Dallas stood at a grand crossroads. The year was 1910. For decades, the city had been viewed as a western outpost and agricultural center. Cattle, grain and cotton reigned as the kings of the Blackland Prairie. Cowboys, outlaws and horse-drawn carriages remained common sights on city streets.
With a population nearing 100,000, Dallas embraced a more modern way of life that would change its landscape forever. The city made a leap into a new cosmopolitan era of electrification, commercial development and mechanization. During the first 10 years of the century, electric lights quickly spread from downtown into the suburban areas. Dallasites embraced automobiles as the county paved over dusty streets.
The city shook off its reputation as an agriculturally focused town by gaining a foothold in industries from drugs and books to jewelry and wholesale liquor. Then, Dallas expanded into the markets that still offer the city strength today: banking, insurance, retail and more.
In 1910, the city purchased its first automobile ambulance, with police patrol wagons and fire engines becoming motorized soon after. Natural gas replaced artificial gas, and Dallas led cities its size with nearly 3,000 automobiles on the streets. Dallas County boasted the finest highway system in the South, with 420 miles of improved roads. In 1914, the Federal Reserve Bank passed over larger cities in the region and chose Dallas as the location for its 11th regional branch.
That same year, Dallas insurance executive Price Cross made trips to San Francisco and New Orleans, and in each city he visited a Rotary club meeting. Upon returning to Dallas, he discussed the Rotary idea with some of his associates.
The group invited 100 possible members to a meeting at one of the city’s leading hotels.
On April 20, 1911, 39 business, professional and community leaders gathered at the restaurant of the Oriental Hotel to form the Rotary Club of Dallas ("the Club”) – the first in Texas, the second in the Gulf States, and the 39th in Rotary.