Sunday, September 30, 2007

Former Crosley Broadcasting Properties on the Web

Here's a quick tour of former Crosley Broadcasting Corporation properties now on the Web:
WLW TV, Cincinnati:
WLWC TV, Columbus (now WCMH):
WLWD TV, Dayton (now WDTN):
WLWI TV, Indianapolis (now WTHR):
WKRC AM (originally owned by Crosley as WMH):

The Dayton, Columbus, and Indianapolis TV stations, together with WLW-T, made up the Crosley network. All were NBC afilliates, and carried some of the same homegrown programs, most notably Ruth Lyons' 50/50 Club. The 50/50 Club audio was simulcast on WLW radio. Crosley Broadcasting also operated WLWA FM in Cincinnati, WLWD FM in Dayton, WLW-A TV in Atlanta, and several other radio and television stations that were acquired by AVCO after it bought the Crosley broadcast properties.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Recommended Reading: Radio History Post-Crosley

If you've finished reading CROSLEY and want to know where radio went after Powel Crosley, Jr. dropped out, I recommend a new book titled Something in the Air: Radio, Rock, and the Revolution that Shaped a Generation, by Marc Fisher. It's a chronicle of the evolution of radio broadcasting and programming after World War II. Learn how the "Top 40" concept originated, where radio went from there, how radical FM programming led to radical AM programming and angry white men taking over talk radio--pretty much everything that's happened and who's responsible. And all the angles are covered: social, political, corporate, financial, cultural, ethical, and legal.

Of course, literally everything and everyone could not be included in one book, but every aspect of the radio evolution is covered. Lots of fascinating people and anecdotes, too. The intro to Rush Limbaugh's story will surprise many readers, and the tale of Jean Shepherd's I, Libertine book hoax on WOR (aided and abetted by Ian Ballantine and Theodore Sturgeon) is worth the price of the book on its own. If you want a fascinating page-turner, Something in the Air is it.

Crosley Censors Labor News

Back in 1935, Norman Corwin was having trouble finding a job in New York City, just like a lot of people. So it was that he answered an ad trolling for radio talent and writers on behalf of WLW in Cincinnati. Amazingly, in the middle of such hard times, Crosley Broadcasting was hiring! This was largely because WLW's 500,000-watt transmitter had sparked a tremendous growth surge. Too, there was always a bit of a turnover, helped along by WLW's low pay scale.

But it was a job, and rail transportation from New York to Cincinnati was free, with return fare guaranteed if things didn’t work out. So Corwin interviewed for a job as a writer and was hired.

The low pay wasn’t enough to deter Corwin, but almost immediately he was finding fault with the working conditions. His office overlooked a factory (Gee, Norm, what did you expect—a wilderness view? Not near the Crosley factory—nor in midtown Manhattan.) It was too hot (put up some curtains and get a fan). And the studios were too cold (put on a coat). This probably motivated him to argue with management over a directive he didn’t like: a memo advising employees that strikes were not to be mentioned on the radio news. The original memo is shown above, the bottom of the two, dated May 20, 1935. You can see a larger, readable image by clicking on it, but it says, "No reference to strikes is to be made on any news bulletin broadcast over our stations" (referring to WLW and WSAI).

Corwin asked for clarification (though he was not in a position where he’d be saying anything into a microphone), and received the reply shown above on May 31. This memo reads, "Our news broadcasts, which you have already been told, and which has been our practice for some time, will not include mention of any strikes. This includes students' strikes and school walk-outs."

Not long after that he was let go. His boss told him that WLW was doing away with the news department. Naive, Corwin believed this. Until, that is, he got back to New York and showed a friend the memos. His friend set him straight, and Corwin eventually took the memo to attorney Mina Kassner at the Civil Liberties Union, who gave them to The Nation magazine. I think he did this in part on the advice of his friend, and in part because he was embarrassed to have been taken in.

