THIRTY NINE PIONEERS
Richard “Titch” Harrison Rotary/ One Club Historian
While working on the Ches Perry, RI general secretary 1910 to 1942, story for the Rotary Centennial, I found the 1905 Roster deficient by half and the 1906 Roster completely down the drain. By 1907, “Barney or Cupid” Arntzen, club secretary, had vastly improved the process. Using his records, I reconstructed the membership for the first two years of Rotary, as best I could after those one hundred years. They are now in the Rotary International and ROTARY/One archives.
Four Chicagoans meeting on 23 February 1905, expanded to thirty-nine in Rotary’s three hundred thirty-eight day first year. An organization of thirty-nine, that has become well over one million members and 32,000 clubs at the end of one century, whetted my interest. For some unknown reason, the thirty-nine decided to end the first year on 31 January rather than 23 February 1906, twenty-three days early. That left out two members named Schneider and Tolman who beat the calendar, but not the club decision. In this project, I will confine my research and reporting to the alleged thirty-nine pioneers.
STARTING A GREAT MOVEMENT
In 2003, soon after joining Rotary/One, “Dick” McKay, the Club President, asked me to research and author a biography of Ches Perry for the Centennial. Ches served as long time General Secretary of Rotary International. In 1944-45, Ches served as president of Rotary/One.
I attended the club meetings a dozen times that year.
In my searching, I found the 1905 Roster deficient by half and the 1906 membership down the drain. By 1907, Barney Arntzen , member #26, had vastly improved the process. I found most of the missing information and plugged it into those gaps. Now, they are in the Club and Rotary International archives. (I put all the 39 members in bold type throughout the study.) I have added member numbers.
After finishing 1905 Roster, I wondered how much each member had contributed to Rotary’s success. Those thirty-nine, often lonely new comers in this big city, felt a new, small club would provide an anchor along side their occupations. Since then, Rotary has expanded to over a million of not so lonely members in thousands of cities and towns. It has become renowned for achieving good in this world.
Chicago lawyer Paul Harris, on page 230 of his MY ROAD TO ROTARY, remembered “One evening I went with a professional friend to his suburban home.
After dinner, as we strolled about the neighborhood, my friend greeted the various tradesmen in their stores. This reminded me of my New England village. The thought came to me why not have in big Chicago a fellowship composed of just one man in each from many different occupations, without restrictions on their politics or religion, with broad tolerance of each other’s opinions? In such a
fellowship could there not be mutual helpfulness?”
Paul mulled over the idea for several years. Finally, on 23 February 1905, he and his room mate, Sylvester Schiele ate at Madame Galli’s restaurant. There Paul broached the idea. Apparently, Paul and Sylvester had done all right financially. Many illustrious people dined at the Madame’s, such as writers Eugene Field and George Ade, comedians W.C. Field, and Raymond Hitchcock
and opera stars Tito Schipa and Enrico Caruso.
What a Rotary club that would have made, if anyone could coral them. With rising enthusiasm, the two finished dinner and walked across the river to mining engineer Gus Loehr’s office in the Unity Building, now at 127 Dearborn St.
A merchant tailor named Hiram Shorey was visiting. Gus member #3 heartily endorsed the idea. Hiram member #4 was only so-so. Phone calls brought in Harry Ruggles member #5 and Bill Jenson member #6 that same night. The next morning Harry showed up at Paul’s office in the Unity Building, to start planning the club. Unity Building
Paul in 1945 recalled that night, found on page 231, “Sylvester Schiele, my closest Chicago friend, and one of the three who met with me was made the first president and became a constant member. Gustavus Loehr and Hiram Shorey were the other two but they failed to follow through. (my emphasis) On the other hand, Harry Ruggles member # 5 and Charlie Newton member #18 and
others who were quickly added to the group with hearty zest joined in developing the project.”
Paul’s memory had faded somewhat over those 40 years. Charlie a very good worker entered one month later. Paul seemed to have forgotten Bill Jenson a moderately productive worker for Rotary. But, why over those 40 years did Paul allow the two slackers to be memorialized as founders and ignore two workers?
Paul continues, “At the second meeting, we selected the name. I think I suggested several, among which was Rotary. It seems to me I liked best was ‘The Conspirators’ but the crowd wouldn’t stand for that at all”. Paul always seemed a connoisseur of practical jokes, often as the butt. In the back, in the picture section, Paul nearly shows his butt.
