“He has done a great service, how great will perhaps never be measured, and withal, he is the most modest of men. Perhaps if Rotary had gone searching she would never have found the militant apostle that she needed for successful work in the Near and Far East…There are no other fellows that I know of just like Jim Davidson; his personality is distinctly and entirely his own, and it is an odd conglomerate – seer, politician, showman, adventurer, writer, philosopher, incorrigible youth and modern go-getter. And it took his whole repertoire to succeed. Indeed, I believe he succeeded where no one else could have.”1
C. McCullough, President 1921/22 Rotary International (RI) Fort William, Ontario
With the exception of Founder Paul Harris who was a Rotarian from 1905-1947; and Secretary Chesley Perry, a Rotarian from 1908-1942, there is no Rotarian who, in the context of time has had a greater influence on the extension and adaptation of Rotary to the rest of the world than James Wheeler Davidson. In reflecting on Rotary after forty-two years, Paul Harris acknowledged Davidson as the one who spanned Rotary around the world.2 The Marco Polo of Rotary as he became known, was perhaps the best example of extension “Service above Self” in his Rotary time, 1914-1933.3
Creating new Rotary Clubs in new countries was Davidson’s major accomplishment in life. He did it by using his experience as an international adventurer and journalist, by learning Japanese and understanding other languages, by spreading his contagious enthusiasm, by philanthropically sharing his wealth, by establishing friendships that lasted his lifetime, by becoming a Canadian, by leaving a legacy that is still remembered, and even revered in many Asian and Australasian Rotary Clubs and by persuasively articulating the precepts of Rotary with almost one hundred percent success. Harris described him as a “World Citizen”, who was already internationally well known before he joined Rotary in 1914. But Rotary wasn’t Davidson’s only significant contribution to Canada and the world of his time. It was just his last one.4
James Wheeler Davidson was born in Austin, Minnesota on June 14, 1872. He was educated locally in the small Northwestern Military Academy and brevetted a Lieutenant, before he first came into prominence at age eighteen. Entrepreneurial minded even then, he began organizing tours for the Austin Opera House. And he was effective at it. So much so that the well known impresario, his cousin Major J.B. Pond of New York, asked “Jim” for help organizing his VIP tours in America. Davidson accepted. His first tours in 1891/92 included hosting Henry Stanley and Lieutenant Robert Peary. Both remained lifelong friends.
In 1893, Peary selected Davidson as the youngest of eight from the 1500 applicants for the second Peary (1893/4) Expedition. The objective was to locate a route to the North Pole, over the 5000 foot high Northern Greenland icecap. The expedition members faced trying weather conditions every time they ventured out. Undaunted, the team members covered over 1300 miles of glacier terrain despite frequent delays by life threatening snowstorms. During one March 1894 seven day storm at –40 to –60°F with winds averaging 48 mph at an elevation of 5000 feet, Davidson’s tent was partially shredded and became snow filled. Fearing hypothermia and hypoxia he woke his two sleeping companions. They moved to Peary’s slightly larger tent on day six. Davidson’s sleeping bag had become wet. Then it froze. So did his feet.5
On day seven Dr. Vincent examined Davidson’s left foot and found it “white and hard as marble.” By then Davidson couldn’t walk or stand on it, so he was strapped to a sled for the forty-five mile journey back to the base camp. As the one day trip became three, the conditions for Davidson and Vincent became precipitous. The dogs were let loose and the sled left behind. Desperately, Dr. Vincent went ahead alone to look for the camp. Davidson continued by rolling and crawling for another six miles. Six hours later a Husky dog belonging to the relief party spotted Davidson’s boot. He had tried to find shelter under a rock. Five months later, a skin graft from an Eskimo boy finally took and he was able to stand and take his first steps. At least three surgical revisions were required at the Mayo Clinic. Davidson was left with a lifelong limp.
After fifteen months living north of Thule, 800 miles from the North Pole, Davidson and the Peary expedition were evacuated from Greenland on the Newfoundland relief ship Falcon. On board was a Brooklyn newspaper editor whom he befriended, H.L. Bridgman. Davidson was persistent in trying to convince the editor to hire him as a foreign correspondent in the Far East.6 1 Leland D. Case; Quoted in “That Man Davidson”, a presentation at the RI Detroit Convention, 1934. Six page manuscript in the Abramson Archives. Leland Case was the Editor of The Rotarian and wrote the article a few weeks after the return of the Davidsons to Vancouver in March 1931. Case concluded his paper by quoting Dr. McCullough as “voicing the sentiment of many when he wrote”, “He has done a great service, how great will perhaps never be measured…”. Dr. Crawford McCullough was an EENT surgeon from Fort William, Ontario, Canada who joined Rotary when his Club was formed in 1915. He became the District #4 Governor 1919/20; the Convention Chairman of the 1921 Convention in Edinburgh; the second Rotary President from Canada in 1921/22, after Rev. Leslie Pidgeon of Winnipeg in 1917/18; Chairman of the Rotary Extension Committee 1923/24; the Convention Chairman of the 25th anniversary Convention in Chicago in 1930; and an Honorary Commissioner to Asia in 1936. His papers are in the Rotary Archives. McCullough is one of the central figures in the internationalization of Rotary. 2 Paul Harris, “Rotary’s Twoscore and Two”. Guest Editorial in The Rotarian 70(2): 7, February 1947. There were many Rotarians involved in the extension movement, including Paul Harris himself who initiated the first extension of Rotary from Chicago (1905) to San Francisco (1908). See the Note on Extension. 3 (James W. Davidson), “The Marco Polo of Rotary”, in The First Men of Rotary series for Rotary’s 75th Anniversary, The Rotarian 137(4): 38-39, October 1979. 4 N.T. Joseph in James Wheeler Davidson, Profile of a Rotarian. 131 pages, 1987. It includes chapters on: Davidson before RI; Making New Friends; Report to RI Board (1931); Lillian’s 1932 RI address; memorial telegrams (1933); Vancouver Rotary Club President D.G. Swan and Reverend H.H. Bingham’s funeral eulogies; Marjory’s impressions of her father (circa 1987), Allan Albert’s tribute at the Detroit June 1934 convention; the planting of the Blue Spruce at Morgan Park (The Harris home in Chicago, 1933); and the Davidson/Abramson presentation ceremony during the 1983 RI convention in Toronto. Joseph was a Cochin, India Rotarian, who became intrigued with Jim Davidson, when he researched and wrote Rotary in India (1972). Davidson became a Canadian (British) citizen in 1923. Lillian became a dual citizen but the year is not known. A brief outline of Davidson’s contributions to Rotary International was documented by R. Lampard, in James Wheeler Davidson “World Citizen”, Under the Northern Lights, the Zone 22 Centennial History, pages 20-22, RI 2004. 5 James Wheeler Davidson’s personal handwritten Peary Expedition diary for March 20-23, 1894. Deposited in the Center for Polar Archives in Washington, D.C. by his wife Lillian, as part of the acknowledgement of the 100th anniversary of his birth in July 1872. For a confirming source see Lillian Davidson’s Reply to letter from Spencer Hagen 2 pages (n.d). Copy in the possession of their daughter Marjorie Abramson and annotated Notes by his Wife. For a second description of the 2nd Peary Expedition see the interview by Davidson’s friend Rotarian George Carr with E.N. Davis in “North with Admiral Peary”, The Rotarian 49(1): 18-20, 59-61, August 1936. E.N. Davis was a Rotarian, editor of the Prince Albert, Saskatchewan Daily Herald and a friend of Peary expedition member George H. Carr of Prince Albert. After Davidson froze his foot, Peary and three others continued over the plateau of the icecap to within 500 miles of the Pole. The ice broke up forcing the expedition to return. 6 H.L. Bridgman, “Davidson’s Terrible Experience”. Brooklyn Daily Standard Union, October 3, 1894. Bridgman was the editor of the newspaper and was on the 2nd Peary Relief Expedition that reached the base camp at Inglefield Gulf, Bowdoin Bay, Northwest Greenland. Copy in the Abramson Archives.
The idea must have continued to grow on Davidson, as he recuperated curled up beside his lead sled dog Blondie in Austin, Minnesota. In November 1894 Davidson decided to go anyway. The New York Herald Tribune, St. Paul Morning Call and eventually a total of eight newspapers joined a syndicate to publish his letters as a war correspondent. Several Hong Kong, Japanese and Oriental newspapers joined the syndicate later.