The revelation of the memos generated some heat for Crosley Broadcasting, and thereafter news of strikes no longer completely banned from WLW and WSAI. Neither Powel nor Lewis Crosley signed the memos (that was left to a Mr. Ries), but the Crosleys were responsible for the ban; the corporate culture was based on the Crosleys’ beliefs and practices.. The Crosley Corporation had already had its fill of strikes (but would see more), and it’s a cinch that they figured it would be better if the radio didn’t put ideas in workers’ heads.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Friday, September 28, 2007

Powel Crosley's Airline

Powel Crosley, Jr. and Junky Fleischmann (aka Julius Fleischmann, Jr., of the yeast and whiskey family) were members of the same Cincinnati polo team, headquartered in the rural area northeast of the city, known as Indian Hill. They played regularly in the mid-1920s, and Powel kept his horses at Junky's Camargo stables, conveniently adjacent to the polo field and Junky's new country estate. They got to know one another well enough to decide to get involved in a couple of businesses.

First was the Metal Aircraft Company. Powel and Junky each put up more than $100,000 to become vice-presidents of the company, which would manufacture the "Flamingo" series of all-metal aircraft. (The designer was a veteran of Stout, the company that created the Ford Tri-Motor.) They set up a factory at Lunken Airport (same place as Aeronca) and started taking orders. Perhaps the orders weren't coming in quickly enough, or the guys were just really into aviation (Powel already had an airport to the north, where he was designing and building airplanes), but they decided to create a market for the Flamingo. They started an airline.

Specifically, it was the Mason & Dixon Air Lines (two words, with an ess at the end). The airline was incorporated on June 19, 1929, and soon began daily service to Detroit, and was all set to expand into the Southeast and create an aviation network into South America. In support of this, they bought an aircraft service company and a large field near Dayton.

But in October, 1929--just days before the stock market crash, they sold the whole enterprise--airline, airplane factory, everything. Did they have some sense of the coming disaster? It's difficult to say. Fleischmann went off with his family to sail around the world on his yacht, the Camargo, and Powel went back to broadcasting, radio manufacturing, and refigeration. He remained an aviation enthusiast and continued his work on Moonbeams, but it wasn't long before that enterpise faded away. Powel operated private aircraft up through the early 1950s, and was an early investor in Pan Am and later a major stockholder in TWA, but never again did he get into aircraft as a business. Through a series of merges, the company that bought the Mason & Dixon Air Lines went on to become American Airlines.
(For more info on Mason & Dixon, Crosley aircraft, Lunken Airport, and Aeronca. check out the Aerofiles Web site.)
Copyright 2007, Michael A. Banks

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

What a Difference a Decade Makes!

A decade makes a world of difference, as illustrated by these two covers of Crosley publications, ten years apart. On the left is The Crosley Broadcaster for December 15, 1935. Peace on Earth. On the right is the Crosley employee newspaper for December 1945. I was inspired by all the recent focus on WWII this month, what with the release of Ken Burns' "The War" and PBS stations telling local war stories.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Floyd Clymer and Powel Crosley

If the name "Clymer" rings a bell, it's likely you recognize it from the Clymer series of repair manuals for automobiles. But Floyd Clymer has an interesting history that predates the Clymer manuals. He was a new car dealer when he was 11 years old (in 1903), a successful motorcycle racer (for the Harley factory team in 1920), an automotive journalist, pilot, book and magazine publisher, and more.

Clymer seemed to have an affinity for Crosley automotive products. He first gave Crosley automotive ink back in 1911 when Crosley built the De Cross cycle car. Clymer wrote it up in a now-unknown publication, and included its specs in a list of cycle cars in his famous book Early American Automobiles, published in 1955. Clymer also covered the Crosley car in other publications, including his 8-book "Motor Scrapbook" series. One of the volumes in that series features a 1916 display ad for Crosley's "Insyde Tyres" product.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Monday, September 24, 2007

In WLW-T's studio, circa 1949

Here's a late 1940s performance in the WLW-T studio in Cincinnati. Note the hot lights and the special-built camera. Back then, television was like early radio in that broadcasts were primarily live performances. (The film industry was dead-set against giving up anything to TV!) Powel Crosley, Jr. was by this time relegated to a seat on the AVCO Corporation's board of directors--AVCO being the company that bought Crosley's manufacturing and broadcasting operations when World War II ended. Crosley had cooperated with DuMont before the war, but by the time this show was broadcast he was simply a bystander when it came to TV; all of his attention was focused on Crosley Motors. The piano is a Hamilton.

