- - - INDUSTRIES - - -

The Shelby Electric Company


The early inception of the Shelby Electric Company dates back to the early summer
when Mr. J. C. Whiteside, superintendent of the company casually mentioned to
J.C. Fish, the discovery which Mr. Chaillet had made in the incandescent lamps and
the claim made for the lamp by the discoverer. Mr. Fish became interested at once,
recognizing that if the lamp sustained the claims put forth in its behalf, its
manufacture would prove one of the most remunerative investments in the country.
Through the indefatigable efforts of the above gentleman interest was aroused with
the happy termination of a stock company with the plant completed and busy
in the manufacture of their wares.
This institution was organized last August with a capital stock of $100,000
- officered by the following well known gentlemen, whose success in other lines
needs no comment – W.W. Skiles, President; George W. Skiles, Vice President;
M.H. Davis, Treasurer; A.A. Chaillet, Technical Manager; J.C. Whiteside,
Superintendent; and J.C. Fish, Secretary. There are about fifty local stock-holders,
nearly every dollars worth of stock being owned here, which is ample testimony
that the people of this community are enterprising and imbued with the spirit which
has brought our present magnificent civilization up to its present standard.
Even with the best article that can be produced there are other necessary elements
which must enter into the successful placing of goods in order to obtain their wide
and general sale – integrity, push, enterprise and pluck. These qualities alone will
snatch victory from defeat and success from failure; but when the combination is
such that all these desirable adjuncts are happily brought together – the superiority
of the manufactured product and great managerial capacity – the onward growth
and prosperity is simply irresistible. And such are the conditions surrounding the
Shelby Electric Company.
The manufacture of the Shelby lamp was begun February 1st and since the works
were started the capacity of the plant has been taxed to the utmost to meet the
demands. The fame of the lamp had preceded its manufacture and intending
purchasers were anxious to test the efficiency of the lamp and the claims put
forth in its behalf by the managers of the institution.
The factory building has been fitted throughout with the latest appliances for
producing a high grade lamp. In fact the factory has many special machines
designed especially for them which very largely aid them in turning out as perfect
a lamp as is possible to produce. The technical part of the work is in the hands
of Prof. A. A. Chaillet, the inventor of the lamp which bespeaks for the future
of the institution a reputation second to none in the character of the wares and
their utility. They have one of the finest and most modern laboratories for
scientific research in the country.
The claims for the new lamp are such that no one who is at all conversant with
electric lighting will fail to grasp the full import of what the system really means
not only to the individual user, but to those who have embarked their money in this
enterprise. It is claimed and proven by practical experiment that the new lamp will
give 20 per cent greater efficiency with a life 30 per cent longer than the lamps now
in vogue. This means that electric lighting companies throughout the world will save
one half their present outlay for lamps – while to the consumer it means a third longer
life without extra cost to either the consumer or the lighting plant. Considered from
a practical standpoint the saving is a large one principally to the lighting plant whose
expenditures are decreased while the revenue is not affected in the least. Last
January tests were made of the Shelby lamp in conjunction with other lamps.
The lamps selected to be tested with the home lamp were the best made and the
result were truly astonishing.
The first test was to demonstrate the efficiency of the Shelby lamp as compared
with others, to do this, lamps of various makes were operated at the same time to
show the difference in brilliancy when burning at their normal voltage and candle
power. The Shelby lamp was easily distinguished as the most efficient by every one
present. Not satisfied with this test, several lamps of different makes were tested in
the same manner, in order to select the most efficient lamp to compare with.
The most brilliant lamp of other makes having been determined it was selected for
comparison with the Shelby lamp. The result of the conclusion of this test was
watched with great interest by all present and much to the satisfaction of those
interested. The new Shelby lamp and its competitors were burned at a gradually
increased voltage constituting what is known as a forced life test. The difference
in favor of the Shelby lamp was so apparent that no doubt was left in the minds
of the most skeptical that the claims made by Prof. Chaillet for his new filament
were not only true, but could be considered modest in the extreme. The
remarkable claims of Prof. Chaillet might be verified regarding the life of his
lamp at its increased efficiency.
…..from The Republican Industrial Edition - 1897

Shelby Company Flourished for Years Until G.E. Moved It Away.
An industry that glowed brilliantly here for a number of years
was the Shelby Electric Company. The plant had other names before
it finally was closed by the General Electric Company and merged with
other holdings in Cleveland. The plant was located in the building now
occupied by the Shelby Cycle Company on High School Avenue.
In the Daily Globe published Aug. 29, 1902, one reads that after
the annual meeting of stockholders the following officers were
elected: W.W. Skiles, president; G.M. Skiles, vice president;
H.M. Davis, treasurer; W.H. Myers, assistant treasurer
and J.C. Fish, secretary and general manager.
The company had met with success the “past five years” the
article continued and was then in position to turn out 10,000 finished
lamps per day. It was pointed out with pride in that year of 1902 that
the “local concern is not in the electrical trust and stands as the most
aggressive competitor of that combination.”
H.W. Hildebrant, Henry Wentz, Edwin Mansfield, Jonas Feigner,
and J.C. Wormley were also among the directors.
In that same year an article appeared in the Electrical Review that
described the locally-manufactured lamp, patented by Adolphe A. Chaillet,
a Frenchman living in Shelby, that threw off “twice as much useful light
as other types.”
But by 1907, local ownership apparently had slipped because in that
year, Mr. Fish announced the National Electric Company with
controlling interest planned to expand the plant with the result an
additional 125 employees, mostly girls, would be needed. The payroll
was $2,800 every two weeks and would be in excess of $4,000 if the
expansion went through. The “If” centered around whether Shelby
had sufficient housing for such an increase.
J.B. Crouse, president of National Lamp Company, later in the year
told Shelby that the entire expansion program for the company’s 48
plants would be centered here if labor would be available. There
immediately started a great promotion for construction of more houses,
a need that cropped up periodically through the years.
The Daily Globe wrote “What we need is a real estate company
with the capacity of laying out an addition of 100 lots and of building
on them at once. Every businessman in the town should be interested
in this movement.”
In 1908 one reads that a fine feature of industrial progress was the
establishment of a restroom and the granting of a 15-minute recess
every forenoon and afternoon to employees.
Nucleus of Industry
The Shelby plant became the nucleus of a vast combination of all the
electric lamp companies in the United States, which was called the
National Electric Lamp Association, N.E.L.A. division of the General
Electric Company of which immediately upon its formation Mr. Fish was
made first president, with headquarters in Shelby.
In the amalgamation of the companies, every outside unit was
moved to Cleveland where one colossal plant houses them all. Mr. Fish
died before that was accomplished, however, even as he was in the midst
of pioneering in the tremendous new industry which is known as the
N.E.L.A. in Cleveland today.
After the death of Mr. Fish in 1909, directors met and elected
G.M. Skiles, president; W.H. Myers, sales manager; T.J. Green,
vice president; W.W. VanHorn, factory manager.
On March 19, 1912 one reads that the General Electric Company
took over the Shelby Electric Company. The factory in years previous
had operated under the name of Richland Mazda Lamp Company but
the sales department, managed by W.W. VanHorn, had operated as the
Shelby Electric Company, which after March of 1912 was to be called
the Shelby Lamp Works.
After General Electric moved the manufacturing end of the old
electric away in 1915, the sales division continued to exist for many
years on Mohican Street, with Mr. VanHorn, C.C. Skiles and
Howard Sotzen among the managers.

Articles contributed by Ruby Bonecutter

Additional information about the Shelby Electric Company and their products.
(Courtesy of the Shelby Museum)

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