Davidson arrived in Japan in early 1895. There he received a tip from the Herald-Tribune’s Far East bureau chief, Colonel John Cockerill that action was more likely to be in Formosa (Taiwan). He headed to Taipei as the only journalist, in March 1895. His intention was to associate with the Chinese army and give the Chinese perspective on the hostilities.7 When a Sino-Japanese truce was signed in May, 1895, Formosa was not included in it. As a result the Governor declared Formosa a Republic, which Davidson viewed as disastrous. Almost immediately the Japanese invaded the island. Few Westerners remained. When the two thousand Japanese troops were only ten miles from Taipei, the Governor escaped by disguising himself and bribing his bodyguards. The unpaid Chinese troops mutinied. Rioting, looting, fire setting, and acts of violence followed and threatened everyone.
On June 6th Davidson, two colleagues and three coolies, armed with rifles and a white flag ventured out at noon toward the Japanese camp. Fortuitously they were met by an English speaking Japanese sentry who took them to their commander. After apprising him of the chaos in the city, five hundred troops were assigned to occupy it. Davidson and his colleagues led them back at 2:00 a.m. to within three miles of Taipei. Then the three fearless foreigners re-entered the city alone, being shot at only once. Once inside they started the rumor that a big Japanese army was at the city gates. The message was spread rapidly by a Chinese gong runner. Although outnumbered one hundred to one the Japanese troops entered the city at dawn unmolested, and occupied the strategic points. No further shots were fired. The looting and rioting stopped immediately. The Chinese troops vanished in whatever manner they could.8
For their initiative and bravery, Jim Davidson, Mr. G.M.T. Thomson and Mr. R.N. Ohly, his English and German companions, were decorated with the 5th Class of the Order of the Rising Sun by the Emperor in December 1895. They were the second foreigners to be so honored.9
As the Japanese advance continued, Davidson switched his allegiance and followed the Japanese Army, as it conquered the remaining two thirds of the island. His syndicated newspaper articles came to the attention of the US Government. In late 1896 Davidson was offered a US Consul Agent appointment in Formosa, which he accepted. In 1903 he was transferred to Manchuria, before becoming the Commercial Attaché and Acting Consulate General in Shanghai China in 1904/5.10 At that time the Shanghai delegation was one of the largest outside continental USA. His series of appointments were interrupted during 1903 when he was “loaned” to the Russian government for six months at the request of Prince Gagarian, to allow him to traverse the newly completed Trans-Siberian railway. He wrote numerous articles and several books about that trip.11
While stationed in Formosa, Davidson began studying its ancient history. He completed his classic history text, Formosa: Past and Present, for which he received an FRGS from the Royal Geographical Society in 1903.12 It remains one of the authoritative books on Taiwanese history, so much so that a deputation from the Taiwan government and National Institute of Taiwan History visited the family looking for clues, correspondence and artifacts that might shed more light on the origin and history of the island inhabitants.13 The importance of Davidson’s legacy and his contributions to Rotary and peace in the Far East were recognized at the 1994 Annual RI convention held in Taipei, where his daughter Marjory Abramson, together with his grandson Don Abramson were presented with a commemorative plaque by the RI President.
Davidson returned to the US in 1905 suffering from typhoid. While on the ship he met the well-traveled Dow family from San Francisco. Only thirty-three and still single he caught the eye of their daughter Lillian. Back in Minnesota Davidson spent months recovering under the care and attention of his mother. He returned to San Francisco the day of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and used his Formosa experience to find a route into the blockaded city. After tracing the Dow family he discovered their offices had been demolished and their residence burned. He helped them leave the fractured city, and then assisted his future father-in-law to restart his Dow Pump and Diesel Company in nearby Alameda. On October 6, 1906 Jim and Lillian were married and the two moved to Winnipeg, where Davidson had started a new era in his life as a businessman, in partnership with his brother C.H. Davidson, T.L. Beiseker and A.J. Sayre.14
The Winnipeg weather quickly led to an ultimatum from Lillian – it’s one more winter or me, so the Davidsons moved to Calgary in 1907 and the new Province of Alberta. The Davidson’s would be joined by one daughter, Marjory who was born in Calgary in 1915.15 7 Letter to the Managing Editor of the New York Herald Tribune, November 10, 1894. One page. Copy in the Abramson Archives. 8 James Wheeler Davidson. 500 soldiers accompanied Messrs. Davidson, Thompson and Ohly back to within three miles of Taipei. They waited until dawn to give the Chinese soldiers time to escape, before entering the city – unmolested. Davidson sent at least 88 correspondent letters, which were published by US newspapers from February to December 1895. Original copies of all 88 letters are held in the Abramson Archives. 9 On November 15, 1895 the Japanese government announced that Davidson and his two companions were to receive the 5th Class of the Order of the Rising Sun from the Emperor of Japan. The presentation was made by Governor-General of Formosa Count Kabayama in Taipei on December 24, 1895. The only other recipient of that decoration to that date had been Sir Edwin Arnold. The Abramson family have retained the medal. 10 A Summary of Davidson’s US Consular appointments included: Agent at Tamsui (Dec. 19, 1896); Consul for Formosa (June 2, 1898); Consul at Antung (Jan. 22, 1904); Commercial Attaché at Shanghai (May-Aug 1904); Consul at Nanking (Aug. 1, 1904-Oct. 6, 1904); Vice Consul then Consul at Shanghai (Dec. 22, 1904-May 29, 1905); Consul at Antung (May 29, 1905). The appointments were approved by Presidents Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and William McKinley. For further details see James Wheeler Davidson, in A.O. MacRae’s History of Alberta 1:566, 1912. 11 Davidson wrote Davidson’s Handbook of Manchuria, and A Guide Book to Siberian and Chinese Railways circa 1904, as well as several articles on the newly completed Trans-Siberian railway. For his special reports on military conditions in Russia, Japan and China, he received the thanks of the General Board of the American Army. Davidson was offered a position as Inspector of Consulates in the Orient but declined it. Confirmation is provided in “Jim Davidson, Trail Blazer” by Lillian Dow Davidson (n.d. circa 1935) 2 pages. Copy in the Abramson Archives. Davidson’s preliminary bibliography is attached. 12 James Wheeler Davidson, Formosa: Past and Present, 1903, 776 pages. Reprinted by Oxford University Press 1988. The book contains a chapter on the turnover of Taipei to the Japanese. 13 Marjorie (Davidson) Abramson in highlights of a conversation with R. Lampard December 28, 2000. The two visitors came in the late 1980’s. The Taiwan Minister of Defence and a representative of the National Institute of Taiwan History (Dr. Chen) were given the remaining Formosan papers still in the Abramsons’ possession. 14 Charles H. Davidson Junior, Obituary, Minneapolis Morning Tribune, January 30, 1915 and Calgary News-Telegram February 5-15, 1915. C.H. Davidson Sr. owned the Austin Register. He sold it in 1896 and started the Austin National Bank. His son C.H. Davidson Jr. helped extend it to 25 banks across Minneapolis, Kansas, North Dakota and Montana. 15 Ruth Gorman, in “My Golden West”. (Stampede Issue) 3:32, 1968. Jim Davidson’s job in Winnipeg is unknown. The Gorman’s lived in Mount Royal and knew the Davidsons. Ruth Gorman speculated the move was because of the drier climate (less pneumonia), his foot (less cold) and business opportunities. Marjory (Davidson) Abramson was born on February 10, 1915 and died on March 28, 2003.
Once in Calgary Davidson and his brother Charles together with several Americans investors purchased the Milestone Block, a 250,000 acre tract of land owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway, thirty miles NE of Calgary. They named the proposed town in the center, after their North Dakota partner, lawyer T.L. Beiseker.16 After subdividing it and selling off the acreages to immigrant US farmers, they repeated the exercise with 500,000 more acres East of the C&E Trail (now Highway 2) between Calgary and Edmonton. The syndicate had already invested in the Crown Lumber Company, formerly known as Staples Lumber.17 Jim Davidson became its President and Managing Director (1908-1917). Under Davidson’s management Crown Lumber had fifty-two locations and two hundred employees by 1912, spread throughout southern BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
When the Turner Valley oil discovery was made shortly before WWI, Davidson successfully invested in the Royalite Oil Company along with (later Sir) James Lougheed. He also helped to construct the Lougheed building (1912), start the first Calgary Symphony Orchestra (1913), and initiate the Mawson Report on a future civic plan for Calgary (1912).18 Mrs. Davidson wasn’t idle either. She was elected President of the Calgary Victoria Order of Nurses (1925).19
Rotary came to Calgary in January 1914. It was a “rogue” club because it started on its own, without being chartered. Davidson didn’t join until the Lougheed Building theatre Manager, R.J. Lydiatt persuaded him to do so later that year.20 His classification was that of a “Loans Officer”. Davidson traveled frequently which led to a poor attendance record. It almost cost him his membership.21 Fortunately his corporate commitments began to require less out of town travel.
