The Shelby Museum Of History
 
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The Shelby Electric Company
Shelby, Ohio

 

 
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The pioneer of the electric incandescent light bulb in the United States was not
Thomas Edison as might be believed, but more likely Cincinnati, Ohio born John
Wellington Starr, who invented his lamps ca. 1850. It was nearly another 30 years
before Edison with his persistence and inventive genius, and Joseph Swann, of
England developed these early experimental lamps into products that could be
readily manufactured.
 
In 1879, the Edison Lamp with an all carbon filament sealed in a high vacuum, and a
screw - type threaded base was introduced. This, combined with the introduction of
home delivered electric power, made the thought of home lighting an obvious use of
this latest electric lamp development.
 
In the year 1880, Edison's Menlo Park laboratory produced over 130,000 handmade
lamps. The next step in improving the lamp was to develop a longer lived, more
efficient, and brighter burning filament. Many materials and filament structures were
tried over the next 10 - 15 years including "cordite" and the "squirted" filament lamps.
 
In 1897, Adolphe Chaillet, a French immigrant, developed a coiled filament carbon lamp
that burned brighter than existing models. He met John C. Fish of Shelby, Ohio and
began an association that was to be the start of the Shelby Electric Company. John
Fish almost immediately began raising funds for the newly conceived Richland
Mazda Lamp Company. In August of 1897, the company began with a capital stock of
$100,000 and approximately 50 stockholders. The officers in the company included:
Adolphe A. Chaillet as Technical Manager and John C. Fish as Secretary. (1)
(For additional Shelby Electric Company information)
 
 
Richland Mazda Lamp Works Service Room - ca. 1905
 
 
The Richland Mazda Company adopted the Edison screw - type base for the majority
of lamps they were to produce. Advertisements of the period listed lamps of
"any voltage from 30 to 250" with "efficiencies from 3 to 4 watts" and "the longest life
with the greatest economy." By the end of 1898, the "Lamp Works" was the third
largest employer in Shelby, Ohio with more than 150 employees. By 1902 the number
of employees had risen to over 275. (2)
 
In 1905, the "Lamp Works" began to produce a bulb with a more highly refined
carbon filament that was originally developed at the Edison General Electric facility.
Overall lamp production in 1902 had increased to 10,000 lamps a day. In 1907,
a new addition was added to the manufacturing plant that increased the floor
space to 100,000 square feet and the number of employees to 400. Due to the
fine detail and the dexterity required of the bulb assembly, most of the
employees were women.
 
By May of 1908, the company was considering another new addition and
seemed to be limited only by the shortage of employable people and the lack of
additional local housing required for the considered expansion to 1000 employees.
The latest innovation was the "Tungsten" filament lamp which was currently being
made by the "Lamp Works", General Electric, and the National companies. The
demand was such that orders to these companies were running hundreds of
thousands of bulbs beyond their current manufacturing capacity.
 
 
The Shelby Electric Company Lamp Works - ca. 1910
 
 
From this point on, the development rate for new lamp filaments and bulb assembly
technologies increased dramatically. In 1913, a new technique using a hollow
filament support stem to evacuate the assembled bulb through the base allowed
a large increase in production efficiency. Smaller facilities like that of Shelby's
"Lamp Works" couldn't compete because of the financial requirements to
implement the rapidly expanding production requirements.
 
In 1912. General Electric built a large production facility in Nela Park, Cleveland, Ohio
and began absorbing many of the smaller lamp companies. Shelby's "Lamp works"
continued to manufacture lamps until 1914, when they too, were acquired by
General Electric. The "Mazda" and "Shelby" names and trademarks continued
to be used at the Nela Park, Cleveland facility, because the Shelby name
was widely known for quality.
 
 
The Shelby Museum has a number of Shelby light bulbs, radio tubes, photos, and
other Shelby Electric Company memorabilia. One Shelby lamp has seen much duty
over the years as part of a traveling demonstration of the company's products. It
continues to burn and provides the illumination for some of the following photos.
 
 
 
Shelby Museum, Shelby, Ohio
 
If you look closely at the reflection on the top surface of the lamp in the lower left
corner of the picture above, you'll see the individual glowing filaments in the
lighted lamp above it.
 

 
 
Shelby Museum, Shelby, Ohio
 
The group picture (above), is the staff of the Shelby Electric Company,
Shelby, Ohio (ca. 1900) , including John C. Fish, who was instrumental
in organizing the effort to manufacture the Shelby Lamps.
 

 
 
Shelby Museum, Shelby, Ohio
 
100 watt Shelby Mazda Lamp
 

 
 
Shelby Museum, Shelby, Ohio
 
The above case was probably a salesman's demonstration case. It contains
a variety of miniature tungsten filament bulbs. (ca. 1910)
 

 
 
Shelby Museum, Shelby, Ohio
 
The bulbs were manufactured in various voltages/wattages,
sizes and shapes, as well as a variety of colors.
 
 

 
 
 
 

 
Invoice for: 84 pcs. - 16 candlepower, 110 volt, LightRay Lamps, dated March 30, 1897.
Issued to the Mashinter Electric Company in Attica, New York.
Note: High Grade Incandescent Lamps, Greatest Efficiency, Longest Life.
 
These bulbs were constructed close to the time of the manufacture of the Livermore, California
lamp (below) and long life surely seems to have been a true statement.
 
 

 
In January of 1992, our local newspapers ran the story of a Shelby Electric Company
lamp that had been burning for over 90 years in the fire station in the community
of Livermore, California.
 
The years have passed and the Shelby bulb is glowing strong!
June the 8th, 2001, the Shelby Electric Company bulb will have been
burning for 100 years!!!!
 
 
Shelby Museum, Shelby, Ohio
 
Shelby Electric Company Employees - ca. 1900
 
The Shelby Electric Company bulb now burning in Livermore, California would
have been produced about the year 1900. It's very possible that one of the
ladies in the photo above was the employee who assembled the bulb now
hanging in the Livermore Fire station.
 
The community of Livermore, California is celebrating their centennial bulb.
To find out more about their community, the celebration, and the Shelby Electric
Company bulb, try the following link:
 
 
http://www.centennialbulb.org/
 

 
For additional information on the Shelby Electric Company and their products,
please plan a visit to our museum where you'll find that as well as much more
Shelby, Ohio history and memorabilia.
 

1. From The Republican Industrial Edition - Shelby, Ohio- 1897
2. Some of the above information has been abstracted from books by former Shelby Mayor
Raymond Wilkinson. " The Story of Early Shelby" - 1962, and "More About Early Shelby" - 1964.
 
 
If you have questions or if you would like more information, please contact :
 
The Shelby Museum of History
% Sally Maier
76 Raymond Ave.
Shelby, Ohio 44875
 
Email  Us
 
 

 
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