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Thomas H. Selby & Company records
SFH 552  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Biography/Administrative History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Thomas H. Selby & Company records
    Dates: 1855-1874
    Collection Number: SFH 552
    Creator/Collector: Thomas H. Selby & Company (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Extent: 6 volumes
    Repository: San Francisco Public Library. San Francisco History Center
    San Francisco, California 94102
    Abstract: Cash and account books for the San Francisco lead and silver smelting company
    Language of Material: English


    The collection is available for use during San Francisco History Center hours. Collections that are stored offsite should be requested 48 hours in advance.

    Publication Rights

    All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.

    Preferred Citation

    Thomas H. Selby & Company records . San Francisco Public Library. San Francisco History Center

    Biography/Administrative History

    Thomas Selby and Philip Post were San Francisco metal dealers beginning in 1849, agents for Peter Naylor of New York City. By 1854, the company was advertising as “Thomas H. Selby & Company, importers of metals.” Selby and Naylor’s company expanded (1865) into the working of base metal ores and bullion and the manufacture of their products; there were branches in Marysville and Stockton. The Selby shot tower was constructed in San Francisco in 1865. Construction of the San Francisco lead smelting works at the foot of Hyde Street commenced November 1867. Selby was elected the City’s thirteenth mayor, and served 1869-1871. Naylor, who had a half-interest in Selby & Co., died in 1872 in New York. Thomas's eldest son, Prentiss Selby managed the Lead and Silver Smelting Works. Thomas H. Selby died June 9, 1875; the Selby Smelting and Lead Company was incorporated in November 1875, with James C. Flood, William S. O'Brien, N. K. Masten, Prentiss Selby, and Andrew J. Ralston as directors. This Company was considered the pre-eminent manufacturer of lead products in the western United States for the second half of the 19th century.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    One cash book and five journals (day books) for Thomas H. Selby & Company include: Cash, Oct. 31, 1855 – Sept. 1, 1857; Journal, June 1, 1859 – February 29, 1860; Journal, Jan. 10, 1866 – Sept. 13, 1866; Journal, Aug. 27, 1868 – Feb. 27, 1869; Journal, April 22, 1871 – Oct. 31, 1871; Journal, June 4, 1874 – Nov. 2, 1874. Volumes are arranged chronologically. Volume entries distinguish between expenses of Thomas H. Selby & Co. and the expenses of Selby & Co., as well as for the Lead Works and for the Smelting Works. Selby & Company supplied material for the building of the Palace Hotel and of William Ralston’s Belmont residence, as well as supplying Spring Valley Water Company, Risdon Iron Works and Peter Donahue, to name just a few noteworthy customers. There is a significant gap in the records for the period of the Civil War; Naylor and Selby lost several cargoes when Confederate cruisers targeted vessels on the high seas.

    Indexing Terms

    Smelters--California--San Francisco
    Shot (Pellets)
    Pipe, Lead
    Lead smelting--California
    Metal trade--California--History--19th century
    Imports--California--History--19th century
    Selby, Thomas H., 1820-1875
    Selby, Prentiss, 1846-1897
    Naylor, Peter, 1801-1872
    Selby Smelting and Lead Company (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Thomas H. Selby & Company (San Francisco, Calif.)
    San Francisco (Calif.)--History--19th century--Sources
    Account books