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Rotary Club of Oslo The First Club of Norway

Rotary International District 2310
 

OM OSLO ROTARY KLUBB

Charter no: 1211
Stiftet: 23. februar 1922
Charterdato: 1. juni 1922
Fadderklubb: Fort Dodge, Iowa, USA
Antall medlemmer: Ca. 200

Distrikt 2310 av Rotary International

∆resmedlem av Oslo Rotary Klubb:
H.K.H. Kronprins Haakon Magnus

 

 

Olaf M Oleson took the initiative of forming the RC Oslo after contacting his cousin Guardes Captain Ola Five who accepted the task.


OSLO ROTARY KLUBB
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The first and the largest Rotary Club in Scandinavia

It was the Norwegian-American US Senator Olaf M. Oleson who brought the ideas of Rotary to Scandinavia in 1921. Oslo Rotary Club - then Kristiania Rotary Club (the Capital of Norway changed its name to Oslo in 1924) - held its inaugural meeting later that year, when the first members of the board and the first president were elected.

Oslo Rotary Club was granted its Charter by Rotary International on June 1, 1922, and is consequently the oldest Rotary Club in Scandinavia. For the last decades the number of members has been slightly above 200.

We welcome you warmly as our guest during your stay in Oslo. Where and when we meet: We meet at the
"Det Norske Teater" (The Norwegian Theatre) Kristian IV's gate 8., every Thursday at 11.45 a.m.
 

Read about Paul Harris' visit to Oslo in 1932

The Father of Rotary in Norway

Records indicate that Ole Oleson of Fort Dodge, Iowa, and Harry Weer of Tacoma, Washington worked with Oslo friends, Otto Hoff, Olaf Five (a cousin), P.A. Iverson and Thor Bisguard to organize the Kristiania (Oslo) Rotary Club in 1922.
Weer had been in Rotary since  1914 and was Vice President of the West Coast Grocery Company though his connection with Oleson and Norway is not clear.
Oleson was a charter member of Fort Dodge RC and he is credited with 100% attendance for over 25 years.
The only time he missed a meeting was when he was aboard ship on his way to Europe.
Even when he was in Europe after 1922 he is credited with attending meetings there.

Surprisingly he was never president of the local club or held office  at district level.  On April 15, 1932, Oleson received a cable from  the Oslo Club on the occasion of its 10th anniversary, and it  recognized him as 'the father of Rotary in Norway'.  In the following  years, the Fort Dodge Club had visitors from Norway on various  occasions, and on June 26, 1939, held a special meeting to celebrate  Oleson's involvement with Norwegian Rotary.  But then came the war,  and on September 16, 1940, a Norwegian economist from Oslo, O.  Gjergjo, who had left Norway at the beginning of the War and had come  to Iowa State College, presented a program on conditions in Norway  after the Nazi invasion.

The connection between Fort Dodge, Iowa, and Kristiania (Oslo) is  interesting.  Oleson was born June 29, 1849.  One source says he was  born near Stenkjer, and another says Stod, Trondhjem, in Norway, the  son of a farmer and teacher.  He completed his schooling in Norway  and then seems to have gone to a school for horticulture or was  employed as an apprentice in horticulture in Kristiania for two  years.  Records show that Ole (Olaf) Oleson migrated from Norway to  the USA in 1870.  The family name seems to have been Five but he  changed it to Oleson when he came to the U.S.  He went to join a  brother in Fort Dodge, Iowa where he worked on a farm and in a local  pharmacy.  In 1873 he  attended the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy   from which he graduated with honors.   He was there during the  Philadelphia World's Fair at which he was exposed to the latest  technology which influenced him in his business career.  He returned  to Fort Dodge to establish the Oleson Drug Company which was not only  a retail drug store but also a large drug distributor/wholesale  house.   He was not just a pharmacist but also an entrepreneur and  'Renaissance man', successful in all that he did.  He was founder of  the Fort Dodge Light and Power Company drawing on his experiences at  the World's Fair.  Likewise he founded the Fort Dodge Telephone  Company, the Fort Dodge Hotel Company and the Oleson Land Company.  
The last led him to become one of the major developers in Fort Dodge 
at the time of its greatest expansion.  He also was a major investor  in most of the new businesses which began in Fort Dodge, including  Fort Dodge Labs for animal pharmaceuticals.  He was also a highly  respected botanist.  His plant collection is the basis for the  collection at Iowa State University and he wrote a manual in local  botany and native plants which was used on the college level.   He  was the community's greatest philanthropist giving the city two  parks, contributing heavily to the establishment of the city's two  hospital, providing funds for the construction of a Congregational 
Church.  From 1891 to 1895 he served also as a Democrat State  Senator.   Oleson was proud of his Norwegian heritage, returning  annually to Norway on visits during most of his life, rarely missing  a Rotary meeting there.  He was an officer and treasurer of the  Norwegian American Historical Association and promoted Norwegian  culture and heritage in the United States, especially with his  support of Norwegian choral singing.  He was a founder of the  association for Norwegian men's singing and never missed one of the  associations national song fests.  He organized the Fort Dodge 
Manskor and was its long time director.  In 1928 he was knighted with 
the Order of St. Olaf by King Haakon VII for his efforts in  preserving Norwegian heritage.  Oleson died in 1944.  In 1949 the  sculptor Clifton Adams made a relief memorial to Oleson, which now stands in a park presented to the  city by Oleson.  The 6 panels depict stages in his life.
   Click for larger image
This account is based on material provided by Roger Natte of Fort  Dodge to whom we are grateful for his research. Compiled by Basil Lewis. January 2009

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