As WWI drew to a close Davidson became more interested in Rotary and Rotary’s post-war peace initiative. He rapidly rose through the Rotary ranks following in the footsteps of his friend Jeff Lydiatt, by becoming Calgary Rotary Club President in 1919/20 and District #4 President in 1923/24.22 In 1920/21 Davidson was appointed to his first International Association of Rotary Clubs (IARC) committee. Not surprisingly it was the Publications Committee. His first publication in The Rotarian was on Rotary as an International Power in July 1920.23 Days later the Chairman of the IARC Committee on Extension John Barrett, recommended Canadians be selected to extend Rotary to Australia and New Zealand.24 The new Canadian Advisory Committee accepted the challenge to organize it. In January 1921 Rotary President Pete Snedecor came to Calgary to approve Davidson to lead the team of two to the Antipodes.25 The Committee soon found a second eminently suited Rotarian, Haligonian J.L. Ralston to join him.26 Both Jim Davidson and the WWI Vimy Ridge decorated hero and future WWII Minister of Defence (1926-1944), Lieutenant Colonel James Layton Ralston were Past Presidents of their clubs.
Thirty-seven Canadian Clubs contributed $2,902 and Rotary $2,000, to cover about half the costs of sending the two Honorary Commissioners “Down Under”. The pair left for Australia and New Zealand after separate February visits to meet Paul Harris and Ches Perry at Rotary Headquarters in Chicago, meeting each other for the first time in San Francisco on March 1, 1921.27
Despite disruptions caused by seasonal holidays, hospitalizations (Davidson, pneumonia), and irregular sailing times, the two Honorary Commissioners were successful in convincing 146 of 150 Rotary prospects to become charter members. Four Rotary Clubs were chartered in Melbourne, Sydney, Wellington and Auckland in that order from April to July 1921. Davidson and Ralston left behind the impression that Rotary’s reputation was based on enthusiastic teetotalers, as Ralston didn’t drink. But Rotary was well founded. Not only have all four Clubs continued, but there are now 1200 Clubs and 46,000 Rotarians in the two countries.28
The success of the trip must have added excitement to the first convention outside the US, the June 1921 Convention in Edinburgh, Scotland. By convention time three of the four Antipodes Clubs had been formed. Amidst the Edinburgh euphoria, Dr. Crawford McCullough was elected the second Canadian IARC President. During the plenary program, the Objects of the IARC were amended by adding a Sixth (now Fourth) Object committing Rotary to the promotion of international Peace, Goodwill and Fellowship. As well, a revised Constitution and Bylaws for Rotary, which reflected Rotary’s expanding worldwide nature and vision were tabled. The Committee Chairman, Dalhousie University Dean of Law Donald MacRae requested the proposed revisions be thoroughly studied for a year by an international committee of thirty-one. It included Paul Harris. They were passed without alteration at a 1922 Convention meeting chaired by (now) RI President McCullough.29
Back in North America, Davidson reported on the trip to the Rotary Foreign Extension Committee, to which he had been appointed in his absence. Then he highlighted the trip in two articles in The Rotarian.30
In 1922/23 Davidson was in his pre-District #4 (Western Canada excluding BC) Governor year. It extended from Thunder Bay to the Rocky Mountains. In that era, chartering new clubs was almost an obsession. And the minimum town size had just been reduced to 2500. So Davidson joined past Governor Lydiatt as the “guest speaker” at the Charter Night for the Red Deer Rotary Club. The theme of his speech was “Brotherhood in Rotary”. On February 23, 1923, Red Deer, Alberta (population 2500) became the smallest town in the world to have a Rotary Club. The next year Davidson introduced the “Spark Plug” trophy. It was a “horse” and was awarded to the Club in the District with the greatest number of 100% monthly attendances. The Red Deer Club not only won it but did so for three consecutive years.31 16 Charles H. Davidson, Calgary News Telegram, February 5, 1915. C.H. Davidson met and became a partner with T.L. Beiseker the very successful Wells Bank owner and farmland developer in Harvey, North Dakota. They joined forces with H.L. Sayre and started the Calgary Colonization Company to entice Americans to buy cheaper farmland in Canada. They bought, subdivided and sold off the CPR Milestone tract of 250,000 acres of land near Beiseker 35 miles NE of Calgary, before the railroad reached the area in 1909. The purchase price was 1.00/acre with the best land reselling for up to ten times that figure. Several other blocks of CPR land totalling 500,000 acres of east of the Calgary and Edmonton (CPR) railway were bought and sold by the company. Charles Davidson was also President of the Canadian Pacific Irrigation Colonization Company; the Columbia River Valley Irrigated Fruit Lands Ltd; the Alberta Pacific Elevator Company, and had been a large shareholder in Crown Lumber. He owned the land in Calgary, which became Sunnyside and Hillhurst. Charles died at age 48 following surgery in Minnesota. Jim Davidson went to Minneapolis in 1915 to manage his estate, as reported in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune, January 30, 1915. 17 Archibald O. MacRae, Biographies of J.W. Davidson and A.J. Sayre in the History of Province of Alberta 1:565-567, 579-580, Western Canada History Co. 1912. Also see Beiseker’s Golden Heritage, page 25, Beiseker Historical Society 1977. Davidson was Vice President and Managing Director of Staples Lumber Co. Ltd from 1905-1907. It became Crown Lumber in 1908. 18 James W. Davidson in a letter to the Mayor and Council October 12, 1912. Davidson was Chairman of the Town Planning Committee, which recommended engaging Thomas H. Mawson of Liverpool, England. Mawson subsequently prepared the Mawson Report, a long term plan for the development of the City of Calgary. The 1912 plan centred Calgary on Prince’s Island near present day Eau Claire. Also see Ruth Gorman’s The City in the Valley of the Bow in My Golden West 1:18-19, 34, May – June 1966. Davidson was one of 55 guarantors of $10,000 for the Calgary Symphony Orchestra; Calgary News-Telegraph October 16, 1913. The Royalite information was provided by Marjorie Abramson who indicated it was one of his major sources of wealth, during an interview with Robert Lampard, December 28, 2000. 19 (Lillian D. Davidson) Prospect Bright for Local Victorian Order of Nurses. Mrs. J.W. Davidson elected President, Calgary Herald, January 31, 1925. She was unanimously re-elected in 1926, Calgary Herald, January 9, 1926. 20 George L. Treadwell, “He had a Genius for Friendship”, The Rotarian, 31(6): 28, 43, December 1927. Davidson attended the November 9th, 1927 funeral in Evanston, Illinois, during a break from an Extension Committee meeting. Davidson and Lydiatt had a longstanding and close personal and theatrical relationship while Lydiatt lived in Calgary. Lydiatt joined Trans-Canada Theatres which operated up to one hundred theatres from 1912-1923. Davidson and James Lougheed were the two major shareholders. Lydiatt became its Vice President before moving to Chicago where he became the North American Theatre Association Manager; and RI Board Director (1922/33) and Vice President of the Chicago Rotary Club in 1927. 21 Harry Hutchcroft, “The Life and Work of Jim Davidson”. Paper based on a talk to the Calgary Rotary Club, July 15, 1947 and the Nanaimo Rotary Club December 5, 1947. Most of the information was provided by Lillian Davidson. Noted in her speech to the Rotary Club of Banff’s 1000th meeting on November 22, 1942. Copy in the Abramson Archives. 22 James W. Davidson, The three biographical index cards on James W. Davidson at Rotary International outline his appointments and elections to IARC positions and committees. They are summarized in W.W. Emersons (25th Anniversary) History of the Rotary Fourth District (Western Canada) 1935, pages 24, 25; and Ken Ford’s Rotary in Canada-75 Years, page 49, 1985. For more Davidson references see pages 40, 43, 135. 137. Ford joined the Banff Rotary Club, which Davidson chartered in 1924; in 1953. 23 James W. Davidson, “Rotary as an International Power”, The Rotarian 17(1): 12-13, July 1920. There were Clubs in almost all towns over 15,000 in North America. Membership was up over 60% since World War I. Davidson proposed extending the harmony, good will and fellowship that already existed between Canadian and American Clubs, to all Anglo-Saxon countries (i.e. the British Empire). He said, “Rotary is destined to play a big part some day in this way…No organization is so well equipt (sic)…largely by the personal exchange of ideas…Never has the world been so much in need of the adoption and practice of these ideals as today. ROTARY CAN LEAD THE WAY”. Four years later Davidson was excited over the progress that had already been made, as reflected in his summary of the presentations at the annual British Empire Dinner, held during the 1924 Rotary International convention and printed in The Rotarian 25(2): 20, 73-74, August 1924. 