Thomas H. Selby & Company records

Finding aid created by San Francisco History Center staff using RecordEXPRESS
San Francisco Public Library. San Francisco History Center
San Francisco Public Library
100 Larkin Street
San Francisco, California 94102
(415) 557-4567

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


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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