Click the image for a larger version. I have lots more shots of the camera (with and without its cover) and the studio to share.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The All-New 2008 Crosley!

A Toyota Echo passes by,
and this is what I see:
a stubby little humpbacked car
with the name Crosley!
(Click image for larger view.)

Hotshot and Sprite: Car Cousins or Passing Resemblence?

Sometimes you just have to wonder how much influence earlier vehicles can have an auto's design. Even though the Crosley Hotshot (left) and Austin-Healy Sprite aren't directly related, but you can't help but look twice when you see those bug-eyed (forg-eyed to you Brits) facades and swooping lines. Although classic and sports car mavens can spot a variety of differences in the two, people who aren't car fans get them confused all the time.

The Hotshot ended production in 1952, and the Sprite began in 1958. The Sprite was designed by Englishman Donald Healey, who has a Crosley connection through Austin--a subject for another post. (Click for larger image.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Crosley Hotshot One of 50 Worst Cars of All Time

In case anyone missed it, the Crosley Hotshot made Time Magazine's list of "The 50 Worst Cars of All Time." You can see the list by clicking here.

I think many of these weren't so much bad as they were unsuccessful in the marketplace. Of course, the Hotshot had its problems. I'd like to drive both a Hotshot and an Austin-Healy Sprite to see how they compare. (Lots of people called the Sprite the "Bug-Eyed Sprite" or "Frog-Eyed Sprite.")
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks
Photo Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Did David Sarnoff Squeeze Crosley Out of the History Books?

In the preceding posting I referenced David Sarnoff with regards to Powel Crosley, Jr. not making it into mainstream history. I feel that David Sarnoff is in part responsible for Crosley not being remembered. Sarnoff, head of RCA, was a man known vindictiveness and his efforts in trying to rewrite history. And Crosley once defied him and won in a landmark struggle that affected the entire radio industry.

Consider Sarnoff and his ego. He was a man who spent his life striving to compensate for his poor immigrant origins (he demanded the Army title of “General” in exchange for helping with the war effort). A man willing to lie on the historic record (the disproven tale of his “heroism” in connection with handling telegraph messges from the sinking Titanic, for example). A man willing to steal intellectual and pehaps other property (the Edwin Howard Armstrong tragedy), and badger and hound a foe to death (Armstrong again).

Consider Crosley. He came from less-than-humble origins, but also knew poverty. Crosley was wilfull and hard-headed like Sarnoff. He and Sarnoff were acquainted from the very earliest days of commercial broadcasting, beginning with the Hoover radio commission in the early 1920s. Crosley was one of the founders of the NAB (sans Sarnoff).

I suspect that Crosley and Sarnoff may well have locked horns at different points during the annual meetings of the Hoover Commission, but the real conflict began when Powel and Lewis Crosley figured out that they simply had to use the famous Armstrong circuit in their radios, or face being demolished by the competition. RCA controlled the patent and was not granting any new licenses for its use--especially not to the Crosley Manufacturing Company. After all, the Cincinnati manufacturer had caught RCA and the associated Westinghouse and General Electric off-guard and grabbed most of the early consumer market low-cost Crosley sets.

Powel first tried getting past the block by contracting with an Armstrong patent licensee (the Tri-City Manufacturing Company of Iowa) to build Crosley sets with the Armstrong circuit included. Three weeks later, Powel learned that an Armstrong-licensed radio manufacturer was for sale--in his hometown of Cincinnati, yet. Powel jumped at the opportunity, paying $40,000 for the Precision Equipment Company.

