First Club:

The first Rotary club was organized in Chicago, Illinois on February 23, 1905 by Paul P. Harris and his friends. At first, the new club’s members met in rotation at their various business locations, and this suggested the name "Rotary".


The Rotarian’s motto is "Service Above Self". It reminds Rotarians to think of how they can help others instead of selfish thoughts. The motto originated when Paul Harris asked Rotarian Frank Collins to address the second annual Rotary Convention. The year was 1911. Frank Collins, a fruit merchant from Minneapolis, in the impromptu speech, told how his club had used the phrase "Service, Not Self" as a motto and that it was fundamental to them as to what it meant to be a Rotarian. The speech and the motto struck a chord with all the Rotarians. It really did neatly sum up in three words what Rotary, at its core, was all about. The Convention participants took the motto back to their own clubs and soon it captured the imaginations of all Rotarians.

Over time the motto evolved to "Service Above Self". At the 1950 Rotary Convention, the motto was officially adopted. Frank Collins' simple idea remains as evocative today as it was nearly 100 years ago.

Four-Way Test:

In 1932, Rotarian Herbert J. Taylor created The Four-Way Test, a code of ethics adopted by Rotary 11 years later. The test, which has been translated into more than 100 languages, asks the following questions:

Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Rotary and World War II

During World War II, many clubs were forced to disband, while others stepped up their service efforts to provide emergency relief to victims of the war. In 1942, looking ahead to the postwar era, Rotarians called for a conference to promote international educational and cultural exchanges. This event inspired the founding of UNESCO.

"Few there are who do not recognize the good work which is done by Rotary clubs throughout the free world," former Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain once declared.

A New Century Dawns:

As it approached the 21st century, Rotary worked to meet society’s changing needs, expanding its service efforts to address such pressing issues as environmental degradation, illiteracy, world hunger and children at risk.

In 1989, the organization voted to admit women into clubs worldwide. Today, women are an integral part of Rotary's membership.

After the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Rotary clubs were formed or re-established throughout Central and Eastern Europe. The first Russian Rotary club was chartered in 1990, and the organization underwent a growth spurt for the next several years.

What Rotary Isn't:

It isn't a religious, political, or nationalistic organization. It in no way interferes with the men and women members’ religious, political, or other beliefs. There are Rotary clubs in most countries of the world. As Rotarians we recognize there is far more that makes us all alike and that the differences between us are really insignificant.

Rotary isn’t some kind of secret society. There are no secret handshakes or the like. We welcome visitors. Rotary clubs are a bunch of like-minded people united in their desire to make a difference in their community and the world. In many communities club meetings are televised locally. The community can see exactly what happens at our meetings and be informed right alongside of us by our guest speakers.

It isn’t a social club, although strong fellowship is a key component that unites the club in its projects. Members are expected to make a contribution to the life of the club, to the extent that they are able. Rotary offers plenty of scope for members' initiatives and for the promotion of their concern for the community at large.

Rotary isn't "a good old boy's club" dominated by an established group of cronies. It is intentionally structured to offer leadership opportunities to all its members.

In Summary:

More than a century after Paul Harris and his colleagues chartered the club that eventually led to Rotary International; Rotarians continue to take pride in their history. Today, 1.2 million Rotarians belong to over 32,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas.

Prospective Members:

Membership in a Rotary club offers a number of benefits. If you would like to learn more about the Fort Fairfield Rotary Club please explore our website and learn about us and our service projects. As you explore consider what our club could offer you, such as opportunities for service. A primary aim in developing our website has been for it to have enough information so our visitors can learn what we are all about. If joining us is something you would consider, we feel it is important that you understand what membership offers, and also the service that comes with it.

If after exploring our website you are interested in possible membership, please visit or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to enquire about joining our Club. Alternately, if you know a club member, ask them about our club! Let them know if you'd be interested in learning more or in being sponsored. They likely will invite you to a club meeting so you can experience what we are like.

Detailed Timeline:

To read a more detailed Rotary International history timeline, please visit: