Formation of the Erie Rotary Club
In The Beginning
Mr. Amos M. Cassel, then Director of Erie Business College, was the first to hear about the idea of Rotary from a colleague who was President of the Rotary Club of DeMoines. Once Mr. Cassel received the literature about the Club, he was much inclined to start one in Erie. He decided he should not be the one to select all the original members himself, taking very seriously the Rotary admonition, “In selecting members, do not consider present friendship as an element in choosing.
Consider quality only. Get the very best men in each line, considering cleanness of character, mental acumen, business ability, and good fellowship as the basis upon which to choose.”
As he reported himself, “that no mistake be made in choosing the best men,” Mr. Cassel “determined to select but one man himself, and with his help to select a few others, and then with these, gradually to increase the number until a Committee of Organization of twenty or thirty be formed.”
Together, Mr. Cassel and architect C. Paxton Cody selected ten additional men and invited them to meet at the Y.M.C.A. cafeteria for dinner (called “luncheon” by Mr. Cassel) on Friday evening, August 8 1913 at 6’o clock sharp. Of the 12 invited, five attended, who then selected ten more for the next meeting and so on. On January 1, 1914, the Erie Club was officially accepted by the International organization as the 91st Club in the United States with 28 charter members.
The Classification System was part of the Rotary International Constitution, which required each member represent a specific industry, business, or profession. These are presented in successive by-laws of each club, as in the early- and mid-twentieth century, new professions proliferated. Membership was by invitation only and was extended only to those whose business or profession was not already represented in the Club, but almost from the start, this issue began to create problems and today, the Classification System has essentially been abandoned by the Erie Club.
The Classification System was not intended to create a cartel of business people cornering markets for a “sinister purpose” as noted in the September 9, 1913 edition of the Erie Dispatch. On the contrary, in the words of an unknown Erie Club member writing in October 1934, Rotary Founder Paul Harris intended to have “congenial men engaged I different lines of business, meet and give their various viewpoints on policies and principles relating to the conduct of business and thereby elevate the standards and ethics of business practices.”
Further, “In order to extend that idea it was thought well to have each new member represent a different kind of business so that the logic of these principles could be put to the most thorough test, and if found sound, then each member could be the ambassador from Rotary to the other men in his line of business and carry his convictions and Rotary’s to them.”