Crosley brought Precision’s “Ace” line of radios into his production facilities and began turning out Crosley and Ace sets, paying royalties to RCA all along. Ace was phased out over the next year. In the meantime, Sarnoff and other RCA executives took exception to Crosley, not an original, direct licensee of their patent, using the technology. So RCA filed suit. Crosley won the suit in 1927, earning the emnity of Sarnoff forever, and giving Sarnoff motivation.

What I believe may have happened is that Sarnoff used his connections with the press (he was on the spot with most of it in New York) to keep the spotlight off Crosley as much as possible. He outlived Crosley by a decade, and was in an excellent position to give the chroniclers of radio history his version of the story. How else can you explain the man who built most powerful commercial broadcast station ever, who sparked the massive consumer demand for radios and programming that marked the beginning of the broadcast industry--and more--not the history books?

Whatever Happened to Powel Crosley?

I frequently hear from people who have read CROSLEY that they don't understand why they never heard Crosley. "I can't believe that, with everything he accomplished, he's not in all the history books!" is a frequent comment.

Certainly, in his time Powel Crosley, Jr. was a business celebrity at least equal in stature to Bill Gates. He was in newspapers nationwide several times a month, and publications such as Time, Business Week, and Newsweek followed his activities closely. The Crosley Corporation sold merchandise in Europe, Africa, Asia, and elsewhere, and was responsible for innovations like the Shelvador that made "Crosley" a literal household name. He may have saved the Cincinnati Reds from leaving that city, and the Reds stadium was renamed Crosley Field in his honor. Whenever he bought a yacht or an airplane or built a mansion, it was news. But today ... who's Crosley?

If you've read the Crosley book, you know some of the story. How Crosley sold out his high-visibility businesses, the Crosley Corporation and WLW/Crosley Broadcasting, after World War II to focus on his car. Crosley Motors kept him in the news until 1952--when the company went out of business and was sold to Aerojet-General.

Suddenly, Crosley wasn't in the news anymore. And by this time both his namesake son (Powel Crosley, III) and grandson (Powel, IV) were dead. There was literally no one to carry on his name, though it has reappeared in the family.

Crosley appliances? AVCO killed the line in 1956 because they were getting killed in the marketplace. Crosley Broadcasting stayed in business, operated by AVCO, but in the early 1960s, after Powel's death, the company name was changed to AVCO Broadcsating. Eventually the TV and radio stations were sold off. Finally, the Reds moved out of Crosley Field in 1970. And then there was David Sarnoff ... but that's a subject for a post of its own.

There are few Crosley legacies ... a small charity that seeks donations ... the forgotten Crosley Lake at the Cincinnati Nature Center ... and the Powel Crosley Fish & Wildlife Area in Indiana ... a building at the University of Cincinnati that will probably be demolished in a few years ... a YMCA ... and little else (the once-mighty Crosley building stands empty and decaying) but for all intents and purposes Powel Crosley, Jr. was long-forgotten when I began research for CROSLEY in 2000, after considering writing the book for 30 years. Today, fewer people misspell "Powel," and a lot more people know his story. It's good to have him back in the collective memory.

Friday, September 21, 2007

My First Crosley

There are a lot of interesting stories about "my first Crosley," especially among members of the Crosley Automobile Club. People who aren't into cars so much have early memories of a Crosley radio owned by their family.

The cute mini car of the era when I learned to drive was the Nash Metropolitan (I had one for a few months in 1967), and I was born after television stole the limelight from radio, but I still have early memories of Crosley cars and radios.

When I was four years old in 1955, a neighbor named Jack Griswold had a 1951 Crosley wagon. It was, as I would learn 52 years later, one of 14 he owned over the years. I used to go stand in his driveway and spin the propeller on the nose. That's a picture of the car in question--taken in 1955--at the top of this post. (Thanks, Jack!)

My early memories include a Crosley radio, too--a hulking console set that dominated the living room of my grandparents' small Ohio home.

Photo Copyright © 2007, Jack Griswold

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Before Radios, Crosley Made Phonographs

Yes, it's true: In 1920 Powel Crosley, Jr. got the idea of cashing in on the popularity of the phonograph. Some important patents were expiring, Crosley had just bought a woodworking plant that turned out phonograph cabinets, and his American Automobile Accessories Company had a viable list of mail-order consumers.

