Selby Shoe Company

The Selby Shoe Company, a notable shoe manufacturer, had its operations based in Portsmouth and Ironton, Ohio, as well as in Ashland, Kentucky.


Early History

The Selby Shoe Company, a notable shoe manufacturer, had its operations based in Portsmouth and Ironton, Ohio, as well as in Ashland, Kentucky. This company’s origins date back to 1851 when Frederick Drew arrived in Portsmouth from Massachusetts. 4 Initially, Drew worked as a foreman for R. Bell & Company, a local shoe producer. After a brief nine-month tenure, he returned to Massachusetts, subsequently engaging in business activities in Ironton, Delaware, and Granville, Ohio.

In 1869, Drew permanently settled in Portsmouth and resumed work with R. Bell & Company, which was experiencing financial difficulties at the time. 4 His son, Irving Drew, who had mastered shoemaking in Massachusetts, also moved to Portsmouth. Irving became a partner in Rifenberick, Drew & Gregg, which assumed R. Bell & Company’s manufacturing operations in 1871. The Drews were also investors in the Portsmouth Shoe Company, which succeeded Rifenberick, Drew & Gregg in 1877.

Later in January 1877, the Drews left the Portsmouth Shoe Company and established Irving Drew & Company. 4 10 In 1880, George D. Selby joined the company, coinciding with Frederick Drew’s withdrawal from active involvement. The firm, now known as Drew, Selby & Company, operated a factory on Second Street between Market and Court Streets. 10 Initially, this facility had 4,500 square feet of space and could produce 150 to 200 pairs of shoes daily. 4 By the following year, the company moved to a larger building at the northwest corner of Third and Gay Streets, 10 expanding its space to 15,000 square feet and its production capacity to 300 to 900 pairs of shoes per day. 4 It then moved to Findlay and John Streets in 1891. 10

The company underwent a significant change in 1902, becoming incorporated as the Drew-Selby Company. Four years later, in 1906, Irving Drew started his own shoe business, leading to the formation of the Selby Shoe Company under George Selby’s leadership. 10

Selby Shoe Company

In September 1916, the Selby Shoe Company expanded its operations by acquiring the former Excelsior Shoe building on Gallia Street. 5 This expansion significantly boosted their production capacity, enabling them to manufacture between 9,000 and 10,000 pairs of shoes daily. It later relocated to a much larger five-story building at Seventh and Findlay Streets. 9

Selby Shoe Company
1936 postcard view of the Selby Shoe Company at Seventh and Findlay Streets in Portsmouth. Postcard created by H. A. Lorberg. 9

In 1921, 7 the company further expanded by opening a new factory at 324 North 2nd Street in Ironton, 8 specifically dedicated to producing the upper parts of shoes, commonly referred to as the “fit.” 7 A year after this expansion, in 1922, Selby Shoe further extended its operations within the same location by leasing an additional floor. 7 This space was utilized for their bottoming department, where the soles and heels are attached to the uppers, effectively doubling the size of their Ironton facility. This expansion allowed the company to employ between 60 and 75 workers.

In 1923, the company leased a four-story building on Second Street in Ironton, owned by the Excelsior Shoe Company. 3 The company utilized three of these floors for producing McKay shoes. The fourth floor was subleased to a cigar manufacturing company. However, by July 1923, Selby Shoe needed additional space for expansion so that it could expand its bottoming department. Consequently, they informed the cigar manufacturer that they had two months to relocate.

In 1925, the Selby Shoe Company built a new four-story factory located at 1607 South Third Street. 2 8 By 1927, the company had grown to become the world’s eighth-largest shoe producer, employing over 2,000 people. 10 However, by 1938, while the workforce had increased to approximately 2,600 at the Portsmouth plant and around 700 at the Ironton facility, the company had begun to experience a gradual decline. 6 One significant factor was the loss of market share for their high-end women’s shoe lines.

By 1940, facing these challenges, Selby Shoe decided to cease operations in Ironton and consolidate its activities in Portsmouth. 8 11 The Ironton factory remained unoccupied until it was purchased by Wilson Athletic Goods Manufacturing Company on October 29, 1943, 1 where it produced baseball gloves and basketballs. 12 13 Approximately 200 employees manufactured about 800 baseball gloves and 900 basketballs per day. 13

For Selby Shoes, their struggles culminated in 1957 when it fell victim to a hostile takeover. 9 10 This led to the closure of the Portsmouth factory, which was subsequently repurposed as a warehousing space and later demolished.




