Rotary, Lions & Freemasonry

Thanks to the fraternal principles espoused by Freemasonry, other organizations found their birth – the Lions Club, the Rotary Club, the Elks Club, the Loyal Order of Moose, the Oddfellows, the Eagles, the Knights of Pythias, the Optimist Club, The Grange… the list goes on and on and on.

Nearly all of these have at least their inspiration, if not even a basis in Freemasonry, but NONE of them are Masonic.

Interestingly enough, Freemasons were founding members of both the Lions Club and the Rotary Club. Gustave E. Loehr, a Mason, was a charter member of the Rotary Club (though it was founded by Paul P. Harris, who was not a Mason), and Melvin Jones, the founder of the Lions Club, was actually a Mason. But again – Lions and Rotary are NOT Masonic though they have a large number of Freemasons as their members.

Also, some Lodges were largely if not entirely composed of Rotarians. The discovery of a badge with the Rotary wheel encircling the Masonic pair of compasses and the letter ‘G’ is evidence of this.

One such Lodge is ROTARIAN LODGE. No.4195: A Masonic Lodge for Members of the Rotary Movement whose Badge is in the Emblem. The Rotarian Lodge No. 4195, still active today, of London was granted its warrant by the United Grand Lodge of England on November 3, 1920. The lodge had 29 petitioners (founder members), all of whom would have had to have been Freemasons before they petitioned Grand Lodge to form a new lodge. A letter accompanying the petition, from one of the founders, Charles Dewey, states that the petitioners were all
members of the London Rotary Club, which at that time had over 300 members.

This is not the only Rotary lodge under the United Grand Lodge of England and it was not the first. The first was the Nottingham Rotary Lodge No.3941, formed in 1919 and mentioned in the Dewey letter. Another was the North Notts Rotary Lodge and in more recent times there have been five other Rotary Lodges, the Rotary Lodge of Suffolk No. 9306, East Lancashire Rotary Lodge No. 9359, Rotary Lodge of Norfolk No. 9367, Rotarian Lodge of Hong Kong No. 9378 and Rotary Lodge of Hampshire No. 9389. These last five have all been formed in the last twenty years.

Older Rotarians have said that there used to be Rotary Clubs that only accepted Masons as members. However, an edict came down sometime in the late 1930s from R.I. that quietly instructed such clubs to admit non-masonic members or they would lose their charters.