Lewis Crosley lined up the parts from phonograph works manufacturers, and the American Automobile Accessories company started turned out phonographs under the aegis of the Amerinola Co., located at 1 Vandalia Avenue, Cincinnati. There's more to the story, but I can't tell it all until after a certain magazine article appears. In the meantime, the image above attests to the origins of the Amerinola; it's the stamped metal label from one of the Crosley-built phonos.
Copyright 2007, Michael A. Banks
(For more details, see Crosley: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

WLW Radio: 8 Decades of Addresses

A few days ago someone asked me to list the addresses the WLW radio studios have occupied over the years. Here's the list:

WLW's predecessor, Powel Crosley's 20-watt amateur station, was set up in Crosley's Davey Street home in College Hill, left. The first official WLW broadcast, at 50 watts, came from 1625 Blue Rock Street. The odd, wedge-shaped building is still there. I'll include a photo of the inside of that first studio in a later post.

In 1925, WLW and the Crosley Manufacturing Company moved to a complex at the corner of Colerain and Alfred Streets. The building was built into a hillside and used both 3401 Colerain and 200 Alfred Street as addresses. The broadcast studio and other Crosley operations outgrew these quarters, and in 1928 they moved into the new, special-built 8-story Crosley building at 1321 Arlington Street, just two blocks off Spring Grove Avenue in one of the most heavily industrialized areas of Cincinnati. The studios of WLW and WSAI occupied the entire 8th floor.

WLW remained here until World War II. The Crosley Corporation was doing war production work (including manufacturing the Top Secret proximity fuze), and Federal officials felt that having "radio people" going in and out of the Crosley building at all hours of the day and night was a security risk. So the company bought the Elks Lodge at the corner of Ninth and Elm Streets in downtown Cincinnati and moved WLW into new studios there (WSAI had by this time been sold, by government fiat). Not long after, WLW-TV was set up in its own building across Elm Street.

WLW Radio remained in the building until 1999, when it moved to 1111 St. Gregory Street in Mt. Adams, a part of Cincinnati known for its steep streets and bohemian residents. Early in the new century the station moved to its present location in the northeast Cincinnati suburb of Kenwood, perched on a hill overlooking I-71 descending into the city.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Crosley Built Airplanes?

Yes, the Crosley Corporation for several years built airplanes, under the auspices of the Crosley Aircraft Corporation. The company had a hangar and 93-acre airfield north of Cincinnati, where the Ford Motor Company's Sharonville Transmission Plant stands today. (Not far from the General Electric Jet Engine Plant.)

Crosley built both monoplanes and biplanes, like that shown to the left. The series was called "Moonbeam," and the one pictured is Moonbeam number C-3 (X147N). You can see it at the Kentucky Aviation Museum at Lexington, Kentucky's airport. It's owned by Dr. George Gumbert, who flew the aircrafti n from Arizona.

There were five Moonbeams. In among them, the company built the Cobra aircraft engine, and a skeletal power-glider. In 1934, years after the company folded, Crosley's pilot, Eddie Nirmaier, built the second example of the Mignet "Flying Flea." The Crosley-Mignet Flying Flea is on exhibit at the National Air & Space Museum, along with a trophy it won at a Miami air show. In the 1940s, Crosley automobile engines powered some different airplanes, a story for another post.

Upcoming Crosley Events: Cars, Radios and More (Ohio, Florida, Maryland)

For those who may be interested, I have these speaking engagements coming up in the Cincinnati area during October:

October 23, 2007, Green Township Branch Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, 7:00 PM No charge. Call 369-6095 to register. Tom Miller will be there with this 1948 Crosley station wagon! That's it to the left. More info: (513) 369-6095.

October 29, 2007, Miami University Institute for Lifelong Learning, Oxford, Ohio, Noon. Call (513) 529-8600.

