December, 1890, the Shelby Steel Tube Co. was organized with
a capital stock of $100,000. But it was not until March, 1891,
that the works were really started.On July 24th of that year,
the first seamless cold-drawn steel tube was made in the United States. The occasion was
a source of great local jubilation. Prior to this all the steel
tubing used in this country was made in England. The primary
history narrated in a simple manner will be interesting.
To Colonel D.L. Cockley, more than to any other individual does
the full credit accrue to the successful founding of this industry.
In a chance conversation, he gleaned the fact that manufacturers
of bicycles were using an immense amount of cold-drawn seamless
steel tubes, which were all imported; that if they could be successfully made in this country there
was an opening for a grand industry. With indomitable spirit
and luck he set bout an investigation, and careful and extensive
research was instituted. At this time there were but two plants
in the world turning out this product. They were the Weldless
and Credena factories in England. Two representatives of the
Shelby Company were detailed on a special mission. It required
persistent ingenuity to gain entrance to one of these works.
Disguised as a workman, one of the representatives finally accomplished
the arduous task.
Hudson and Gay, famous tube drawers, allowed them to make draughts
of their works and operations. Sticking rigidly to the task,
in the face of all rebuffs and drawbacks, they in the end secured
the coveted process. The gentlemen who had the project in hands
did not stop here. Machinery of a duplicate character was built
and much of it improved. Like all other enterprises, the start
was the hardest. There was a full share of Americans who doubted
and pooh-poohed the idea that the Shelby Steel Tube Co., could
equal the English product, and for awhile, the introduction was
slow. But the tireless workers of the Company shut their teeth
down hard and their faces were set in determined lines. The triumphal
end came, victory was won, and today it is an admitted fact that
the Shelby cold-drawn seamless steel tubes excel in finish and
quality those imported. This is due to two facts: a minute attention
to the smallest details of manufacture, and a keen, careful and
everlasting purpose in perfecting improvements.
improvements were discernible as possible in the construction
of certain machines necessary to the work; and the more marked
general intelligence of American skilled mechanics employed in
the works brought about this result. Here is illustrative evidence.
The English preceptor of these works declared that sizes less
than 3/8 inch and larger than 1 ¾ inches could not be
made. But the Shelby Steel Tube Co., the first manufacturers
in America, and now the largest in the world, turn it out in
sizes ranging from 3/8 inch and up to as large as 3 inches in
diameter, in gauge 1 to 30 English Standard.
The Shelby plant now covers an area of six acres; employees about
700 men, and last year did a gross business of over $1,200,000.
The capacity of the works is slightly in excess of 2,000,000
feet of tubing per month; a quantity sufficient to make over
100,000 bicycles, if used exclusively for that purpose. The average
price of tubing at the time of the organization of the Shelby
concern was 17½ cents per ft. and the same had to be paid
before taking it out of bond. The price of American manufactured
tubing last season averaged a little less than 12 cents.
The Shelby Steel Tube Works has consolidated various other similar
concerns which came into existence since the original enterprise,
and they are now capitalized at about $5,000,000. Shelby is now
the seat of the greatest enterprise of the kind in the world.
There was a great increase of business last year in this line
with prospects excellent for 1898.
The present officers of the Shelby Tube Co. are W.F. Miller,
President; W.S. Miller, Treasurer and H.H. Cockley, Secretary.