Shelby Cycle Company

Shelby Cycle Company – Early Years

The Shelby Cycle Manufacturing Company became the Shelby Cycle Company in spring 1925. Backer Joe Seltzer, who infused the company with an additional $250,000, became president. Factory superintendent Leon A. Smith brought back from Dayton three train-car loads of bicycle manufacturing equipment from the Davis Sewing Machine Co.

The company displayed their newest creation, The Whippet, at a bicycle trade show in Madison Square Garden, New York in January 1927. There they met trans-continental cyclist Clarence Wagner, who agreed to ride a Whippet cross-country later that year.

The Shelby Cycle Company grew in the 1930’s with several plant expansions. In 1930, the company expanded into space vacated by the Shelby Paper Box Company. By 1935, the plant included 180,000 square feet and employed 250 people. Output was 500 bicycles a day.  In 1936, the company bought the Sutter Furniture building on Whitney Avenue for storage of finished bicycles until shipment. A one-story structure to house a second boiler was added to the plant.

By 1937, Ohio companies were making 50 percent of the bicycles in America; the Shelby Cycle Company was responsible for 1/3 of the output. More than 200,000 bicycles were made by 400 employees working three shifts, day and night. Each bike was custom-built after the order was placed.

The company expanded with assembly plants in Los Angeles and Portland, Ore.

But a war brewing on several continents was about to impact the mission of the mighty bicycle company – World War II.

© Christina Yetzer Drain