I'll be sharing new facts and stories about Crosley autos, radios, the Crosleys themselves, and more. I'm bringing a number of Crosley artifacts from my collection to each program.

I am a special guest speaker at a charity event on September 29. In April, 2008, I will be giving a talk at the Cincinnati Old Time Radio Convention.. The first week of May, 2008, I will be doing a presentation at the Early Television Foundation's Convention. In June, 2008 I am the keynote speaker at the Mid-Atlantic Antique Radio Club's annual gathering (this is a large regional organization). Unless something else gets in the way, I hope to be at the Crosley Automobile Club's annual meet in July, and some writers' conferences and SF cons. More to come.
In the meantime, listen for me on WLW.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Who Designed the First Crosley Automobile? (Not Powel Crosley, Jr.)

Who designed the vehicle on which the 1939 - 1942 Crosley automobile was based? If you said "Powel Crosley," you're wrong. Crosley took his general idea for a car with a three-point chassis (the two rear wheels would be 18" apart) to the Murray Body Company in Cleveland. There, a designer named Keller whipped up the design you see to the left--and patented it.

(In case you're wondering--yes, this is the same Murray that would become famous for making bicycles and childrens' pedal cars.)

The image here is a drawing for the body's design patent. I've overlaid it at the bottom with a photo of the 1939 Crosley. Click it to see a giant image.

Why did Crosley change the car? Some say he had a three-wheeled car in mind at first; he thought the novelty would generate interest. But he switched to the three-point chassis with the rear wheels just 18 inches apart when he discovered that a three-wheeler would be rather unstable. He went for the odd design to attract attention, and to save money. With the rear wheels close together, he could elimiate the rear differential, replacing it with a ring-and-pinion drive (thanks Jim). One prototype with the three-point layout was built, and was dubbed the CRAD (for Crosley Radio Automotive Division). But it had its own problems, and the final production model had wheels 40" apart, front and rear.

At first Crosley tried building the four-square cars without universal joints, anyway. He ended up having to add universal joints because drive shafts were breaking.

This would not be the last expensive mistake Crosley would make ...

Crosley Automobile Club: New URL

The Crosley Automobile Club's new URL is:

See also, where you'll find photos, message boards, and chat.

Click the image to see a large version. I took the photo at the 2005 Crosley Automobile Club Florida meet, held in December at Crosley's Florida estate in Manatee County.

The Crosley Automobile at the 1939 World's Fair

Powel Crosley and the Crosley Corporation probably reached their zenith in 1939, at the New York World's Fair. The stunning Crosley Pavilion (concept by Detroit designer Carl Sundberg) showcased the full line of Crosley home appliances--washers, stoves, ironers, clocks, and dozens more--not to mention the Shelvador. The pavilion also displayed the Crosley Xervac (Men: Regain your lost hair!), the READO (newspapers printed in your parlor by your radio!), DuMont Televisions, daily broadcasts from the Fair over WLW, and the Crosley automobile. A Crosley parade through New York led off the introduction of the Crosley Automobile at the Fair.

The Glamortone Gals gave visitors rides in new Crosleys on a closed track behind the Crosley building. Male stewards assisted passengers, too. New York Mayor LaGuardia was particularly taken with the little Crosley, demanding extra rides over the course and shouting "Mow 'em down!" as he rode past the crowds. The postcard shown above sort of says it all (click for full-size image).

Crosley Amphibian: The Duck

Here's a rare pair of photos of the Crosley Amphibian, also known as the Crosley Duck, in action. The setting is the Ohio River at the foot of Cincinnati's public landing. The date, sometime in 1946. Crosley engineer Paul Klotsch, seated amidships and driving, designed this go-everywhere vehicle at Powel Crosley's request. (Crosley is seated at the stern, and at the bow is some Navy brass.)

