benefits of college education-more had
They helped each other in every way that kindly
heart and friendly spirit could suggest. In the main the efforts were
directed to helping each other in business; helping each other to attain
success. They patronized each other when it was practical to do so,
exerted helpful influence, and gave wise counsel when needed. Some
realized business advantages, others did not. All realized the advantages
As the membership of the Chicago group increased
we had a cross-section, so far as it went, of our city, each member
representing an honorable calling different from all others in the
membership, each viewing it as a special privilege to be selected as a
representative of his vocation and appreciative of his responsibility
It is not the purpose of Rotary to make social,
religious or racial composites of its members. Rotary brings business and
professional men differing in social status, religious beliefs, and
nationality together in order that they may be more intelligible to each
other and therefore more sympathetic and friendly and helpful.
In January 1908 two new members were added to our
ranks, then over a hundred strong-Arthur Frederick Sheldon and Chesley H.
Perry, both of whom were destined to make their contributions to the
movement, It developed that these two men had met several years before
when Sheldon, as the head of a book-selling outfit, had invaded the
Chicago public library where Perry was a member of the staff and sold him
a set of history volumes. Talk about carrying coals to Newcastle! Not long
after that Sheldon founded a school of salesmanship based on the idea that
successful salesmanship depended upon rendering service and that no
transaction was justified unless both parties thereto benefited by it.
Sheldon was a natural for our group. He was no Kickapoo Indian medicine
vendor. Wherever the English language is spoken, Sheldon students are
found. The writer has been pleased to find many among Rotarian leaders
abroad. For the Edinburgh convention in 1921 Sheldon was selected by the
program committee as the one best qualified to interpret to British
Rotarians the ideal of service as understood in America. The invitation
was accepted and those who heard the message say it was as of one
It is conceivable that Rotary might have been born
under sunnier skies, in a climate more equable, and in a city of mental
composure; but on the other hand many will contend that there could have
been no more favorable birthplace for such a movement as Rotary than
paradoxical Chicago where fifty years ago the battle for civic
righteousness was being so fiercely waged. The forces of righteousness
were then rallying. Chicago was emerging. The close of the old, and the
first decade of the new century brought the beautiful Columbian
Exposition, the establishment of a great university on a beautiful
parkway, an expanded public library, the beginning of a great association
of commerce, magnificent museums, a fine symphony orchestra, various civic
improvement organizations, Jane Adams' famous Hull House and other
neighborhood settlements- and Rotary.
There could have been no time more opportune than
the beginning of the twentieth century for the genesis of such a movement
as Rotary, nor any city better suited than virile, aggressive, paradoxical
Chicago in which to nurture it. The ills with which Chicago was afflicted
in those days were also prevalent elsewhere in the country. Generally
speaking, business was in a bad way. Practices were not in accord with
high ethical principles with respect to consumers, employees or
competitors. Community spirit was at a low ebb almost everywhere. It was
time for a change for the better. It had to come.
America's unrivalled metropolis of the Middle West came Rotary, out of a
great social maelstrom where racial, political, economic and religious
extremes met, clashed, and ultimately merged into a semblance of
homogeneity. Even today the melting pot is stll boiling furiously in
Chicago and patriotic citizens are still endeavoring to cast wholesome
ingredients into the pot in full faith that the final product will be
delectable. In 1905, in the City by the Lake, Rotary was one scene in a
drama that was being enacted. The dramatis personae of that scene were men
of the ordinary walks of life; business and professional men. While
perhaps lacking qualities that would have distinguished them from others
of their kind, it may nevertheless be said that they were fairly
representative of what in common parlance would have been termed "the