Shelby Cycle Company, Shelby Cycle Frame Builders, Shelby Cycle Manufacturing Co. (Ideal), Shelby Steel Tube Company

Shelby Bicycle Industry Timeline

Shelby Steel Tube Co.

1891 Lozier-Yost Seamless Tube Works, then The Shelby Steel Tube Co. formed Lozier and Yost bring technology back from England

Jonas Feighner and Capt. D.L. Cockley raised $37,500 from Shelbians toward the venture Among original board members are J.A. Seltzer, Shelby, and Col. A.A. Pope, Boston

First tubes drawn July 24, 1891.

Shelby Cycle Manufacturing Co. (1st)

1892 Shelby Cycle Mfg. Co. formed by stockholders of The Shelby Steel Tube Co. Building located on Smiley Road.

1893 The Shelby Steel Tube Co. took over bicycle plant as a separate plant of the tube company. Plant was discontinued in 1894 and sold to city.

Shelby Cycle Manufacturing Co. (2nd)

1895 Plant sold to R. Philip Gormully of Gormully & Jeffrey in Chicago, they retained the name Shelby Cycle Mfg. Co. and began to produce Ideal Bicycles.

1899 Shelby Cycle Mfg. Co. becomes part of American Bicycle Company trust

1900 Gormully dies 1900, Jeffrey retires

1901 plant closes

Chicago Handlebar Company

1896 Chicago Handlebar Company established in Chicago Fire closes Chicago plant

1904 Joe Seltzer and others raised about $10,000 in 5 days to build a building and bring the company to Shelby

1927 Torrington Company buys plant and moves to Connecticut

Shelby Cycle Frame Builders

1921 Shelby Cycle Frame Builders formed by A.D. Meiselbach of Chicago. A.D. Meiselbach becomes general manager. He was also superintendent of the Mead Cycle Co. of Chicago. He owned a bicycle company about 1900 in Milwaukee which was taken over by American Bicycle Company trust. Typewriter one of his efforts.

1922 Shelby Cycle Frame Builders Co. opened April 24, made forks and frames, located in former Shelby Lamp Works building on the corner of Mack.

1923 May – Joe Seltzer closes deal with Chicago Cycle Supply Co. to supply Meiselbach frames for a Shelby branded bike

Spring – Lee (L.A., Leon) Smith joins the company as superintendent.

August 6 – stockholders meet to consider increase in capital stock from $50,000 to $250,000, Meiselbach still president. 25,000 shares at $10 each

Nov. 30 – Shelby Hardware begins to sell Chicago Cycle and Supply bikes made of Shelby parts. Chicago Cycle contracted for the entire output of frames and forks.

1924 Mid-1924 shareholders abandon company, Smith arranges with Chicago company to keep factory open.

October – Meiselbach moves back to Chicago

November – Smith and 18 factory employees begin to turn a profit. Joe Seltzer steps in with additional capital.

Shelby Cycle Co.

1925 January – H Clyde Brokaw hired as sales manager

April – stockholders amend articles of incorporation to become Shelby Cycle Company

August – “American Bicyclist” announces first complete Shelby bikes

1927 Whippet and Lindy are produced

On a Whippet, Clarence “Whippet” Wagner rode coast to coast from Newport Beach to Atlantic City. He traveled 3,169 miles in 20 days, 17 hours, breaking his own transcontinental record.

1929 Stock market collapses

1930 – 1939 Great Depression. In the years leading up to World War II, the Shelby Cycle Company grew steadily with several plant expansions in 1930, 1935, 1938, 1941.

1935 Expanded to 180,000 square feet, 250 employed, making 500 bikes a day

1936 Company bought Sutter Furniture on Whitney Avenue to expand storage.

1936 Added one story to the south for an additional boiler. Company sent 4 train loads each day through the summer. By December, the company employed 355 employees, gave Christmas bonus of $15 to $125 depending on the length of time with the company.

1936 – 1941 Sales averaged nearly $3 million a year and the factory employed up to 390 people. No small feat considering that each bike was custom-built after the order was placed.

1937 Ohio was making half the bikes in America, about 625,000. About 200,000 made in Shelby. 400 workers working in 3 shifts.

1938 Speedline bike introduced, long horn tank, lightning bolt.

1940 L. A. Smith and Luther M. Edgar awarded patent for “ShockEase” shock absorber

1941 Safe-T-Bike introduced, safest bike of the day, with pedal reflectors, self-sealing inner tubes, norider basket rack, and shock-ease fork

Expansion in anticipation of war contracts, 2-story addition and partial 3rd floor

1942 Balloon tires and children’s bikes curtailed in January, replaced in April by lightweight war bicycles war models

H Clyde Brokaw named to Bicycle Manufacturers Industry Advisory Committee for War Production Board in April.

In October war production started; bicycle manufacturing curtailed in November.

Through contracts with Autocall, Westinghouse and others, company produced Rangefinder Telescope tubes for tanks, shells for guns, sub caliber airplane rockets.

1946 Bobby Shelby comics were created.

1947 Shelby bikes in production again – Flying Cloud, Shelby Flyer, Donald Duck

To supply a growing interest on the west coast, the company opened assembly plants in Pomona, Calif. and Portland, Ore. Parts were manufactured in Shelby and shipped through the Panama Canal for painting and assembly at the western plants.

1949 Donald Duck bike introduced

1950s Strat-O-Line economy line

1953 Leon Smith retires. With increased costs and dwindling profits from cheaper imports, the decision was made to sell the company to Bert Gamble, owner of Gamble Stores and some of his investors. They contracted with Cleveland Welding Company, a subsidiary of American Machine & Foundry to continue to build bicycles in Shelby. Under the deal, Cleveland Welding leased the plant.

In September, the plant on Mack Avenue came under control of AMF which began to make pinspotters for bowling alleys. Bicycle assembly operations were moved to the cycle plant on East Whitney Avenue. Offices were moved to Mutual building on Main Street

December – citing competition from imports and the need to consolidate bicycle operations, Shelby production moved to Cleveland.

1955 In April, Cleveland Welding workers go on strike

May – AMF announces new bicycle plant in Arkansas and closure of bicycle production in Cleveland

Shelby Cycle plant on Whitney is demolished to make way for grocery store, parking lot.

1960 Columbus firm Cussins and Fearn Company, Inc. purchases building on Mack Avenue, but no plans to use, as AMF has lease on building until 1962.

1964 Shelby Business Forms purchases property with condition that Cussins and Fearn demolish the building. Michigan Steel Tube Products Division of Stand Tube Company had been using the building for storage. Cussins and Fearns had plans to convert the plant into a “Buckeye Mart” plus supermarket and other facilities, but the renovation proved too costly to implement.

The building was demolished by the end of November by contractor George Metzger.

© Christina Yetzer Drain