24 John Barrett, Letter to Chesley Perry from the Chairman (John Barrett) of the Committee on Foreign Extension, July 22, 1920 suggesting the sending of Canadian Rotarians and not British Rotarians to extend Rotary to Australia and New Zealand. The plan was supported by Crawford McCullough the new first Vice-President of the IARC on August 5, 1920 but was not supported by IARC President Estes ‘Pete’ Snedecor on July 29, 1920. McCullough had a difficult time obtaining Board approval and the $2,000 commitment (See W.W. Emerson’s History of Rotary in the Fourth District page 18, 1935). On November 3, 1920 the IARC Board asked the Canadian Advisory Committee (CAC) for a detailed plan but retained the responsibility to appoint any specific delegates. The Canadian Advisory Committee met in McCullough’s hometown of Fort William on December 7, 1920 to discuss and answer the Boards request. Jeff Lydiatt was the Chairman and C.J. Burchell, Ralston’s senior law partner, was a key member of the CAC. The IARC Board agreed to provide $2000 of the estimated $4000 needed to support the trip about January 3,1921. 25 Estes Snedecor, Letter to the IARC Board, January 10, 1921. Snedecor visited Calgary on his way home from Chicago to Portland. President Snedecor commented “The Calgary Club is one of the best Clubs I have ever visited. Rotary in the 19th District is further advanced than in any other District that I know of.” Davidson was approved as an Honorary Commissioner in January and met with Arch Klumph and Ches Perry, February 1-4, 1921 in Chicago. J.L. Ralston was approved by the Canadian Advisory Board (CAB) February 10, 1921. He visited Chicago February 20, 21 before meeting the three Davidsons in San Francisco. They sailed with their wives and Marjorie on the S.S. Venture, March 1, 1921. The instructions from IARC were 10 pages long. A copy of the five page Press Release to the Sydney Newspaper entitled “Rotary, a Wonderful Men’s Organization” outlines Rotary in 1921. 26 H.C. Cromwell, Cabinet Portraits: Hon. James L. Ralston. MacLeans Magazine, pages 10, 51, January 15, 1927. Ralston was fortunate to have a window of time to be able to go. He had lost his Provincial Legislative Assembly seat in the summer of 1920, and another by-election shortly afterwards. 27 R. Jeffrey Lydiatt, in Canadian Advisory Committee report to the International Association of Rotary Clubs, 4 pages, October 6, 1921, and covering letter to all Canadian Clubs written by Chesley R. Perry October 6, 1921. Progress reports are highlighted in the Rotarian Weekly Letters of March 14, 1921 and August 1, 1921. Further details are provided in Zone Contributions to Rotary International by PDG Jim Angus in Under the Northern Lights, pages 11-19, RI, 2004; and W.W. Emersons History of Rotary in the Fourth District, pages 18-19, 1935. 28 H. Paul Henningham, in an E. mail to R. Lampard, February 2004. Paul Henningham authored Seventy-five years of Service: Rotary in Australia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands 1921-1996, (376 pages) in 1996. On pages 1-2, Henningham noted sagaciously “that someone on the Board of the IARC would have been aware of the close ties of Empire at the time (1921) and had judged that Rotarians from a sister Dominion could have been assured of a warm welcome…Americans were friends and allies, Canadians were family.” The comparable Canadian Rotarian figures were 720 Clubs and 30,000 members in 2003. 29 James Angus, “Zone 22 Contributions to Rotary International”. It includes brief notes on the four Canadian RI Presidents, Donald MacRae and Charles Burchall (Zone 22 currently Canada, Alaska and W. Russia), Under the Northern Lights, pages 8-19, RI, 2004. Also see (1) the Halifax Morning Chronicle dated June 2nd and July 1, 1921; (2) Donald A. MacRae’s speech “Rotarians and the Security of Peace” in the Proceedings of the 1918 Rotary Convention for Wednesday, June 26th, pages 141-151; and (3) the Proceedings of the 1922 Rotary Convention Tuesday, June 6th, pages 48-66 for a discussion of the revised bylaw changes and approval. For highlights of the Edinburgh Convention see the Rotarian “Convention Number” August 1921. 30 James W. Davidson, “Carrying Rotary to Australasia”, The Rotarian, Part I, 19(5): 262-266, 298-302, November 1921 and Part 2, 19(6): 324-327, 355, December 1921. Also see an introductory note entitled Bringing Rotary to the Antipodes in The Rotarian 18(4): 185, 188, April 1921. 31 Harold J. Snell, History of the Red Deer Rotary Club, pages 8-12, 1955. Davidson addressed the Red Deer Club at its Charter night, emphasizing the brotherhood of Rotary. RI President Ray Havens radio broadcast his welcome from Kansas City, USA. Davidson visited the Red Deer Club again on its first anniversary on February 29, 1924. Further details are provided in Ken Ford’s Rotary in Canada-75 Years, pages 40, 50, 1985. A photo of the Spark Plug Trophy (a horse and stable) is held in the Abramson Archives. In early 1923 Davidson found time as Calgary Club Historian to write the first Club History.32 Later that year he was elected the District Governor. The District extended 1500 miles from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains. During his year as Governor he started the “new Presidents’ school” at the April 1924 annual meeting in Edmonton. It continues to this day. As well he chartered clubs in Camrose, Stettler, Drumheller, Banff, Alberta; and Dauphin, Manitoba. It was a District record matched only once before, by Crawford McCullough in 1919/1920. It remained a Canadian chartering record until the 1940’s.33
Besides being interested in travel, Davidson was interested in good roads to facilitate travel. He had always loved cars, power and speed. Davidson drove the second car in Shanghai, China in 1905 and the first into Lake Louise, Alberta. In Calgary, Davidson had been a Director of the Calgary Auto Club since at least 1917. In 1923 he became responsible for painting colors on telephone poles to indicate turns on the “Trails” out of the Calgary hub – the Banff Coach Road, Edmonton Trail, Gleichen Trail and Macleod Trail.34 As Chairman of the Calgary Auto Club’s Trails Committee, Davidson would spend his Sundays flagging telephone poles at road intersections, with one color for each “Trail”. In preparation for a drive Davidson would ask his daughter Marjory to bring with her all of the clothes she hadn’t worn that week. He would give her clothes to farmers for their daughters, as a thank-you for redirecting him or extricating them when they got stuck.35
A year before in 1922 Davidson had joined the newly formed International Sunshine Trail Association, to promote a road from Calgary to Salt Lake City and beyond.36 For years he was the President. In 1923 he went with several carloads of Calgarians down the Trail to Shelby, Montana to see the Dempsey – Gibbons fight. The afterbout entertainer was an exotic dancer well past her prime. So Davidson revived the party with a rousing talk on the Sunshine Trail. On another occasion Davidson was extemporaneously asked to speak at a Regina Rotary meeting. He immediately rose to his feet and began promoting the Red Route Trail Association’s road from Winnipeg to the Pacific Coast via Lethbridge. “Gentlemen we have a country to build, and it’s a great country, but if ever we’re going to build it the Road Association will have to do it.” By 1925 the Calgary Automobile Club had affiliated with the American Automobile Association.37
While the Sunshine Trail Association continued for many years, it was Davidson who made the motion to join the Calgary and Edmonton Automobile Clubs to form the Alberta Motor Association in 1926.38 Eventually the Sunshine Trail Association was successful in persuading the respective legislatures, politicians and roads commissioners to finish the international highway from Edmonton to Utah, California and Mexico. Davidson foresaw its potential for tourist development.39 More importantly it became the connection to the American wartime-built (1942/43) Alaska Highway.
In 1924 he chartered the Banff Rotary Club,40 but recognized Rotary was entering a period of consolidation in its growth cycle.41 The following year he formed the Calgary-Banff Tourist Development Association to promote American tourism and the use the new Banff Windermere highway. It offered Americans a holiday circle route through Calgary, the mountains and back to the United States. 42
An offshoot of his “through highway thinking” was the Lethbridge five hour drive to the Many Glaciers resort in Glacier Park.43 Davidson managed to improve that road too.44 Davidson’s road initiatives served as the foundation for the international (Montana-Alberta) Rotary exchanges that followed. In 1931 Rotarians from Cardston invited fellow Rotarians from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Montana to meet at Waterton Park. Motions were made at the meeting to request the US and Canadian Governments to pass Bills that would establish the Waterton-Glacier Rotary International Peace Park.45 The two Bills were passed in early 1932. Opening ceremonies were held in the US (1932). A similar ceremony was held in Canada (1936). An international meeting of Canadian and American Rotarians is still held each summer, alternating between Montana and Alberta.
Since 1920, Davidson had become increasingly committed to the concept of Rotary fostering peace, harmony, goodwill and friendships amongst businessmen in English speaking clubs throughout the Anglo-Saxon world. He endorsed Rotary’s Ideal of service. He also became one of Rotary’s chief problem solvers.46 As well Davidson continued to accept appointments to IARC (after 1922, RI) committees including the committee on Aims and Objectives (1921/2), Extension (1921-23, 1924-26, 1927/8, 1930-32), Finance (1926/7) and International Service (Chairman, 1928/9). In 1926/7 he was elected the third Vice-President of Rotary International.