Paul goes on, “In those first two years there were many developments, but the greatest of all things developed in Rotary is the idea of service we now have as Rotarians. When F.H. Tweed member #39 did some Rotary missionary work in New York in 1909, a man named Bradford asked him ‘Why do you spend your time and money trying to build interest in Rotary, where is the graft in this for
you?’ Rotarian Tweed answered ‘The friends I would make in this organization would mean more than any money I could place on it.’” Bradford Bullock became the first New York President and on the organizing committee for the 1910 Rotary Association meeting.
In 1909, a newcomer Ches Perry (1908) wrote, “The San Francisco club #2 organized with Charles M. Schwab as keynote speaker. The Chicago Club has never enjoyed such a high level speaker, nor sought one as a member.” Ches should have shown more patience. And, he should not have been so dismissive of his predecessors in the club. Eventually, the club had many celebrities. For
instance, the late Charles R. Walgreen Jr. held a supporting membership for 75 years. On 11 February 2007, Rotarian Chuck, at age 100, quietly relinquished his membership in Rotary/One.
But, all that would not have occurred if the 1905 group had not been outstanding in its own right. With the exception of James Craig, Donald Carter and E.H. Uhl from 1906 and none from 1907 had much longevity or showed much punch.
A TEAM OF MOVERS
Fifteen original members or 38% of the 39 were listed in Who’s Who in Chicago, whatever that means. In 1905 George Baxter, Clark Hawley, Gus Loehr, and Edward Todd had already appeared in the publication. Rufe Chapin, Elbert Manning and Charlie Newton showed up in 1911. By 1917, Bill Chamberlain, Harris Crofts, Bob Fletcher, Paul Harris, Bill Jensen and Jim Pugh had joined the others. Fred Tweed and Al White entered by 1936.
In Who’s Who eleven of the fifteen declared Republican as their party choice. Bob Fletcher, Elbert Manning, Jim Pugh and Fred Tweed left the question blank. Because of their work in Rotary, I suspect the majority belonged to the Republican Progressive branch. In 1912, the National Party vote split between conservative President Taft and the Bull Moose candidates “Teddy” Roosevelt and Senator Hiram Johnson of California. “Teddy” and Hiram belonged to the “Trust Busters”
During 1943, I spent the year in the Bethesda Naval Hospital, because of disabling Coral Sea Battle wounds. The Navy retired me as a Lieutenant 1 July 1944. In the hospital, fellow patient Senator Hiram Johnson and I spent many hours conversing. What surprised me
was his social liberalism. As Governor of California, he had tamed the Railroad Barons. I should have known.
The Senator’s doctor limited him to a couple of cigars per day. After smoking his quota, he would ask me to see if anyone was looking. After an all clear, he would take a third cigar from his sock. Hiram passed away that year. Was it the cigars or me? Age?
The Shelby, Michigan Rotary Club in March 1941 gave me an Honorary membership, when I received my Navy commission. That, gave me the opportunity for meeting with numerous clubs and many Rotarians, including Paul Harris in 1944. (An aside) However, most important to me, on 6 February 1945, half an hour after attending a Rotary/One meeting, I married my wife of 65 years.(2010) The Clarksville, Tennessee Sunrise Rotary Club made me a Charter Member in 1990, where I served as Secretary and Historian. Finally, 29 October 2002, I became a member, rather than a long time visitor, in Rotary/One. Thank you Rotary.
Let me begin this project by mapping out the contributions of the thirty-nine members for insuring the movement would succeed. They contributed at many different levels. Only one contributed nothing to the club’s success. As an economist, I humbly admit that this became anecdotal rather than scientific. It only gives an estimate of individual value adding to Rotary’s Dream. Much information adds to individual member’s personality rather than the “dream”, so is not counted in the evaluation.
To estimate the value to the club, I used a simple point system for various activities.
|Committee chair||3 points|
|Other||1 or 2 points|
“Other” refers to any mention of forward moving Rotary activity. Each five years in the club rated 1 point. However, as Paul thought up the club and the Rotary Association, then pushed them to completion, should I consider fifteen points for each as adequate?
For references, I mainly used the Club and Rotary International archives. A fair share of information bits came from “THE GOLDEN STRAND” by Oren Arnold, published by the Club in 1966 and from the David C. Forward tome ’A CENTURY OF PROGRESS’ publish by Rotary International 2003. The Who’s Who in Chicago from 1905 to 1937 added to the information. Candy Isaac the Rotarian Senior Regional Magazine Coordinator provided me with Paul’s five volumes of Rotary travels and his biography MY ROAD TO ROTARY, which gave me more nuggets. See my HARRIS*MEANT, sixty pages of quotes from Paul’s travels, now on the Rotary/One web.
