Who Was Henry Robert?
Henry Robert (1837–1923) was a West Point-educated United States Army officer. He became interested in parliamentary law when he was asked to preside at a meeting and didn't know how. After the meeting, he vowed to learn something about parliamentary law. He soon found that little information about the subject was applicable to small voluntary organizations. While he was stationed as an army officer in different parts of the country, he attended meetings and noticed that each organization was conducting meetings by its own set of rules. There were no universally accepted rules in existence. He saw that organizations would be better able to function and carry out their purposes if they had a universally recognized and accepted set of parliamentary rules. In researching the question, he obtained a copy of Cushing's Manual, Jefferson's Manual of Parliamentary Practice, and Barclay's Digest of Rules and Practices of the House. Seeing that these three standard works did not agree on the major points of parliamentary law, he began writing his own rules of order, a work he, at first, expected to be short.
In 1874, Robert had a few months to devote to writing his book of procedure. He envisioned a book that would be based on the rules of Congress but would be general enough for any society to adopt, while still allowing the society the latitude to make up and adopt for itself any special rules of order that it may need. He wrote the book during 1874 and 1875. When the manuscript was complete, he couldn't find a publisher, so he published it himself by hiring a printer to make 4,000 copies. The book was titled Pocket Manual of Rules of Order for Deliberative Assemblies, and it was 176 pages long. He did find a publisher, S. C. Griggs Company of Chicago, who retitled the book Robert's Rules of Order. The first edition of 3,000 copies (now a rare book) sold out in four months. A second edition, somewhat expanded and revised, came out in 1876, and a third edition was published in 1893. When the Griggs publishing company went out of business in 1896, the publishing rights were taken over by Scott, Foresman & Company, who held the publishing rights for 100 years until 1996.