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History of Shelby Bikes Shared

Daily Globe Staff Reporter

SHELBY- Presenter Christina Drain visited Marvin Memorial Library to discuss the detailed history surrounding the Shelby Bicycle on Thursday night.

Drain began her presentation by explaining the history of the ordinary bicycle and the safety bicycle, which was first created in 1885.

"What I have found out when I was doing research for Shelby Bicycle's was there wasn't a lot of research done. What was done was by someone out of town, so there was a lot of misinformation," Drain expressed.

Drain explained the bicycle industry received its roots from the seamless tube industry.

"The bicycles are made with the tubes and it also got its roots from the sewing machine companies. The same machines which were used to make sewing machines were also used to make bicycles. Those two kind of partnered together and that is how the whole industry started," Drain shared.

Drain discussed some of the individuals associated with Shelby's bicycle industry.

"The first one is Henry Lozier and he was one of the general agents for New Home Sewing Machine Company in Cleveland. He became interested in marketing the safety bicycles and in 1889 he joined forces with Joseph Yost in Toledo. They created the Lozier Yost Bicycle Manufacturing Company. They manufactured 'The Little Giant' children's bicycle," Drain explained.

During that time, Drain stated all of the steel was being imported from Europe because there were no seamless tube companies in America.

"It was very expensive as you can imagine and most of (the steel) was coming from England. It became very expensive to manufacture a bicycle," Drain stated.

Yost and Lozier decided to travel to England and get jobs in one of the factories to learn the seamless tube trade to bring back to America, according to Drain.

When Lozier returned he wanted to challenge his agents to put money into building a seamless tube industry in America.

Drain explained there was very little industry in Shelby around 1890.

"It was basically described as a country village with one industry of a flour mill. That was pretty much it and Shelby was a crossroads at that time," Drain stated.

Drain expressed a man named Joseph Feighner, who was local, worked for the New Home Sewing Machine Company and decided he wanted to take on that challenge and wanted to have the steel mill built in Shelby.

"The first thing Feighner did was speak with local area businessmen. Captain David L. Cockley said he was interested right away and he got other businessmen involved. The goal was to raise somewhere between $35,000-$40,000. That was a lot of money to raise in the late 1800s to build a factory," Drain shared.

The money was raised for a grand total of $37,500 and the factory was then built in Shelby and that is how the seamless tube industry was first developed, Drain reported.

The name of the company was at first Lozier-Yost Seamless Tube Works; however, about six months later it was changed to Shelby Steel Tube Company.

Drain explained Cockley became the president of the company and among the board members was Joe Seltzer.

"The first venture into Shelby bicycle manufacturing was when the steel tube company decided they wanted to start building bicycles, too. The industry was on Smiley, but they never actually did make a bicycle. By 1896 the parts became standardized on the bicycles," Drain stated.

Drain explained a company in Chicago named Gormully and Jeffrey made expensive bicycles. They spoke with a man named A.W Gump who was in Dayton selling bicycles.

"They asked if Gump could find a factory to make a cheaper version of the bicycle, they would set Gump up to be the manager. Gump found the factory in Shelby and Gormully set it up for him in 1895," Drain said.

The company grew very large very quickly, Drain explained. Workers in the company worked throughout the day and night and sometimes up to 200 bikes could be made every day, by hand.

During the first year of business about 10,000 bicycles were produced and sold.

With all the workers coming into town, Gump purchased about 30 acres of land behind his home on Marvin Avenue. Drain explained he sold the plots to factory workers, and the name of where the plots were located was on Jeffrey Avenue.

"I'm not sure, but it is likely he named the street after one of his business partners, (Thomas) Jeffrey," Drain shared.

Drain explained a trust was formed where about 45 bicycle and parts manufactures were involved and Shelby Cycle Manufacturing Company was also involved.

Drain shared the trust was not successful and in the end only 12 of the 45 factories were still open for business.

"Shelby's fate was determined when Gormully died in 1900 and Jeffrey was getting older and didn't want to run the company anymore so the company was closed in 1901," Drain said.

Drain explained the Shelby Cycle Manufactures was formed in 1921 by a man named A.D. Meiselbach. Operations of the company began on April 24, 1922.

Drain reported through design defects and returned merchandise the company went into the red in the summer of 1924.

Leon A. Smith then came into the picture and he decided wanted to find a company who would buy parts.

Drain stated Smith found a company in Chicago who would buy parts for a profit.

Smith had a son, Lee Smith, who is alive today and living in Shelby.

Drain explained Smith was in the factory and Seltzer walked in.

"Seltzer gave Smith a quarter of a million dollars to get the company back on its feet, and the rest is history. The company ran from the 1920s to the 1950s," Drain stated.

Drain explained in 1927 a salesman for the company, George Evans, traveled around and loved dog racing.

"He (Evans) particularly loved whippets. At the time, the company wanted to build a racing model and he suggested the name be the whippet. A lot of people think that is how Shelby got the name associated with whippets," Drain shared.

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