Shelby’s second foray in the bicycle industry began in 1895 with the Shelby Cycle Manufacturing Co. The sprawling plant, nestled between the Baltimore & Ohio railroad and the Blackfork River on Smiley Avenue, was home to the Ideal bicycle.
Two Chicagoans, Thomas B. Jeffery and R. Phillip Gormully, looking to produce a mid-level bicycle to complement their popular but pricey Rambler, moved their cycle business to Shelby to be located closer to The Shelby Steel Tube Works, the largest in the world and the best tubing in the market, according to the cycle company’s marketing brochure. Albert W. Gump, a Dayton toy manufacturer under the trademark Ideal, was hired as treasurer and manager.
The first order received was for 1,000 bicycles from Thomas Varney of San Francisco, Calif. Varney was said to own one of the finest retail bicycle shops in the world, according to a newspaper account. With another order destined for British Columbia, the company quickly put 300 men on the payroll. Men worked all night in the glow of the plant’s own electric power to fill the orders.
Locally, the bicycles were sold at Seltzer & Steele, a hardware store on Main Street. One of the owners, Joseph Seltzer, would later financially back and become president of the Shelby Cycle Company in 1925. The bicycles were made both in men’s and women’s versions and cost $50 to $75.
Jeffrey and Gormully retained interest in the Shelby company but stayed in Chicago. The company became part of the American Bicycle Company trust in 1899. The trust fell apart within three years but the factory closed earlier in 1901 when Gormully died in 1900.
© Christina Yetzer Drain