Posted by Louisa Horne on Aug 01, 2019
Did you know…
Rotary’s history informs many of today’s practices. Many traditions, while never officially mandated or sanctioned, are such a part of current Rotary culture that some Rotarians could not imagine their Rotary experience without these long-standing practices. Ringing a bell is one of these traditions that has been around for almost a century, but never mandated. Many clubs have a bell – and others do not. It’s a choice… so where did the tradition come from?
It started with an attendance contest between Rotary clubs in London and New York City in 1922. The losers of the contest, London, had to present a prize to the winner, NYC. The prize was 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 at Rotary meetings began to represent, as on the ships, order, discipline and time to guide clubs through the weekly meetings. The bell is often sounded to mark the beginning of a Rotary meeting, at which time people stand for their opening ritual, which varies from club to club. Many clubs also ring it to indicate adjournment of a meeting. Both bells and gavels have a long association with Robert’s Rules of Order, the definitive manual of parliamentary procedure in North America. 
Early Rotary leaders adopted Robert’s Rules as a way to govern meetings. The gavel symbolizes the authority of a club president or meeting chair to manage a meeting. When presidents transfer their positions to their successors at the end of the year, they may
give the bell a last ring and turn the gavel over to their successor, symbolizing the transfer of leadership.
Watch the video at to see how the Marinelli family in Italy crafted a fabulous bell to mark the Foundation’s centenary. It’s a great story – and Beacon loved seeing it in Evanston.