The Shelby Cycle Frame Builders was formed in 1921 by A. D. Meiselbach of Chicago. Meiselbach, a pioneer in the bicycle industry, was the largest manufacturer in the country when he was taken over by the American Bicycle Company trust. Lured by quality seamless tubing from the Ohio Seamless Tube Co. and the promise of free factory space in the old Shelby Lamp Works building, a deal was struck and crews began producing frames and forks.
By mid-1923, investor Joe Seltzer secured a deal with the Chicago Cycle Supply Co. to assemble Shelby model bikes using the company’s frames. By December 1923, eight models of Shelby bikes were proudly displayed in the storefront of the exclusive dealer, Shelby Hardware Company, 40-42 East Main Street.
Despite increased capitalization from local businessmen, the company was in the red by the summer of 1924. By October, Meiselbach moved back to Chicago.
Shareholders abandoned the venture, but factory superintendent Leon A. Smith arranged to supply the Chicago company with parts to keep the factory open. By November 1924, Smith and 18 factory employees began to turn a profit.
Seltzer admired Smith’s tenacity and agreed to back the venture. In 1925, The company name was changed to Shelby Cycle Company and began assembling complete bikes.
© Christina Yetzer Drain