The Rotary wheel bridged a few gaps in its long
history and in evolving what it is today...but once it bridged its gaps...it
has remained the same since 1923...a symbol of "SERVICE ABOVE SELF".
It started in 1905, the year the first Rotary
Club was organized in Chicago. From 1905 to 1923 it progressed in strength
and productivity as have the clubs it symbolizes.
It was first agreed that a wheel, rightly so, be
the emblem of Rotary. Harry Ruggles, the printer, was asked to do something
about it. Harry had a good assortment of wagon wheel engravings. Remember,
in 1905 there must have been a million or more horse drawn vehicles and
wagons for sale advertised in every newspaper and etched in the minds of
every American was the wagon wheel. Harry choose one that was simple in
design, a bold circle with a hub and spokes...not very ornamental, but it
had a certain look of beauty and was enthusiastically accepted by the first
Rotary Club. But then a gap appeared...many thought it was to static...too
plain. Montague M. Bear, proprietor of an engraving firm worked a few clouds
and little marks to the design indicating that the wheel was revolving and
raising some dust. Also, the words "Rotary Club" were added above the wheel.
That was 1906.
Then another gap appeared when it was pointed
out that a "cloud of dust could not be raised fore and aft, even by Rotary!
The design was changed again...it was still 1906...and the clouds of dust
were subdued and a ribbon reading "Rotary Club" was added across the wheel
and the words "Rotary Club" were replaced by the words "Chicago".
By then, other Rotary clubs had been formed and
used as a basic design. But still there were gaps. Many clubs added features
which identified their club with their city, such as a buffalo for Buffalo,
N.Y....a giant oak tree for Oakland, California etc. In 1910 there were 16
Rotary Clubs and there were as many designs!
That was the year the first Rotary convention
was held and it was appropriately held in Chicago. It was then that the
National Association of Rotary Clubs was formed. And so the words "Chicago"
above the wheel was replaced by "National Association". Prior to the 1912
convention, each club was invited to submit a design with the wheel being
the basic element. At the 1912 convention, a gear wheel in royal blue and
gold was adopted as Rotary's official emblem.
However, another gap appeared! Engineers
complained that the wheel was unworkable! It was mechanically unsound and
could do no work! So Oscar B. Bjoge and Charles Henry Mackintosk were
assigned the task of redesigning the Rotary wheel to make it workable.
Their design was adopted in 1920 and then
another gap was pointed out...it had no keyway...and without it, the gear
was not capable of transmitting power to or from the shaft.
In 1923 we bridged our final gap...the keyway
was added and still stands today...an emblem of service throughout the
[The above history was from an article written
by web author George Cooper in 1970 as editor of the Gyrator -Rotary
One-Chicago club bulletin.]