Rotary International  - Bell History

Rotary historians have written that the Oakland (CA) Rotary Club’s sixth President, V. O. Lawrence was the first Rotarian in history to inaugurate a system of fines on latecomers at the weekly luncheons, enriching the club’s charity funds. From this practice evolved the birthday fine and bell ringer. In 1922, U.S. Rotarians organized an attendance contest; the challenge was that the losing clubs would join in giving the winning club a prize. The Rotary Club of New York City was declared the winner and to them was awarded as a prize a bell from a popular patrol boat, which was placed on wood that came from HMS “Victory”, Admiral Nelson’s vessel at the battle of Trafalgar. Since then, the bell used in Rotary meetings started to represent, as on the ships, order, discipline and the time to guide us through the weekly hour and a half meetings.

  • The bell informs us with its sound the beginning of the Rotary meeting, at which time people present should stand, same as at the end, in order to salute the national and Rotary flags.
  • The gavel symbolizes the authority invested in the Rotarian elected to the highest position in Rotary, and through him or her, reminds those present of his or her authority.
  • When presidents transmit their positions to their successors at the end of their mandate, they give the bell their last hit turning the gavel over to their successor, symbolizing the transfer of authority.

The sound of the bell has the power to charm, to amaze, to warn, and can be fun.