I received very good assistance from Jane Kenamore Rotary/One archivist, Laura Mills and Francine Keyes, archivists at Rotary International and my daughter Pamela. The last took over my research when my wheelchair could not go through the door into our new archives. The 2003-2004 Club President “Dick” McKay and the 2007-2008 President David Templin reviewed my on going writing. The eminent Rotary historian, Basil Lewis, has given me valuable proof reading help. Errors left in are my fault.
Eleven in that pioneer group became very prominent in the Rotary movement. Seven members, 18% of the original 39, served as Club President. Sylvester Schiele (First), Al White (second), Paul Harris third and half of the fourth), Harry Ruggles (half the fourth and the fifth) before late comer “Red” Ramsey broke the spell. H.A. Crofts (ninth), Rufe Chapin (thirteenth) and Charlie Newton (eighteenth) ran out the string. The Paul and Harry office peculiarity is explained in due course.
Four of those club presidents became officers in the Rotary Association or 7 its 1912 successor Rotary International. Paul Harris served as the Association President in 1910 and 1911, then becoming President Emeritus for life. Harry Ruggles acted as Treasurer in 1910 and the Vice-president in 1912. Rufe Chapin became the second Treasurer in 1911, serving thirty-three years until his death in June 1945. Sylvester Schiele replaced Rufe until his own death in December the same year. .
Using the point system noted above, I have loosely ranked all 39 pioneer members. Eleven (28%), the MOVERS, spent decades active in the club. That was an almost unheard of proportion for original members continuing to move an organization for so long. .
Harry Ruggles, member #5, (printer) ran up the largest number of points 113. Of the first couple of hundred members, he may have brought in a third. Perhaps, his most valuable inductee was Ches Perry, the long time General Secretary of Rotary International. As Paul stated “If I in truth be called the founder of Rotary, Ches with equal truth be called the builder of Rotary International.” Harry started a barbershop quartet to entertain his and other clubs. A couple time he saved the club by rising and shouting let us sing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”. Harry looks like the main builder of Rotary/One. Yet, some thought Harry too pushy in his accomplishments. But, organizations need that.
See the complete list of information bits for the 39 members in the Roster section.
Paul Harris, member #2, (Lawyer) came in with 95 points, However, without Paul, Rotary would not have existed. He seemed able to select very good helpers, leaving himself available for inspiration. That gave Harry the opportunity to run wild. Paul and Harry shared a three year period as two presidents. A blown shtick made the usually calm Paul angry enough to resign from the club. He came back a few months later. He wrote the recruiting materials for Harry. Harry said that Paul had more ideas a minute than most have in a week. After Paul’s stint as Rotary Association President he eased off. Harry continued full speed.
Only the 1912-1912 Club President W.S. Miller (1909) served more than twelve months. To bring the Club Rotary Year in conformance with the Rotary International Year his term was extended from 1 February to 30 June 1912 extra.
Will Neff, member #19, (Dentist) also came in with 95 points. His 26 years a member, lagged those above. However, he served in some leadership capacity 19 years, although, never as president. He led the summer outings, generally in Harry’s Michigan cottage. Sometimes, the neighbors felt they had too much fun. 8 Will, also, instigated most of the fun at the meetings.
Rufus Chapin, member #22, (Company Secretary) with 82 points, much of it his 33 years as Rotary International Treasurer. He started the meetings in hotels. That certainly beat crowding into member’s offices. In winter radiators became hot seats. Rufe, also, thought up “Gyrator“, the club newsletter. He took the letter “G” and added “rotary” spelled backward. In 1929, he became the main sponsor of the Rotary/One history project. Much of this work came from Rufe’s work.
Charlie Newton, member #18, (Insurance) built up 64 points. He stayed in Rotary 55 years, ending up in Los Angeles. Several called him the “watch dog of Rotary“. He refused the presidency until 1923, when “He went energetically about cleaning up Chicago # One.” Probably, over the years the members had bent rules into pretzels. Charlie started the luncheon club idea.
Short, roly-poly Barney Arntzen member #27, (Undertaker) accrued 53 points. He came naturally to his nickname “Cupid”. As a very early secretary, he set up an efficient method for keeping the roster. I resurrected the missing 1905 and 1906 rosters using his 1907 and later information. Serving in several early offices and his 44 year membership brought him in with the first half dozen “MOVERS‘. He appears in numerous pictures, often in the foreground. Even wearing a bowler, he just barely reached Harry Ruggles’s, Fred Tweed’s or Harris Croft’s shoulders.
Harris Crofts, member #30 (Paper and wood boxes) rated 26 points. He served as president 1913-1914. Harris often took part or even instigated fun and jokes. A large man, he and small L.G. Lawrence once, for entertainment, engaged in a boffo boxing match. Harris ended up carrying L.G. out of the room on his shoulder. He remained in the club 39 years.