It never went into production, but it worked. It ran on the tin block, and a six-wheel, tracked trailer with a canvas top was designed to go along with it. Suggested use: transporting wounded. (Click on picture for larger image.)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

WLW-TV in 1948

It's 1948, and you have $15,000. You can buy a couple of very nice homes, 10 or 12 Crosley automobiles, or one of these B&W television cameras--complete with custom logo. Actually, Crosley Broadcasting got together $75,000 to buy five of the cameras for WLW-TV. By this time Powel Crosley, Jr. was strictly in the background, occupying a seat on the AVCO board of directors but focused on saving Crosley Motors. (Click picture for larger image.)

WLW Radio and TV on the Web

For those of you who want to keep up with the current WLW radio and television operations, here are some important Web sites:

Industry and listener/viewers' perspectives are offered at John Kiesewetter's blog at the Cincinnati Enquirer web site. Kieswetter is an astutue observer who has covered television and radio, both locally and nationally, for many years.

WLW Radio offers contemporary talk, streaming audio and podcasting. It's also available at 700 on the AM dial (DX-ing, anyone?) and XM 173. Owned by Clear Channel.

WLW-T, Cincinnati's NBC television affiliate, is owned by Hearst-Argyle.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Errors in the Crosley Book

CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation
Errata and Addenda, version 1

Special thanks to Clyde Haehnle and Paula Gold Frank for help in preparing this document.
  • Powel's first call letters were 8CR (per Clyde Haehnle).
  • By Powel Crosley, Jr.’s own accounts, he and Lewis built their electric-powered buckboard in 1898, not 1900.
  • WLW’s Harrison transmitter (1928) was not the first remote-controlled transmitter ever; it was the first transmitter remotely located from the studio. Remote control of broadcast transmitters was not authorized until 1980.
  • The Senate resolution that limited Standard Broadcast stations to 50,000 watts in 1938 was railroaded through the Senate by Senator Burton Wheeler of Montana, not Tennessee. This was done on behalf of his constituent, Ed Craney, who wanted to construct a new station in Montana on 700 khz. Craney founded KFDC in 1922, and went on to found the Z-Bar Network and build Montana’s first television station.
  • Crosley's Florida mansion is located in Manatee County, not "Sarasota County." The property is also owned by Manatee County.
  • James D. Shouse's partner was Robert E. Dunville, not John Dunville. (Probably the result of confusion between Dunville and John T. Murphy, later President of AVCO Broadcasting Corp.)
  • The Federal Trade Commission investigation into the Xervac was the reason Powell chose to incorporate the Broadcasting Division separately from the Crosley Corporation.
  • When AVCO acquired Crosley Stock in 1945, the broadcast company was a wholly owned subsidiary, and AVCO lawyers neglected to seek FCC approval of the transfer. This caused the creation of the “AVCO Rule,” which mandates prior FCC approval of any change of ownership.
  • The Crosley Broadcasting Corp. name was retained for 20 years after the sale of Crosley’s broadcasting properties to AVCO. When the AVCO conglomerate moved into a new round of expansion in 1965, the company changed Crosley Broadcasting to AVCO Broadcasting
  • The speed limit on Spring Grove Avenue past the cemetery where the Crosley family plot is located is 35 mph, not 50.
  • Two of the principal engineers on the Proximity Fuze project were George "Fritz" Leydorf and E.J.H. Bussard. Leydorf also took part in the development of WLW’s 500,000-watt transmitter.

There are several more; they need to be double-checked before being added to the list.

Clowning Around with (Crosley) Car

On September 13, Cincinnati's Community Press carried an article titled "Clowning around with car." It's a story on Tim Schweitzer, who turned his 1951 Crosley station wagon into a clown car for Alexandria, Kentucky's fair parade. The story includes a couple of nice color photos of Schweitzer and his Crosley. The photos are zoomable, so you can get a close look at the yellow Crosley and Schweitzer, both in a clown outfit and civilian clothing. Click here to have a look!

Recent Crosley Articles: Radio and Cars

The September issue of Radio Guide offers an excellent article on WLW's 500,000-watt transmitter, titled "Heavy Metal." It's written by Paul Jellison, former Chief Engineer of WLW's transmitter site, where he lived for 13 years. (Jellison is now Regional Vice President for Engineering for Clear Channel Radio).