  1. “Wilson Athletic Company, 1943.” Story of the Glorious Past, One Hundred Years. N.p.: n.p., 1949. 47.
  2. “Selby Building Erected, 1926.” Story of the Glorious Past, One Hundred Years. N.p.: n.p., 1949. 36.
  3. “Selby Shoe Company Will Expand Its Ironton Plant.” Portsmouth Daily Times, 16 Jul. 1923, p. 12.
  4. “Portsmouth Leads in Shoe World.” Portsmouth Daily Times, 6 Jul. 1927, p. 4.
  5. “To Materially Increase Output.” Portsmouth Daily Times, 16 Sept. 1916, p. 7.
  6. “Upswing.” Cincinnati Enquirer, 30 Jul. 1938, p. 2.
  7. “Selby Shoe Company Will Enlarge the Ironton Branch.” Portsmouth Daily Times, 31 Jul. 1922, p. 7.
  8. Selby Shoe Company.” Briggs Lawrence County Public Library.
  9. The Selby Shoe Company, Portsmouth, Ohio.” Scioto County Public Library.
  10. Selby Shoes — Portsmouth “Shoe Capital Of the World”.” All Things Wildly Considered, 31 Jan. 2022.
  11. “Lions Pledge $1,000.” Cincinnati Enquirer, 16 Apr. 1941, p. 19.
  12. Wilson Athletic Goods Manufacturing Company.” Briggs Lawrence County Public Library.
  13. Health Hazard Evaluation Report.” National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Jul. 1981.


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I have a pair of Tru-Poise ladies pumps made by Shelby Shoes 1940’s any one interested? Let me know I can send photo.

Does anyone know how to reach Joseph Rathy of Selby Shoe co. or his daughter Josanne Rathy who attended Bob Jones University.

It may be of interest to know that Roger Selby figures very prominently in the history of the Arabian horse breed in America. He went to England and imported excellent horses from Lady Wentworth of Crabbet Park. These horses at his Selby Stud became the nucleus of a herd without rival. He imported *Raffles, *Rifala, *Mirage. Image was born at the Selby Stud, as was Indraff, all legendary horses. Without these imports the Arabian horse as we know it today simply would not exist. Mr. Selby tells of his visit to Crabbet, somehow he found his way to the barn and came to a stall door. The horse behind it could not quite reach the top of the door, but Mr. Selby could sense a power. This was *Raffles, and when the foals of *Raffles started arriving, everyone beat a path to Selby’s door. When Mr. Selby retired and sold his horses, prominent breeders from all over the country quickly made the trek to Ohio.

I have a pair of high top lace up ladies shoes. Label is Arch Preserver Shoe, made by Selby Shoe Company, Portsmouth Ohio, patent Nos 1237464 & 1249318. What can anyone tell me about this shoe?

I have a Leather Pilots Helmet with this tag inside. In perfect condition. i love it.
Helmets Intermediate Flying
Type A-11
Specification No. 3189 B
Size- Medium
AAF Stock No, 8300-396015
ORD. NO.(33-038) 45-9730A.F.
The Selby Shoe Company

I just bought a pilots helmet from ebay that is almost the same kind. Do you know for sure if this was work by WWII pilots?

We recently found the same helmet. The last two # were the only thing different. Have you found out any more information?

Hi Larry,
On a different angle. I am a genealogist and have connections to two Selby's from the shoe company –
Sam and Thomas. Do you have an interest in these two people?

Hi Jim
Wondering if you have any information connecting the Selby Shoes in Erskinville, Sydney Australia with the American Company.
My Grandmothers Name Was Edith Selby { born in Erskinville Sydney in 1890 } and was said to be part of the Selby Shoe family. Edith was disowned for Marrying my Aboriganal Grandfather and her family was never mentioned.
so i am trying to find if there is a conection.
Kindest Regards
William Ham

Is there anyone out there who can tell us something about a reverse etched glass "SELBY ARCH PRESERVER SHOES" sign that I have?

I would be happy to send photos!


Stu Neyland

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