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On February 23, 1905, on Dearborn Street in Chicago the miracle happened - Rotary was born. The Chicago Club was Club#1. Rotary moved west and San Francisco became Club #2 in 1908; then Oakland was chartered a couple months later as Club #3; followed by Seattle #4; and Los Angeles #5. Rotary was on the move, but there was no Rotary Club on the East Coast.

The idea of forming a Rotary Club in New York came in a message to Elmer DePue in New York, not from Paul Harris but from Clarence J. Wetmore, member of the Rotary Club of San Francisco. Elmer was the President of the Eastern Division of the Cresta Blanca Wine Company. 

In an effort to start the wheels rolling, Elmer consulted with Daniel Cady of New York who, as a close friend of Paul Harris, agreed to talk with Paul. Paul Harris dispatched Fred Tweed of Chicago to talk with Cady, DePue and Bradford Bullock at a meeting held on August 18, 1909. Six days later on August 24, 1909, the Rotary Club of New York was formed as the first Rotary Club on the East Coast. There were 15 charter members and Bradford Bullock was elected President. Bradford Bullock served as President for two years.

The Honorary Member of this Club was Paul Harris, elected at the initial meeting of the New York Rotary on August 24, 1909.Since there were no established requirements for weekly meetings, Club #6 held dinner meetings semi-monthly, the second and fourth Thursday, rotating the meeting to different restaurants and hotels.

It is interesting to note that the Club's chief slogan was: "Rotary Club of New York: Composed of men who are old enough to know how to do business, and young enough to want more business to do.”

    At that time, there were three objectives:
      1) Promotion of the business interests of the members;
      2) Advance the best interests of New York; and
      3) Spread the spirit of the city pride and loyalty among its citizens.

On September 14, 1909, the Rotary Club of New York was incorporated under the laws of the State of New York. The first lapel pin in the history of the Rotary was designed and made by NY Club member, John Frick on October 14, 1909 and worn by President Bradford Bullock from 1909 to 1911. The pin was presented to the club and is now on display in the Club office. This was the forerunner of the traditional Rotary pin worn today.


August Janssen, Proprietor of The Hofbrau House, the first permanent location where luncheons were held, presented the Club with the first Rotary banner in 1914. It was a gigantic size, navy blue background with a white Rotary wheel in the center. The banner was on display outside the Hofbrau on meeting days.

The first permanent meeting place was the Hofbrau House. In 1917 the Club moved to the McAlpin Hotel. In 1926 the Club moved to the Waldorf Astoria. In 1929 a move was made to the Hotel Commodore and in 1974 meetings were held at the Roosevelt Hotel. In every case, the Club's office was always located in the hotel in which the Club met. In 1991 the Club moved its Thursday luncheon meetings to the Marriott East Side Hotel, but kept the office at the Roosevelt. In 2000 the club moved its luncheon meetings to the Princeton Club and at the same time changed the meeting day to Tuesdays.
In 1919 a New York Rotarian visited the Rotary Club of London and presented that Club with a banner which he designed and made. This very act was the forerunner of the exchange of club banners which takes place daily throughout the world of Rotary.

Beginning in 1918. The Rotary Club of New York for several years presented a silk American flag to each club outside of the United States. These flags marked the promotion of cordial relationships between the clubs of other countries and our Club and the other Rotary Clubs of the United States. This very special deed was recognized in 1919 by a special resolution at the convention of Rotary International.

The Rotary Club of New York participated in the founding of the National Association of Rotary Clubs in Chicago in 1910. The delegates from the NY Club brought to the convention a draft constitution, which became the basis of the first constitution and by-laws of what is now Rotary International's present day constitution and by-laws.

New York's President. Ray Knoeppel, served as the Chairman of the committee that rendered the final draft of both the first constitution and by-laws. Paul Harris noted "No one is in a better position to realize the great contribution the Rotary Club of New York made in the developmental phase of Rotary International than me."

Over 60,000 Rotarians from clubs around the world and the USA have visited NY Rotary luncheons over the last 88 years. Twice the Club served as host of the International Convention, in 1949 and again in 1959.

A prime interest of the Club in the early years had been youth activities with an emphasis on the handicapped. Today the Club shares the same interest, but also allocates its funds and energy, serving senior citizens, the homeless and improving the quality of Life in and around New York City.

One of the greatest tributes bestowed upon New York Rotary came when Paul Harris, in a speech before the Club in1934, designated the Club as the "Host Club of America."

A prized possession of the Club was the "Attention Bell," won in an attendance contest with the Rotary Club of London in 1922. The bell was from the British auxiliary warship, "Patrol No. 20," and was mounted on oak timber from Admiral Nelson’s flagship, "Victory." The original bell was stolen during a fire in the Colonial Room at the Roosevelt Hotel in 1978. Today's bell was obtained from the Rotary Club of London in 1992. The bell is also from a British ship, a submarine chaser, the "H.M.S. P20." It was presented to the club by Ken Standish, President of the London Club on June 17, 1992.

The Club's welcome song, Fellow Rotarians, We Greet You, written by club member Johnny Shays, was copyrighted in 1945 and has been sung continually since that time. John Shays died in April of 1970.

History reveals that New York Rotary not only did the normal community service projects that we do today, but we searched for the really big projects and had a reputation for doing the big things.

