Legacy & Vision

 Legacy & Vision

On June 15, 1909, nine young men met at the Olympus Caf� in downtown Seattle and formed the Rotary Club of Seattle, which was only the fourth in the fledgling network of Rotary clubs. Rotary International now boasts more than 1.2 million members in 30,000 clubs in 195 countries and geographic regions worldwide. How did Seattle #4 get to be one of the largest and best? Through an unwavering commitment to build goodwill and peace, provide humanitarian service, and encourage high ethical standards in all vocations.  More History The origins of the club come from the early work of the founder of Rotary Club of San Francisco, Homer Wood.

History is waiting to be created everywhere. When someone comes up with a concept that is fresh, new and is helpful to others, it is accepted readily. And when it grows, people may forget where it all started. Just like how automated trading software like Fintech Limited, might make people forget how trading was initially done. People had to go in person, scream out their offers and sell the shares but today, the computer does it all for you.

At the time of Rotary’s first convention in 1910 Seattle already had 242 members.

Seattle History: Written by the Rotary Club of Seattle Historical Committee – A J Izzard (1915); D K MacDonald (1909); Charles C Finn (1910); Stanley Long (1913); James P Austin (1922); Gordon Tongue (1924); Harold O Stone (1940) The job of producing the history of Seattle was assigned in 1953 to Past President A J Izzard who enlisted the help of an experienced writer Harold Otho Stone. The committee interviewed many members, collected information and studied all available sources. Harold Stone then ‘translated it into a literary work’.

Founder Sends a letter of Praise

Founder writes in honor of a Seattle secretary

We’re all guilty of making mistakes and saying the wrong thing. Even the best of us can get it wrong. In a 1941 speech, Emeritus President Paul Harris gave Seattle Rotarians a ‘shock’ by referring to LA Rotary Club as Club #4 and Seattle as #5 .   (contributed by Calum Thomson)

Seattle wrote the first platform for Rotary, presented at the 1911 convention in Portland,  which included our first motto

 Rotary Secretary and Rotarian magazine Editor/Publisher Ches Perry, in the October 1913 issue of The Rotarian, devoted the cover story and much of the inside content to club number four, (The story here)

A radio interview with club #4

 It was Seattle president James Pinkham who forwarded the phrase  “He Profits Most Who Serves Best”

   Click to enlarge An Interview in 2002 with Rotary Club
Segment #ONE  #TWO  #THREE Requires windows media player>
 coWomen and Rotary ! Seattle area women were prominent in the effort to bring women into our organization 1978 ! RC of Oakland asked RI why Duarte had their charter revoked for admitting women into Rotary.” > Read the general secretary’s response

<See the delegates to the first convention of Rotary in 1910, in Chicago when the National Association of Rotary Clubs was formed. Seattle was a forming club and was there.

<style=”font-size: 10pt”=””> See our delegation at Rotary’s 2nd convention in Portland, Oregon, USA in 1911. A rare, early Rotary history photo.</style=”font-size:>

>  Seattle’s Strength is in Expansion





> Founder Paul Harris sends a letter praising the Seattle club: See the 1916 Convention history <style=”font-size: 10pt”=””> In another letter, Paul Harris write in honor of Seattle secretary Cecil Martin: “Modesty…was as refreshing as summer dew.  Paul’s original letter to Seattle
The stunned Seattle Rotarians asked for confirmation by Paul who soon after realized his mistake and wrote this apologetic letter to Seattle




The Rotary Club of Seattle has contributed much to the development of the Rotary movement we all know today. As part of the initial Pacific Coast expansion of 1908-09, Seattle Rotarians grappled with the dilemma of early Rotary. Rotarians in Seattle were some of the first to realise that Rotary must rise above the goals of business self-interest and embrace Service above Self.

Rotary’s first objectives were:
1. The promotion of the business interests of its members.
2. The promotion of good fellowship and desiderata ordinarily incident to social clubs.

The birth of Club #4

Seattle’s birth came from an unusual source- namely the networking of the Travelers Insurance Company.

Extension in the Pacific cities was partly due to the first San Francisco Rotary Club President Homer Wood, but more significantly, it was Homer’s colleague in Club #2, Arthur Holman who was responsible for Rotary expansion on to Seattle.

Arthur was a local manager of the Travelers Insurance Company and aimed to spread the new idea of Rotary with missionary zeal. On a business trip, he first made contact with Frank W Jewett of the Travelers Insurance Company in Oakland (and thereby helping form Club #3).

Arthur Holman moved on to Seattle on business and, again, he began to talk about Rotary to the manager of Seattle’s Travelers Insurance Company, Mr Roy Denny.

Denny later remembered: “Holman came to Seattle early in 1909 and explained the Rotary idea to me. In Seattle at that time were many young men like myself, practically newcomers. Two or three young men I talked to welcomed the Rotary idea. These included Earl McLaughlin and Ernie Skeel, both close friends. Our first informal meeting was in my house in Laurelhurst; Jim Pinkham would have been there. I feel, but he was at the time out of Seattle. At the first meeting there was no attempt at organization”.

Roy took up Arthur’s enthusiasm with no little relish, he called a preliminary meeting on May 21st 1909 with five present – Denny, Skeel, McLaughlin, Emery Olmstead and Erwin Braun. Denny became the first President of Seattle Rotary Club at its first formal gathering on June 15th 1909 at the Olympus Caf� with Skeel named secretary.

Roy Denny, in turn spread Rotary to nearby Tacoma where he talked to Harry Pelletier (a district representative of the Travelers Insurance Company). Harry would become the first Rotary Club President. Roy Denny also called in at Portland where he conversed with Phil Grossmayer, General agent for the TIC.

Calum Thomson

Sources – Seattle Rotary’s Golden Years 1909-1959 – A J Izzard, H O Stone et al
History of the  Rotary Club of San Francisco – W J Mountain

 A final twist is Paul Harris’ own version of the order of the clubs organization from “This Rotarian Age,” page 77 in which he writes that Oakland was number 3 and Los Angeles was number 4.  That information is linked here.

 However, in a letter just above, Harris finds his error and writes an apology.<