Rotary Past Presidents (Pidgeon, Klumph, Snedecor, McCullough, Manier), Honorary Special Commissioners (Teele, Coates, Davidson and Ralston), and members of the Extension Committee (Barrett, Klumph, McCullough, Davidson) all actively addressed the issue of worldwide extension of Rotary Clubs during and after their terms. By 1927 Rotary had successfully extended northward to Canada (1910); and southward to Latin and South America (1916-1921). After a slow start in 1911 it had expanded rapidly throughout the British Isles (1921-1925); and then through Europe (1922-1927). Westward it had spanned the Pacific to Australia, New Zealand, Japan and China by 1921. But there were still only two Clubs between Prague and Shanghai – in Calcutta (1921) and Lahore (1927).47
The plan to span the world received the necessary guidance, planning and attention, when Crawford McCullough became the first non-American Chairman of the Extension Committee in 1923-1924. The strategy he initiated was similar to the one that evolved for the 1921 chartering trip to Australia and New Zealand.48 32 James W. Davidson, History of the Calgary Rotary Club, 1923. Five pages. Rotary M1700, File 98, Glenbow Archives, Calgary. 33A Brief History of Rotary in the 4th District. Written for the 25th Anniversary of Rotary in Canada, pages 3-18, 1935. Pages 18-20 cover Davidson and Howland; pages 23-25, 27-28, 29 – the Davidson donation of the Spark Plug Attendance Award; and page 59 – past District Governor Jeff Lydiatt’s presentation of the Red Deer Club Charter #1353. Originally published in 1935, the history was updated annually until 1952. The next update was Ken Ford’s Rotary in Canada-75 Years, pages 5-7, 1985 and the most recent the Zone 22 centennial book by Jim Angus, Under the Northern Lights, 207 pages, 2004. 34 Tony Cashman, History of the Alberta Motor Association, 3rd edition, pages 27-38, 1990. Jim Davidson wrote an article in the Alberta Motorist in 1924 explaining how to paint the colours of the trail on telephone poles using three bands and letters L=”pending left turn”; R=”pending right turn” and X=”danger”. Davidson supported the 1925 plan to number the “Trails”, a recommendation not implemented for another 30 years. 35 Marjory Abramson, Personal Communication with R. Lampard, December 28, 2000. 36 Tony Cashman, History of Motoring in Alberta, pages 27, 30-33. Also see Lillian Davidson’s Jim Davidson, Trail Blazer in the Abramson Archives, and Robert Sanford’s, History of the Alberta Motor Association, page 31, AMA 2001. 37 Tony Cashman, History of Motoring in Alberta, page 51. 38 Alberta Motor Association, Minutes of the Directors of the Alberta Automobile Association of October 25, 1926. For a discussion of the Sunshine Trail Association see Tony Cashman’s History of Motoring, pages 26-27. After Davidson retired as the President of the Sunshine Trail circa 1925, the Alberta and Montana Automobile Club Presidents alternated as Sunshine Trail Presidents for years. 39 Lillian D. Davidson, “Jim Davidson, Trail Blazer.” Written in 1935. Deposited in the Abramson Archives. Quotes are from an article similarly entitled “Jim Davidson, Trail Blazer,” published in the August 1919 Alberta Motorist. For years the Davidson family never went motoring without red, white and blue pots of paint in the car. 40 Lillian D. Davidson, Banff Crag and Canyon, November 26, 1943. Mrs. Davidson attended the 1000th meeting of the Banff Club on November 22, 1943. In her speech she noted that Rotary was “formed primarily on friendship” and it was the duty “in the post war world”, of individual Rotarians “to try to become more internationally minded.” She also noted how Jeff Lydiatt would call her husband to “put in an appearance at the club or else.” 41 W.W. Emerson, A Brief History of Rotary in the 4th District, page 11. About 1925 Rotary reduced the minimum town size for a Club from 2500 to 1000. 42 Susan Warrender, Mr. Banff – The Story of Norman Luxton, page 92, 2003. 43 Lillian D. Davidson, “Jim Davidson, Trail Blazer(?)”, page 1. A plaque was placed at the turnoff to the Many Glaciers Hotel. Tony Cashman repeats the story and added that any “cabinet minister who lent Jim his ear would surely have it returned in a bruised condition” in History of Motoring in Alberta, 3rd edition, pages 23, 27, AMA, 1990. 44History of Motoring in Alberta, page 23. The final hill approaching the Many Glaciers resort taxed many vehicles. Davidson collected one to five dollars from each visitor to hire a team of horses to scrap off the top of the hill. In the audience were a retinue of Brooklyn Daily Newspaper staff on a tour of the US National Parks. Lillian Davidson, in “Jim Davidson Trail Blazer(?)” elaborates on how he raised the $1000 that one night by selling the idea of improving the road to link the United States and Canada. 45 G. MacDonald, Where the Mountains Meet the Prairies, a history of the Waterton Country, pages 88-91, 93, 2000. 46 James W. Davidson, Letter from Harry S. Fish, RI Director to James W. Davidson December 17, 1925, on the total resignation and revival of the Douglas Club in Arizona which took Davidson one month to complete. (Abramson Archives). Also see (1) Idealism Plus Community Service, The Rotarian 28(4): 9-10, April 1926 and (2) “The Other Fellow, one good deed quietly accomplished does more for your organization than a screaming calliope” in The Rotarian 24(2): 25, 53-54, February 1924. For a complete list of articles by Davidson in The Rotarian see the attached Bibliography of James Wheeler Davidson. All Rotarian articles by Davidson are included in the James Wheeler Davidson section of this book. 47 Rotary International. The First Rotary Club in each Country or Geographical Region. 16 pages, RI, May 1934. F.W. Teele, an American engineer, chartered the ten clubs in ten countries (Mexico, Europe); H.P. Coates, an American, four clubs in four countries in South America. Teele was a full time Commissioner in Europe from 1921-1925. In 1926 there were Rotary Clubs in thirty-nine countries. By 1933 Rotary had been planted in sixty-nine countries. 48 Crawford C. McCullough. Principles, Policies and Procedures underlying the Work of Extension. Attachments A and B to the Minutes of the Extension Committee of July 20, 1923. The principles were reaffirmed by the Committee on Extension at their meeting on August 2 and 3, 1927. The strategy became (1) obtain Board support for it, (2) fund it, and (3) find Rotarians who could accomplish it. At the second international convention in Toronto in 1924, eighty-eight Rotarians came from the British Isles (RIBI) and seventy-seven more from eighteen different countries. It demonstrated growing widespread international enthusiasm for the Rotary concept. At the 1926 Denver convention a motion was passed to assess every member an extra $1.00 for extension. Rotary at that time had 120,000 members in 2400 Clubs. The whole Denver convention program was devoted to extension and expansion. In 1926 there were Rotary Clubs in thirty-nine countries. That same year RI increased its Board by two and appointed Canon William Elliott, Jim Davidson and three more non-Americans as five of the fourteen members.
Following the triennial pattern of holding a convention outside the USA, the next RI convention was planned for Ostend, Belgium. For the 1927 convention, two thousand Rotarians and wives crossed the ocean for the first continental Europe convention. It was almost double the 1,100 who had traveled to Edinburgh in 1921. The closing speech at Ostend was by Past RIBI President Canon Elliott on his “World Wide view of Rotary”.49 Elliott defined the foundation of Rotary as the ideal of service which, through cohesion, integration and unity could further world peace and fellowship amongst business and professional men. He closed with the conclusion Rotary was the integrating rock on which a world fellowship of nations could be built.
