John Strock Seltzer was an adventurer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist, whose legacy included one of the most recognized products in Shelby history – the Shelby bicycle.
John was the son of Joseph and Mary Seltzer, graduating from Shelby High School in 1893, the only male in a class of five. His style of composition and delivery during his oration on “Common Sense” was said to have taken “the house by storm,” according to the Shelby Times. John was active in the alumni association for a number of years.
After graduation, he followed in his father’s footsteps as a successful businessman at Seltzer and Steele hardware store, already a successful 20-year enterprise; the name was changed to Seltzer & Sons.
In 1910, John, wife Pearl and two children, Dudley, 7, and Virginia, 5, left Shelby for Saskatchewan Valley, Canada. John and his father bought 650 acres of land, which John would farm and eventually develop. They lived there 10 years.
When John returned to Shelby, he purchased half interest in the J.C. Morris Elevator with a high school friend, and the name was changed to Morris and Seltzer Coal and Grain. He also opened an automotive paint shop and 75-bay automobile storage in a renovated horse barn on Wall Street, as homes did not have garages in those days.
In 1924, John began working at the Shelby Cycle Co. Father Joe had infused the struggling cycle company with additional capital, and was president. When Joe died in 1929, John became president. Already 54, he was president of the Shelby Cycle Co. for 16 years, more than half the company’s existence, during the most prosperous years of operation, retiring in 1945. The company kept hundreds of men and women employed through the Great Depression.
John was as much a philanthropist as his father. He was president of the Shelby Advertising Club, and raised money for the Shelby Hospital, Shelby Country Club, and a YMCA youth group. While Joe funded the building of Seltzer Park and pool, John added amenities such as a comfort station and gazebo in 1938. He organized many events in town, from auto shows to 4th of July Parades and Halloween parties.
John spent his retirement years helping son Dudley in sales with Seltzer Electric Company, and working in his wood shop creating wonderful projects, including Whippet figure wind vanes for Skiles Field. John died in 1962.
Submitted by Christina Yetzer Drain. Photos courtesy Patricia Seltzer Moehring.