Bibliographical Highlights of Paul Harris, Founder of Rotary
Paul Harris was born in Racine, Wisconsin, U.S.A. on 19 April 1868 to George Howard Harris & Cornelia Bryan Harris In 1871 Paul’s father fell on hard times and, for economic reasons, Paul and his elder brother Cecil were taken to Wallingford, Vermont, U.S.A., to live with their paternal grandparents. Paul was raised by his grandparents for whom he maintained a deep love the rest of his life.
In the 1885 he matriculated at the University of Vermont in Burlington. In his second year he was expelled after being wrongly accused of taking part in the hazing of freshman. Subsequently, in 1933, the university conferred on Paul an honorary doctoral degree. In 1889 Paul left Princeton and took a job with the Sheldon Marble Company West Rutland, Vermont, fora year. In 1889 Paul went to Des Moines, Iowa, U.S.A. where he read law in the office of St. John Stevenson & Whisenand, preparatory to entering the law department of the State University of Iowa in Iowa city.
Paul graduated from the Law Department in June 1891. The graduation address, by an attorney who was an alumnus of the school, emphasized the value of broadening oneself through travel and new experiences. Paul resolved to take five years in which to travel and work at various trades before actually beginning a law practice. He went to San Francisco, California, U.S.A., where he got a job on the Chronicle as a reporter. He became a close friend of another reporter, Harry Pulliam, who had come from West Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.A., and who later in life became president of the National baseball League. He and Harry Pulliam decided to work in LosAngeles, where Paul got a job as a teacher in a business college. In 1892 Paul left Los Angeles in April and went to Denver, Colorado, U.S.A. where he joined a theatrical stock company at the Old Fifteenth Street Theater as an actor. Later, he got a job as a reporter on the Rocky Mountain New and then worked on a ranch assisted in the near Platteville, Colorado. He moved to Jacksonville, Florida, U.S.A., where he got a job as night clerk in the St.James Hotel but, finding this work boring, he became a travelling salesman for a marble and granite concern owned by George W. Clark, who became a good friend of Paul’s Years later, George Clark organized and became the first president of the Rotary Club of Jacksonville. In March 1893, Paul went to Washington, D.C., U.S.A., to observe the inauguration of Grover Cleveland as president of the U.S.A. He took a temporary job on the Washington Star. Subsequently he went to Louisville, Kentucky, to visit his friend Harry Pulliam, who had returned home unable to get a job on the Courier or the Commercial as a reporter, he joined another marble and granite company and travelled throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Virgina, U.S.A., In Norfolk, Virginia, he quit his job as salesman and took a boat to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., where he answered an advertisement for a cattlement by a Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. concern making a shipment to England. He signed on and set sail for England, where he hoped to visit London. He stayed in Liverpool and its suburbs briefly before setting sail for the return, disappointed at not having had the opportunity to see London. He resolved to sign another ship as soon as possible to return to England. While scouting Baltimore for another ship to England he walked to Ellicott city, Maryland, and worked on a farm and in corn canning factory. On return to Baltimore, he took a job on ship to England. Finally reaching London, he visited many historic places about which he had read. He also spent time in Wales when his ship returned by way of Swansea to pick up cargo. Back in the U.S.A., Paul went by train to Chicago to visit the Coloumbian Exposition. He was intrigued by Chicago’s atmosphere of boldness and vigor, which took him back to that city when he finally chose to settle down. Leaving Chicago, he moved on to New Orleans, Lousiana, U.S.A., and got a job picking and packing oranges in Plaquemines Parish. Caught in a hurricane and tidal wave, herescue operations. After failing to get a job on a newspaper in NewOrleans, he returned in October to Jacksonville, florida, to his old position with the marble and granite company. He was given a territory covering southern U.S.A. Cuba, and the Bahama Islands.
A year after going back to Jacksonville, Paul was sent to Europe by the granite and marble company as a buyer from quarries in Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, and Italy. He visited all major European countries while there. After returning to Jacksonville from his European tour, he chose to leave his job with the granite company. He stayed on longer, however, when his friend George Clarke made him temporary manager of the New York office so he could experience life in the city. Having fulfilled his plan for travelling and broadening himself over a five-year period, Paul moved to Chicago at the end of February 1896 to open a law office. Chicago became his permanent Law home, and through the year he maintained a successful law practice there. Some years later he became active in the cause of Rotary. Paul visited his boyhood scenes in Vermont and became aware of his lack of close friends in his adopted hometown of Chicago. Back in Chicago, he visited the home of a business friend in the autumn and following a walk in which he was introduced to various merchants in the neighborhood, Paul conceived the idea of a club that could recapture some of the friendly spirit among businessmen in small communities. He made no attempt, however, to put his idea into practice until five years later. In 1905 Paul met three young business acquaintances-Silvester Schiele, Gustavus Loehr, and Hiram Shorey – in Loehr’s office and explained his idea of a different kind of businessmen’s club, one in which the various business and professions of a community are represented. Rotary was born from this meeting on 23rd February. In 1910 Paul met and courted Jean Thomson, a young lass immigrated from Scotland, and married her. He called her ‘Bonnie Jean’
Paul and Jean acquired a home in a suburb of Chicago and named it “Comely Bank” after the street in Edinburgh, Scotland, where Jean had spent her childhood and youth. This was to be Paul’s home until his death 35 years later.
And after Paul maintained his law office for most of the remainder of his life. In fact, his law partnership, with which he was associated until 1946, continues to this day in Chicago under the name of Davis & Cichorski. In addition, office space was maintained for him, as first president and president emeritus, at the Rotary International World Headquarters in Chicago. He spent much time travelling and was invited to speak to Rotarians at annual conventions, district and regional meetings and other functions. Paul Harris died on 27th January 1947. The funeral service was held on January 30th in Morgan park Congregational Church in Chicago. Those who joined with President Richard C. Hedke, were past President Arch C. Klumph, George C. Hager and T.A. Warren. They represented 300,000 Rotarians in 70 lands. Chesley R. Perry, Paul’s fellow Club member for 39 years, spoke for the Chicago Rotary Club ; Past spoke for the Rotary. Paul’s body was placed next but one to that of his friend Silvester Schiele, the first President of the First Rotary Club. In the words of Past R. I. President Angus S. Mitchell (1948-49): “Yes, the founder of Rotary was a simple man but one with a great vision-peace and a truly neighbourly world. To aid in its implementation he travelled extensively meeting and appreciating men and making friends everywhere he went. He was a normal, lovable human being, balanced, competent, friendly with a supreme confidence that just such ordinary human qualities would work wonders among men and nations Paul Harris, the founder of Rotary, has gone in the flesh but his life’cotlans work will live of forever.”