The Committee on Extension to which Davidson was reappointed in 1927, strongly encouraged him to introduce Rotary into Asia and the Orient.50 Paul Harris described what happened.51
“The words ‘come over into Macedonia and help us’ did not fall on deaf ears. One, only heard them, but one was enough. By his response he made them immortal… It is given to many to hear, few to hear distinctly… His memory will be revered by legions; his work more admired by the passage of time… Rotary may well pause in contemplation of Jim’s great gift; his unswerving self-sacrificing devotion to the cause…”
In August 1927, Davidson agreed to go but said he wasn’t ready or prepared. He was by November 9, 1927. At the Extension Committee meeting he presented his strategy in the form of a six page business plan. His proposal was to implement Rotary’s Object #6…the promotion of peace, goodwill and fellowship…by interpreting fellowship as friendship.52 The Board accepted the eight to nine month plan for Davidson to approach prospective new members from Asia Minor to the Far East, by “Making New Friends”. The Board also agreed to financially support the proposal. What was expected was an implementable worldwide strategy, not new club formation. Some Rotarians viewed the trip as one which would create contacts for American businessmen.53
Davidson started the “$8,000” trip in August 1928. He was joined by his wife Lillian and daughter Marjory. Procuring letters of introduction from British and American Rotarians, Kings, Presidents, Premiers and French and Dutch colonial ministers, the three headed to Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Jerusalem, India and the Far East.54
Despite car accidents and injuries, fevers, near fatal bites, language barriers, cultural differences and unfamiliar religions, Davidson’s determination faltered only once, when moral and verbal persuasion from Lillian was necessary to keep the mission intact. Faced with the challenge of interpreting and implementing Rotary’s North American and European focused rules, he sent back copious reports.55 He made requests to the Board for changes that led to a broader interpretation of the classification system. One change RI allowed was to accept different ethnic classifications. For instance a Malayan Doctor and Chinese Doctor could both belong to the Singapore Club. He recommended new classifications that weren’t found in North America. He requested that Rotary literature be written in the new languages. His recommendations led to an increase in the charter membership maximum from thirty-five to over fifty, because of the absenteeism caused by summer monsoons.
In the end Davidson completed 2200 one hour interviews with prospective Rotarians and found fewer than a dozen disinterested in Rotary. In his interviews, he overcame indifference, resistive attitudes and closed doors, which he found to be in all but two places.56 After thirty-two months Davidson was successful in chartering twenty-three Clubs in twelve different countries.57
The Davidsons arrived back in Vancouver on March 21, 1931 to a remarkable dinner attended by nearly six hundred Rotarians and guests.58 For Davidson it was the end of his third and last trip around the world, this time having spent a total of $250,000 including $32,000 in Rotary advances.59 49 W.T. Elliot, “The World-Wide View of Rotary”, The Rotarian, pages 22-23, 45-46, August 1927. For a precursor speech see another British Rotarian William Moffat’s, The International Significance of Rotary, in The Rotarian 16(2): 51-52, February 1920. 50 (James W. Davidson), RI Committee on Extension minutes August 2nd and 3rd, 1927. 51 In Memory of Jim Davidson. Jean and Paul Harris’ Christmas card of 1933. The card was reprinted in N.T. Joseph’s James Wheeler Davidson, Profile of a Rotarian, pages 124-125, 1987. 52 James W. Davidson, RI Committee on Extension Exhibit C. Sixth (now fourth) Object Program. 5 pages. Attached to the Minutes of November 9, 1927. 53 Brendan Goff, “The Heartland Abroad: The Civic Internationalism of Rotarian James W. Davidson”. Presented to the conference on Canadian-American Relations: Do Borders Matter? 12 pages. Organization for the History of Canada. May 14, 2004. Goff interpreted Davidson’s trip as part of “Rotary’s dual commitment to civic uplift through its local clerks and to the creation of a global network of presumably like-minded businessmen and professional (which labelled as) “civic internationalism…”. Borders sometimes mattered but often they did not.” The Davidsons met Lillian’s first cousin Leroy Vernon, the Washington Correspondent of the Chicago News before departing. He understood “and he was not alone in this that the real value of Jim’s reports lay in the unmet demand for such information from American businessmen seeking “world contacts” or…(Thy) revealed the kinds of obstacles met outside of North America for businessmen in general”. Goff also presented the paper at the 29th annual Social Science History Association meeting, November 21, 2004. 54 Lillian D. Davidson, “Trailing Along Through Asia”, The Rotarian 36(4): 38-40, 53-55, April 1930. Jim Davidson had secured “Rotary is worthy of attention” testimonials from British Prime Minister Ramsay Macdonald and Cabinet Minister Austin Chamberlain (Neville’s brother), three American Presidents, the Kings of Belgium, Italy and Spain, a half dozen Premiers and hundreds of Rotarians. For a British view of the trip see the Calgary Herald, December 15, 1928, which quoted a Rotary International British Isles (RIBI) interview with Davidson by E.J. Burrow, FRGS in England. Copy in the Abramson Archives. For an American view see C. St. John’s “Somewhere East of Suez”, The Rotarian 33(2): 27, 41, August 1928. 55 James W. Davidson, Rotary International, Report of Honorary General Special Commissioner James W. Davidson. First Report: Constantinopole. Davidson would eventually write twenty-five reports totalling about 200 typed pages. They are deposited in RI and the Abramson Archives. For details of his car accident at Malacca, see the Rotary Weekly Letter #14 of October 6, 1930; for his Dengue fever in Singapore, the Weekly Letter #17 of October 27, 1930; for Bylaw changes to expand classifications see the Weekly Letter #42 of April 27, 1931. Also see his Principles to be Applied in Organizing Rotary Clubs in Asia and the Levant, 1 page (n.d., circa 1930 or 1931) in the James Davidson chapter, page 82. Copy in the Abramson Archives. 56 Lillian D. Davidson, Reply to Spencer Hagen’s questions and request for comments, 13 December 1951 by Lillian Davidson, 2 pages. Hagen was the Head of the Public Relations Department of RI. Also see Davidson’s report attached to the Minutes of the Board of Directors of RI (70 typed pages), April 16, 1931. Manuscript in possession of the Abramson family; and Lillian Davidson’s letter to “Gene” a University of Berkley classmate of 1904. 22 typed pages. Dated May 20, 1929 from Octacamund, South India. Copy in the Abramson Archives. Jim Davidson confirmed that he “had the pleasure of working in only two places where he had been invited to come and organize” (see the Rotary Weekly Letter of March 23, 1931). For a discussion of Davidson’s attitude toward nicknames like “Jim” and other Rotary “technicalities” see the Rotary Weekly Letters of March 30, 1931 and September 28, 1931. 57 Paul Harris, Adventure in Service: Historical Highlights pages 26-31; Four Avenues of Service – International Services, pages 77-83; Onward March for 1921 and 1928-31, see pages 96, 99, RI 1949. Also see the year-by-year highlights, pages 96, 99. There were 2000 Clubs in 1925 and 2600 in 1927. For more details of the trip from a Rotarian perspective see N.T. Joseph’s, James Wheeler Davidson, pages 21-44. For a detailed description of Davidson’s speech at the formation of the Rotary Club of Bangkok see the Siam Observer of September 18, 1930. Copy in the Abramson Archives. 58 James W. Davidson, RI Board members from 1928-31 sent 28 Letters of Appreciation which were bound by the Davidsons (Abramson Archives). All 30 Board members memorialized the trip by presenting a Scroll of Appreciation and Affection dated March 1931 to Davidson. Paul Harris sent a “welcome home” letter dated March 17, 1931. (Abramson Archives). Also see H. Hutchcroft’s, The Life and Work of Jim Davidson, page 7, July 15, 1947. Ches Peary took the train to Vancouver to meet the surprised Davidsons and attend a Goodwill Dinner hosted by the Vancouver Club, March 21, 1931. Nearly 600 attended (see the Rotary Weekly Letter of February 23, 1931 and the Vancouver Sun, March 23, 1931). Members of the Calgary Club met the Davidsons at Field, B.C. in the CPR Superintendent’s personal railcar. The Club gave him a solid silver Chippendale tray, engraved with a Chart of Achievement showing Asia, the countries the Davidsons visited and Rotary Clubs Davidson chartered. The tray remains in the possession of the Abramson family. For coverage of their Calgary arrival see the Calgary Albertan, March 28, 1931. 59 Chesley R. Perry, Letter to William Manier August 1, 1930 re: Jim Davidson’s expenses and the last $8000 cheque from Rotary. Ruth Gorman gives Davidson’s friend K.G. Partridge as her source for the same figure of $250,000 in her article in the Golden West Magazine, 3:32, summer 1968. A second reference to the amount Davidson spent is provided by Lillian, in N.T. Joseph’s, Rotary in India (page 12) in 1972. Joseph had corresponded with the Abramsons during his research of the book and visited them, as well as the Calgary Club and Stampede in July 1972. See N.T. Joseph’s, James Wheeler Davidson, pages 2-4. “Her memory was sharp though age 92, but (she) was non-ambulatory because of a car accident.” Davidson journeyed to Chicago in April to report to the RI Board on the success of the 150,000 mile trip.60 To the pleasure of Paul Harris, Lillian Davidson continued her popular articles in The Rotarian which were gathering a worldwide audience. Serialized from 1930-33, they revealed her latent talent to see, observe and record businessmen and their wives in many different cultures and contexts. Unfortunately Davidson was in failing health.61 He moved his family to Vancouver in 1932. With Jim Davidson confined to hospital in 1932 and unable to speak at the Convention, RI’s Ches Perry invited Lillian to present highlights from their 1928-31 experiences to the 1932 RI Convention in Seattle. Her presentation in front of a huge map of the world, was given with passion and sensitivity, captivating the all- male audience. Fortunately the Davidsons had pre-arranged for Lillian’s articles to be compiled into a book, Making New Friends.62
