Why the Rotary wheel logo?

From the Rotary Club of East Jefferson County in Washington.  Newsletter:  July 2003
Our Rotary wheel keeps us movin' along
The original Rotary wheel design

I decided it was time to add some color to our club newsletter's masthead. As I was playing around with it, I began wondering about the Rotary wheel. What did the first design look like? Who made it? Why a wheel? Because Rotary meeting venues used to rotate?

Snooping around online produced some conflicting answers — but, that won't surprise anyone who's ever done any historical research.

Depending on the source, two different men were credited with the first buggy wheel design, printer Harry Ruggles and/or engraver Montague M. Bear. One could say, "Go with what Rotary International says." or "The ABCs of Rotary is right." The genealogist in me, however, prefers to get as close to the original source as possible.

In 1970, George Cooper was editor of the Gyrator, the Rotary One-Chicago club bulletin. The following is taken largely from an article he wrote. Other details came from a Rotary International history and tidbits from other Rotary Web sites.

Rotary wheel 1906/07
Invention of the RI Wheel
In 1905, Paul Harris and his club agreed a wheel should be the emblem of Rotary. Harry Ruggles, a printer, chose a buggy wheel that was simple in design, a bold circle with a hub and spokes. It was enthusiastically accepted by the first Rotary Club, of which Ruggles was member number five. Ruggles is therefore credited for designing the first "print" or "name badge" version of the wheel.
Rotary wheel 1911-1914

By 1906, some thought the design was too plain. Montague M. Bear, an engraver, added a few clouds (that looked like dust) and little marks to the design to indicate a wheel in motion. The words "Rotary Club" were added above the wheel.

When someone pointed out that a "cloud of dust could not be raised fore and aft, even by Rotary," the design was changed again. The clouds of dust were subdued and a ribbon reading "Rotary Club" was added across the wheel. The words "Rotary Club", above the wheel, were replaced by "Chicago".

Other Rotary clubs had been forming, using the wheel as a basic design. Many added features to identify their club with their city, such as a buffalo for Buffalo, N.Y., an oak tree for Oakland, Calif., etcetera.

In 1910, there were 16 Rotary Clubs and 16 designs. That was the year of the first Rotary convention, held in Chicago, the birthplace of Rotary. The National Association of Rotary Clubs was formed. The word "Chicago", above the wheel, was replaced by "National Association".


Rotary wheel 1913-1923
1912/13 to 1923
In blue and gold

The direct forerunner of the official Rotary emblem came from the Rotary Club of Philadelphia, which was developing its first emblem around 1911. In 1912, a gear wheel in royal blue and gold was adopted as the official emblem. (By 1920, there were 57 different emblems nationally.)

After they complained the wheel was mechanically unsound, Oscar B. Bjoge and Charles Henry Mackintosk redesigned it. Within a couple of years, it was noted that the wheel had no keyway (notched hole in the middle) and, without it, the gear was not capable of transmitting power to, or from, the shaft. 

Modern Rotary wheel

The re-engineered, mechanically-correct Rotary wheel was approved by the RI Board in 1924. The “new” emblem, in royal blue and gold, has remained unchanged — and working happily — ever since.

Click here, if you're online, to see a page of Rotary logos from throughout the "ages". (Be patient if you're on dial-up, it's a large image. 121KB ) Sorry, I can't tell you where the page was originally copied from. No one who had this on their site noted the source.