In 1917, we contributed a dozen WWI ambulance to the war effort.
In 1921, a call went out to the whole of North America as NY Rotary put on billboards across the country advertising the message of then-President Warren Harding: "Prosperity will be realized when we put people back to work"
In 1926, a full summer cap was built on Fire Island for crippled children, Camp Cheerful. Although extremely successful,  it was unfortunately destroyed in the 1935 hurricane.
From 1960 to 1970, New York Rotary hosted the Lambert Trophies ceremonies. This was then taken over by the New Jersey Sports Authority and is now held at Giant Stadium.
In 1968, the Club raised $1 million and renovated a court house and jail on the west side known as Hell's Kitchen. This building became the Clinton Youth Center, and the building and its program were then donated to the YM-YWCA and became part of the YM-YWCA Outreach Programs.
From 1978 to 1980, New York Rotary was host to 1400 Rotarians in what was called an Annual Area Assembly.
Rotarians came to New York for this one-day seminar from 17 Districts in eight of the surrounding states.
1991 to 1992, New York Rotary worked with the Sanitation Department of New York City in a program to introduce school children to the City's Recycling Program. The Club has 800,000 buttons made up which, when presented to the children made them official recycling agents of the City of New York. Rotarians spend many hours in assembly programs in schools throughout the City making these awards. 
1989 to 1997, the NY Rotary Golf and Tennis Classic has raised over $50,000 for both Muscular Dystrophy and the Boy Scouts of Greater New York. This major club activity involves a great many club members in a very worthwhile and memorable project.

Some of the most recent accomplishments are as follows:

    · Rotarians served as volunteer teachers for the Junior Achievement program at PS 175 to assist students in establishing self-sufficient business enterprises. Rotarians contributed $40,000 over a three year period to fund this program.
    · Rotarians contributed $28,000 to establish a computer lab program at PS 175 through the purchase of 22 computers.
    · Rotary Club, through its annual Golf and Tennis Outings, raised $8,000 for the Boy Scout's Handicapped Campers program.
    · Rotary Club donated $6,000 to the New York City Police Department to purchase bicycles for its innovative bike patrol program.
    · For the third consecutive year, the Rotary Club provided $20,000 to fund the Columbia Writing and Reading Project at PS 199.
    · Rotarians, through the Blanket Day Project, were able to buy 300 blankets for the homeless.
    · Rotarians purchased 800,000 recycling button for use by the New York City's Department of Sanitation for its recycling program.
    · Each year the Rotary Club of New York hosts Policeman and Fireman Recognition Days. At these luncheons, a member of each department is presented with the New York Rotary Club's "Outstanding Service Award"

    The Rotary Club of New York is a major contributor to Fraternite Notre Dame, founded by its current leader The Most Reverend Jean Marie Roger Kozik. Fraternite Notre Dame helps the poor through its missions in America, France, Cameroon, Niger, Martinique, Haiti and Mongolia.

    The Rotary Club of New York Electronic Learning Center was dedicated on February 6, 2001 and quickly became the focal point for the promotion of literacy through art and technology for the young in Harlem.

Obviously the above mentioned programs are but a glimpse of the many and varied contributions the Rotary Club of New York has made to the city and the surrounding community. Today our Club is involved with the United Nations and the work of the UN’s Non-Governmental Agency through the work of a special International Rotary representative. In addition, New York Rotary's own Foundation has contributed on a regular basis approximately $60,000 to needy causes and projects in the New York community.


The Rotary Club of New York is very proud to be the 6th club in Rotary, which now has grown to 30,000 clubs with 1.2 million members in 163 countries.


History was made on July 10, 2001 when Helen Reisler was installed as the first

woman president of the 92-year-old Rotary Club of New York.



2001 – 2002 A Historic Year


History was made when Helen Reisler was installed, on July 10, 2001, as the first woman president of the 92‑year‑old Rotary Club of New York. The celebration included the New York City Police Marching Band, the Ambassadors of Peace Youth Orchestra, and an audience of over two hundred Rotarians and community leaders.


On September 11, 2001, history was made, once again, when an unprecedented terror attack took place on the World Trade Center in New York City. The destruction of the Twin Towers resulted in the loss of over 3,000 people including 343 firefighters and 23 police officers. President Helen, along with her Board of Directors, the New York Rotary Foundation, and the club members, rose to the challenge of assisting those in need.



The Rotarian Magazine, in a six‑page article, described how members of the Rotary Club of New York offered their time, services, and expertise in various professions to help the victims of "Ground Zero." Members deliv­ered water, masks and gloves to the site, delivered and served food, tested the air quality, cleaned out debris embedded in the rescue workers' eyes, identified victims and offered grief counseling.


President Helen and Werner Kobelt, the New York Rotary Foundation Chair, set up a Disaster Fund, which accumulated over 1.5 million dollars, which reflects the generosity of Rotarians all over the world. An advisory committee of three trustees and two members was formed. They did intensive research to ensure the disbursement of the monies to the neediest.


Matts Ingemanson, our Internet Communications Expert continued to keep information flowing between the Rotary Club of New York and the rest of the world through the effective website he created for us. Our club meetings drew a constant stream of visiting Rotarians who came to present checks and offer support. Rescue workers and members of victims' families came to share their grief and for comfort.


In response to the hundreds of E‑mails sent by Rotary Presidents from every corner of the globe, President Helen created the "9/11 Adoption / Vacation Committee" with Jim Thompson as co‑coordinator. Members of other Rotary clubs as well as volunteers from the community, including the Police and Fire Departments, joined our own members. The program arranges " adoptions" and therapeutic vacations, offered by other Rotary clubs for families of 9/11 victims and rescue workers.


The Rotary Club of New York took pride in the fact that it was ready and able to address the most horrendous tragedy in our city and nations. It was done spontaneously, by forming a solid bond of unity between its members and the rest of the Rotary World, to emerge as a leader in the community.




THE ROTARY CLUB OF NEW YORK • 322 Eight Avenue , Suite 1701 New York, NY 10001
Tel. (212) 633-1311 • Fax. (212) 633-1954 • E-mail: ny.rotary@verizon.net

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