But Davidson wasn’t to be the only Rotary plenipotentiary. He invited another Calgary Rotarian, Doug Howland to follow in his Far Eastern footsteps from 1932-4. Howland in turn chartered fifteen more Clubs in five countries in Asia.63 Together Davidson, Ralston, and Howland chartered a total of forty-seven Clubs in nineteen countries, from Athens to Hong Kong, Melbourne to Auckland, Karachi to Nanking, and in Canada from Alberta to Manitoba. By 1933 Rotary Clubs existed in sixty-nine countries. In 1932 and 1934 Past RI Presidents Sydney W. Pascall and Allen D. Albert continued the visitation process.64 Paul Harris cemented these initiatives in his four month tour in 1935.65 Crawford McCullough followed with another Goodwill Tour in 1936.66
Following Davidson’s premature death on July 18, 1933, there was a flood of eulogies, testimonials, telegrams and tributes.67 Perhaps the most telling was the one given by the surgeon from Fort William, Crawford McCullough. He talked of Davidson’s bequest, as one of idealism and humanism; love and respect; and of the lasting friendships he formed with all he met. McCullough admired Davidson’s example of service above self and his ability to present Rotary ideals with enthusiasm, sensitivity, tact and persistency. He marveled at Davidson’s powers of persuasion that never failed in the thousands of hours of personal presentations he made. Others wondered how such a gracious host, organist and entertainer, could communicate the Rotary message equally to kings and commoners. Those who watched him in action were amazed at how effectively he could spread his message through interpreters, different nationalities, cultures and religions.68
Many felt Rotary’s 6th (now 4th) Object was designed for Davidson.69 He exemplified what it meant; he planted the seeds of world fellowship; and he formed lasting friendships. In return Rotary gave Davidson an opportunity to travel, to open doors, to meet others, to make more friends; a chance to follow his passion for people, to use his linguistic skills, and to promote peace and goodwill. “His unfailing diplomacy, Rotary, and his remarkable capacity for work carried him over many almost insurmountable barriers”.70
In October 1933, three months after Jim Davidson passed away, Paul Harris invited Lillian and Marjory to the Harris home in Morgan Park, Chicago. There, they planted a cultured blue spruce tree in the Harris’ Garden of Friendship. It was dedicated by Marjory and inscribed by Paul Harris, “To the memory of James Wheeler Davidson, world citizen”. The dedication was highlighted in the Harris’ Christmas card of 1933 and referenced again when Paul Harris wrote of early Rotary men, shortly before his death, in 1947.7`
In May 1934 the Barnes Circus came to Vancouver. Out of admiration and respect for Davidson’s lifelong dedication to the Traveling Circus Association in North America, circus members organized their own parade to the cemetery. There a band played while twenty-five performers gave their own personal graveside tribute to Davidson. It was a moving moment. 71
In 1935 the Alberta Motor Association and the Rotary Club of Calgary requested that a prominent Rocky Mountain be named after James Wheeler Davidson. Accepted by the Canadian Geographic Names Board, the name never reached the topographical maps until the transposition error was discovered in 2002.72 Mount Davidson, elevation 2908 meters (9575 feet), is located nine kilometers north of the marker mountain The Devils Head, or eleven kilometers north of Lake Minnewanka and is visible for one hundred and sixty kilometers to the east. It was successfully climbed by fifteen Rotarians, nine family members and friends from five Rotary Clubs on August 2, 2003.73 Now the Devils Head, which guided Natives across the eastern slopes of the Rockies for centuries, has next door to it an even higher reminder of a celebrated Calgarian, Canadian and Rotarian James Wheeler Davidson.
Davidson’s legacy is large, just like he was.75 His colleagues described him as a big man, with a big heart, and a big laugh, and a memorable handshake. He had a zest for life and an irrepressible enthusiasm that went with it. It never flagged. He understood human nature like a book and always saw the best in everyone. He was a marvelous storyteller, and a good listener. He loved his friends. His house was always open for drop-ins. Everyone young or old was comfortable in his presence. He made them so. He loved music and built a music room in his Mount Royal home so he could relax or entertain by playing the organ. He loved his family and took them on all his chartering trips. He loved the spirit and excitement of the circus and never missed one even if it was sixty miles away. He loved speed and power whether it was in his choices of cars, motorboats or sailboats. He contributed to his community: Calgary’s Little Theatre, the Music Club, the Town Planning Commission, the Exhibition and Stampede, the Alpine Club, the Boys and Girls Club – now Camp Chief Hector, the Good Roads Association (now AMA) and of course Rotary in Calgary. He was indefatigable. 76 60 James W. Davidson, Minutes of a Meeting of the Board of Directors of RI, April 6, 1931. 80 typed pages. RI, Chicago. 61 Paul Harris, “Rotary Begins to Spread”, pages 239-240, in My Road to Rotary, 1948. “Jim Davidson left America (1928) with full understanding that he had not long to live.” Davidson still made tri ps to Chicago, Florida, New Orleans, etc. for Rotary speaking engagements. Marjory Abramson indicated Jim Davidson suffered a heart attack shortly after his return from the Orient. The Rotary Weekly Letters of January 4, 1932, February 29, 1932 and April 18, 1932 confirm “a many month – no visitor” hospitalization in Vancouver. He died of “coronary sclerosis,” the result of cardiac “hypertrophy and dilatation” as per his Vital Statistics record. 62 Lillian D. Davidson, Making New Friends: From Near to Far East for Rotary. 174 pages, Rotary International, 1934. It included an Introduction by Paul Harris and the Allan D. Albert’s tribute to “Rotary torchbearer James W. Davidson” given at the 1934 RI convention. The book was a compilation of articles by Lillian Davidson serialized in The Rotarian from 1930-33. During their serialization Paul Harris asked, through Jim that he express to Lillian “my appreciation of the splendid series of articles which she has been writing for The Rotarian. They are little gems…(and)…are entitled to a high place in Rotariana.” (n.d. circa late 1931) Letter in the Abramson Archives. 600 copies of the book were printed. A copy of Lillian Davidson’s 1932 Seattle convention speech and articles from the Seattle Post Intelligence, June 23, 1932 were included in N.T. Joseph’s Profile of a Rotarian, pages 68-80. A 24 page transcript of a taped presentation covering the 1928-31 trip by Marjorie Abramson to the Ladner Rotary Club, May 1980, has been deposited in the Abramson Archives. Unfortunately only the first tape has been found and transcribed. The tape ends in Burma. 63 W.W. Emerson, A Brief History of Rotary in the 4th District, pages 7, 18-20, 40, 43, 49. 64 Sydney W. Pascall, “Backtracking Jim Davidson”, The Rotarian 41(1): 20-22, 52-53, July 1932. Sydney Pascall was RI President 1931-32. He was the first non-Canadian or non-American to be President of RI. Paul Harris was particularly pleased with the Pascall election in June 1931 and wrote to Davidson “I am sure that it was as happy an incident to you as it was to me…It certainly augers well for the future of Rotary. We have at last plunged beneath the waters of internationalism”. (n.d., c1931) Letter in the Abramson Archives. For the Allen Albert trip see Making New Friends, pages 173-174. Allen Albert was RI President in 1915-16. 65 Owen Parnaby, Australia’s First Rotary Club (Melbourne), pages 62-65, Melbourne University Press 2002. The Paul Harris visit to Rotary Clubs included those in the Philippines, Japan, East Asia, Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. 66 Crawford C. McCullough, Report to RI Board. Deposited in the C.C. McCullough Papers at RI. 67 N.T. Joseph. James Wheeler Davidson, Profile of a Rotarian, pages 81-108. Also see N.T. Joseph’s Rotary in India, page 12; The Calgary Rotary Club Cog August 1, 1933; the Calgary Albertan July 19, 1933. 