Sylvester Schiele, member #1 (Coal dealer in 1906 Insurance) remained in the club 40 years. He rated 32. Sylvester served as the club’s first president, therefore the premier position in the Roster. He started “Ladies Night” after the Whites attended a meeting prior to the opera. As an elder, Sylvester served as RI Treasurer for the last six months of his life, having taken over when Rufe Chapin, 33 years as RI Treasurer, had died. He was known for his charitable work and fine personality.
Al White, member #20 (Piano and organ manufacturer), comes in with 27 points. He was elected the second club president. In 1910, he served on the 9 Rotary Association organization committee. Al lasted 31 years in Rotary. Bob Fletcher, member #23 (Architect) earned 25 points. For eight years he actively participated, after that he went dormant. Bob had one of the longest lengths as a member, 52 years. Jim Pugh, member #34 (The Furniture Exhibition Warehouse Co.) racked up 20 points. Jim held several officer and committee posts, but dropped out after 14 years. He brought into the club Big Bill Thompson (Capitalist and later Mayor).
In 1905, the club declared that they would have no politicians nor tavern owners. In 1913, Jim Pugh brought in member Wm. Hale Thompson as “Capitalist”, perhaps a substitute for tavern owner. Shortly “Big Bill” became Chicago’s Mayor. In 1915, the Rotary International Convention was held in San Francisco. The Chicago Club chartered a train to take the delegates with stops in St. Louis, Omaha and Salt Lake City. The club sent messages to clubs in the three cities to “meet ‘Big Bill’ at the stations.” The Mayor with other friends out of town , dropped his Rotary membership in 1917. Now, we have the Chicago Mayor Daley, the Cook County President Stroger and the Illinois Secretary of State White as regular (active) members.
|Harry Ruggles 113||Paul Harris 95|
|Will Neff 95||Rufe Chapin 82|
|Charlie Newton 64||Barney Arntzen 53|
|Sylvester Schiele 32||Harris Crofts 26|
|Bob Fletcher 25||Al White 27|
|Jim Pugh 20|
Twelve members did not put in as much time as officers or on committees. However, seven of them stayed in the club for 22 to 45 years. That in itself gave stability to the movement.
Bill Jenson, member #6 (Real estate & renting) remained a member for 32 years. He also served in more offices and committees than the rest of the bench. He came in with 15 points. Dr. Clark Hawley (Ear, Nose, Throat) started the project aiding cripple children, which continues to this day. Clark also had 15 points. Fred Tweed member # 39 (Glass signs) also earned 15 points. With Paul, 10 he helped organize the New York club. In 1906, he brought in Don Carter, known as the Father of Community Service. Fred served only once as an officer.
Montague Bear member #12 (Engraver) put in 32 years and held only one officer post. He designed the first Rotary emblem. Monty, too, ran up 15 points Dr, George Baxter member # 13 (Oculist) stayed in 45 years, but never served as an officer or committee member receiving 11 points. Rufe Chapin called the doctor a ’builder”, but did not say why or in what.
Max Wolff member # 24 (Chief Deputy Clerk of the Criminal Court) helped write the first Rotary constitution. He remained a member for 22 years, but never held an office. That gave him 10 points. William Chamberlain member #31 (Photographic Supplies) twice served as an officer in his 9 years with the club. He also received 10 points.
I hesitated putting five more members on the BENCH rather than as SPECTATORS. Although, minor players, they did add some to very early Rotary bulk. J.P. Sullivan member # 7 (Painting and Decorating) with 9 points continued as a member for 33 years. However, he never held an office or on a committee. J.J. Comstock member # 14 (Commission Hardware) lasted as a member only 6 years. In 1906, he served as Vice President. George Baxter called him a builder for the first 5 years. He earned an 8.
Arthur Irwin member # 15 lasted 8 years. In 1907 he served as Treasurer. He had 6 points. L.C. Lawrence member # 38 (Cheese Wholesale Dealer) spent 25 years as a member without serving in any leadership capacity. He garnered 7 points. A.H.A. Mortimore member # 10 (Pure Food Company) dropped out in 1907, then came back in 1912 for another 10. He brought in Rufe Chapin and suggested singing to Harry Ruggles. He was only a 5 pointer.
|Bill Jenson 15||Clark Hawley 15|
|Fred Tweed 15||Monty Bear 15|
|George Baxter 11||W Chamberlain 10|
|Max Wolff 10||J.P. Sullivan 9|
|J.J. Comstock 8||L.C. Lawrence 7|
|Arthur Irwin 6||A.H.A Mortimore 5|