People

Inventor Leon A. Smith (1888-1972)

The Shelby Cycle Co. owes much of its success to factory superintendent Leon A. Smith. In 1924, after stockholders abandoned the company mired in debt, Smith and 18 others kept the factory open and began to turn a profit. By 1925, the company was producing complete bicycles.

During the 30 years the factory operated, Smith, who also served as secretary-treasurer, created several new inventions, both for bicycles and for the manufacture of cycles.

Smith’s first patent was shared with Luther M. Edgar for the creation of the shock absorbing steering fork in 1940. The “ShockEase” shock absorber made for a much improved ride on the rough streets.

As the demand for bicycles grew after World War II, more efficient machines were needed to keep pace. Smith invented a wheel spoke nut driving machine in 1947 for assembling and tightening tension of nuts on the wheel’s wire spokes. In 1948, he received a patent for a pedestal mounted circumferentially traveling tire mounting device, used to mount tires on rims with a minimum of manual labor.

Smith further refined riding comfort with the invention of the spring-like safety shock absorber for the front fork of the bicycle in 1952.

Smith was involved in the company for 28 years, eventually becoming vice president. He retired Dec. 31, 1952 and the company was sold to a group of mid-west investors, headed by B. C. Gamble.