68 N.T. Joseph. James Wheeler Davidson, pages 107-108. Eulogy by Stanley McLeod, August 1933. Also see the Letter from Crawford McCullough to Lillian Davidson, January 22, 1936, which has attached to it McCullough’s submission to Who Was Who in Canada. Copy in the Abramson Archives and in the James Davidson chapter, pages 107, 108. 69 J.M. Gunn. An Appreciation of James Wheeler Davidson F.R.G.S. by Lt. Col. J.N. Gunn, D.S.O., M.D. (n.d.) (circa March 1935). Dr. Gunn indicated Mount Davidson near Banff had been named after him. Copy in the Abramson Archives. So did the Rotary Weekly Newsletter #30 of 16 May 1935. 70 N.T. Joseph. James Wheeler Davidson, pages 105-106. 71 Paul Harris in N.T. Joseph’s, James Wheeler Davidson, pages 124-125. 72 Lillian D. Davidson, “My husband’s great love of the circus”. Notes and recollections by Lillian Davidson (3 pages) and Jim Davidson (4 pages) on circus experiences. (Abramson Archives) 73 Merrily Aubrey, Letter to R. Lampard, November 21, 2002 Re: Mount Davidson. “Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.” Ms. Aubrey wrote the letter as Head of the Alberta Geographic Names program. Dr. J.N. Gunn initiated the request on behalf of the AMA and the Rotary Club of Calgary, as confirmed in Lillian Davidson’s note on Jim Davidson, Trail Blazer(?). The first letter from the Rotary Club of Calgary to the Geographic Names Board was dated November 28, 1934. The approval letter was dated March 9, 1935. It referenced the Canadian Geographic Board Minute (g)II of March 5, 1935. The Rotary Weekly Letter of May 16, 1935 confirms the name and that “no mark of recognition could have pleased him more.” The approved location was Tp28R. 10.W of 5th Meridian or approximately 9 kms NNW of the Devils Head and 11 kms N. of Lake Minnewanka, near Banff. Eastern access is up the Waiparous Creek Valley from the Forestry Trunk Road (Highway 40) 42 km north of Highway 1A. The Waiparous Creek was first described by Dr. James Hector on December 10, 1858 (see the Calgary Associate Clinic Historical Bulletin 6(3): 7, November 1941). For a more detailed description see David Birrell’s 50 Roadside Panoramas in the Canadian Rockies, pages 100-102, Rocky Mountain Books, 2000 and his website. Now (2004) there are four Mount Davidsons in Canada: three in B.C. and one in Alberta. Mount Davidson can be seen from over 100 miles (160 kms) away in Red Deer. 74 Robert Lampard. Documented in (1) The Rotarian 182(6): 3, 4, 8, 9, December 2003; (2) The Rotary News Basket, August 27, 2003; (3) The District 5360 Governors Newsletter for August, 2003 on the First Ascent of Mount Davidson: A Banner Day for Rotary; (4) the Alberta Motor Association’s Westworld Magazine pages 10-11, November 2003; (5) the Red Deer Express, July 24th, pages 1, 3 and August 7th, 2003, pages 1, 12, 13; (6) Tom Keenan in Calgary’s Business Edge, page 20, August 21/28, 2003; (7) John Morran’s Scaling Mount Davidson in Alberta Connections, page 22, 23, Winter 2004; and (8) Robert Lampard’s Mt Davidson in the Canadian Alpine Journal 87: 129, 130, 2004. 75 Charles D. Smith, “Man with a Many-Sided Career – and still young enough to enjoy a circus.” The Rotarian 23(4): 21, 54-56, October 1923. There are a myriad of descriptions of Davidson of which the best are J.N. Gunn’s Appreciation of James Wheeler Davidson, FRGS (2 pages); N.T. Joseph’s, James Wheeler Davidson which includes a reprinting of Marjory’s “A Daughter’s Impression of her Father” (4 pages), pages 11, 12; C.C. McCullough’s submission to Who Was Who in Canada, Fall 1935 reprinted on pages 107-8; L.D. Case’s, That Man Davidson (7 pages) presented at the Detroit Convention; and H. Hutchroft’s The Life and Work of Jim Davidson (6 pages) presented to the Calgary and Nanaimo Clubs in 1947. 76 Marmie P. Hess, Interview with R. Lampard, August 3, 2003. 20 pages. Ms. Hess’ father and Jim Davidson were both Rotarians and contemporary Calgary lumbermen. They included their daughters in many, usually male only, Rotary events. Both families lived in the Mount Royal district of Calgary. Ms. Hess descriptively recalled Jim Davidson’s personality and influence on Calgary and Rotary in his time in a live interview on CBC, August 1, 2003 and in a recorded interview with Robert Lampard August 3, 2003, the day after the climb (copy in the possession of the author). Ms. Hess was the Honorary Team Leader for the August 2, 2003 ascent and was named an Honorary member of the Alpine Section of the Rotary Club of Red Deer, along with fourteen other Davidson related Rotarians, several of whom were telephoned from the summit of Mt Davidson on August 2, 2003 (Bhichai Rattakul, George MacDonald, Glen Labuc, Marmie Hess, John Eberhart, Royce Abbey and Leslie Abramson) Through their travels the Davidsons became astute collectors of now historical material. The family has made major donations of: large Arctic artifacts to the HBC Archives (Winnipeg, 1975); documents on the Second Peary Polar Expedition to the US Public Archives (Washington, 1975); small Arctic artifacts to the Prince of Wales Museum (Yellowknife, 1990); Far East documents to the Formosa Institute of Taiwan History Academia Sinica (Taipei, 1992); and costumes and jewelry to the BC Museum of Anthropology (Victoria, 2002).77
Regretfully Davidson’s life and times have been addressed by just a single book, “James Wheeler Davidson, Profile of a Rotarian,” written by Rotarian N.T. Joseph of Cochin, India in 1987. The originated from his original research in 1972 for his first book Rotary in India.78 Joseph met Lillian in 1972 three years before her death in 1975. He formed a close bond with Davidson’s daughter Marjory Abramson. It was Rotarian Joseph who thoughtfully invited Marjory to the 1983 Toronto RI Convention, where she was presented with a citation on the fiftieth anniversary of the death of her father.79
One eulogist writing to Lillian after Jim’s death in 1933 said “His place is with the truly great. It remains to future generations to chronicle the links in the gold chain of world peace and international friendship, which he so ably were.”80 Rotary, unbroken by two world wars or the Depression, has become a greater international power for peace than Davidson and his colleagues could ever have envisaged.81
What effect did spanning the world with Rotary clubs have? The epicenter of Rotary has now moved toward Asia and those countries in which Davidson planted the Rotary flag. Rotary, linked by the ideal of service, has remained a worldwide body. Unified and cohesive, Rotary has become a spirit and force for goodwill and fellowship, undiminished by culture, creed or nationality. More importantly the Object of Rotary to promote Peace, Goodwill and Fellowship, has stood the test of time, unaltered and unassailed.82
On the occasion of the one-hundredth anniversary of Rotary and Alberta in 2005, no more important step could be taken than to retell the story of this famous world traveler and the legacy he left.83 For what better way to remind Rotarians, and all world citizens of Davidson’s example of personal Service above Self; his philanthropy and fellowship; his idealism and goodwill; the friendships he made; the example he set; and the love he held for Rotary; for:
“Wherever there has been glowing generosity, radiant sympathy, a giving of self through work… those qualities shine on as the stars shine in the Canadian night.”84 Robert Lampard, M.D. November 2005 77 Lillian D. Davidson and family, While donations have been made to major Museums in Calgary, Yellowknife, Winnipeg, Washington D.C., Taipei, and Victoria, the personal, private, photographic and Rotary material remain in the Abramson Archives. 78 N.T. Joseph, Rotary in India, 107 pages, Rotary Club of Cochin, India 1972. Pages 10-20 describe the Davidson travels and chartering of Rotary in India. 79 N.T. Joseph, James Wheeler Davidson, opp. page 52. 80 Stanley McLeod, Quoted in N.T. Joseph’s James Wheeler Davidson, pages 106-107. 81 James W. Davidson, “Rotary as an International Power”, The Rotarian 17(1): 20-21, July 1920. 82 James Angus, Zone 22 contributions to Rotary International, in Under the Northern Lights. The Story of Rotary in Zone 22, pages 11-22, RI, 2005. A similar conclusion was reached by D.C. Forward in his book A Century of Services, pages 193, 200, RI 2003. Rotary’s pursuit of the Peace initiative reached a high point in 1959. RI published a book (118 pages) entitled 7 Paths to Peace together with a 23 page Discussion Guide for International Peace, RI No. 43-A, International Service. 83 David C. Forward, A Century of Service. The story of Rotary International, pages 74, 82-87, RI 2003. This 354 page centennial History of Rotary dedicated six pages to the Davidsons’ trips. It is a readable, well referenced and indispensable introduction to RI. While Canadian references are not excessive and Dr. McCullough is unmentioned except in the appended presidential summaries, there are insightful chapters on (1) Rotary goes International (pages 77-87), and (2) Rotary the Peace Maker (page 191-204). 84 Allen D. Albert, “Tribute to a Rotary Torch Bearer”, in Making New Friends, pages 174-175, RI, 1934. The Albert eulogy was given as part of a memorial service for Jim Davidson at the 1934 Detroit RI Convention. It was presided over by the 3rd Canadian RI President (1933-1934) John Nelson of Montreal. The service was described in a letter from John Nelson to Lillian Davidson, July 24, 1934. Copy in the Abramson Family Archives.