Antique Radio Classified features a story about the Crosley READO by yours truly. For the article, I managed to get an image of a sample of the READO "newspaper" FAX strip that was transmitted by WLW in July, 1939.

Skinned Knuckles features a three-page article about Italian variants of the Crosley in its September issue.

The April, 2007, issue of Radio Magazine contains a piece I did on the WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver, Crosley's 1936 response to Zenith's Stratosphere, which claimed the title of the world's largest receiver. I posted some additional info about this set here earlier.

The Spring, 2007, issue of Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History features my article, "Big Dream, Small Car: Powel Crosley, Jr.'s Indiana Automobile."

Finally (and beginning to stretch the term "recent") there's an article about Crosley applause cards in the March, 2007, issue of Antique Radio Classified.

Friday, September 14, 2007

On the Crosley Assembly Line

Here's a shot of the Crosley radio assembly line in the early 1930s. Click to see a larger version.

Why so many women? Because women were more nimble and adept at working with with their fingers--and because women were paid less than men as a matter of course.

Whatever Happened to Crosley's First Engineers?

You've probably read about the many singers and other stars who got their starts at Crosley's WLW. Names like Jane Froman, Doris Day, and Rosemary Clooney are part of the WLW legend. They also went on to bigger and better things after they got away from WLW.

What about technical people? In researching CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation, I noticed that the Crosley Corporation and Crosley Broadcasting's engineering department were as notorious as WLW for low pay and high turnover among engineers as well as talent, management, and other staff.

Consider two of Crosley's earliest engineering employees: Elmer Hentz and Dorman Israel, the University of Cincinnati coop students who were responsible for building the first Crosley Harko set. Dorman Israel also built WLW's first transmitter.

As it turned out, Hentz soon left for a career as an engineer with an elevator manufacturer. Dorman Israel styaed not much longer, and went on became the Chief Engineer and Executive Vice-President of the Emerson Electric (later radio and television) Company.

I believe that both engineers pursued careers beyond Crosley because they knew they wouldn't be making a lot of money for a long time--if ever--with Crosley. Crosley was never the highest-paying outfit in its field, nor even in its city (though it was Cincinnati's largest employer for a time). The company had a tendency to hire people to gain access to their knowledge, then let them go or drive them away by not promoting them. This also happened with famous designer Walter Dorman Teague and, it appears, David Forbes Keith, designer of the Icyball.

With rare exception, it seems that most Crosley employees were like the interchangable parts that went into Crosley products. Only Powel and, to a lesser extent, Lewis Crosley were irreplacable.
Copyright 2007, Michael A. Banks

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Crosley's "Colossus of Radio" Revisited

As noted in an earlier post, one of the two known examples of the Crosley WLW Model Super-Power Radio Receiver sold earlier this year for $55,000 at an auction conducted by Estes Auctions. Here's another photo of the "Colossus of Radio" with two petite models.

This was at the time (1936) the largest radio receiver in the world. Crosley had it built in response to the Zenith Stratosphere, introduced as the world's largest radio in the previous year. The engineer who designed and built the set, Amyle P. Richards, earned his Masters degree in engineering with the project. As an additional rationale for building the set, Powel Crosley stated, “It is fitting that the owner of the world’s most powerful radio station make the world’s greatest radio receiver.”

Click the picture for a larger image, and click here for an article about the WLW model that I wrote for Radio Magazine.

A Peek Inside Powel Crosley's Canadian Island Hunting Lodge

Here's a snapshot taken in the great room of Powel Crosley, Jr.'s hunting lodge, located on an island he owned on MacGregor Bay in Canada. Eugene F. MacDonald (head of Zenith) maintained a similar "camp" on a nearby island.

The lodge is screened by trees in the B&W photo. Note Crosley's Douglas Dolphin amphibian resting at anchor, and the radio tower on the hillock in front of the cabin. The aerial wire ran between this tower and one on the peak of the lodge's roof. Click pictures for larger images.

(NOTE: To see where else Powel Crosley, Jr. spent his time, have a look at this post showing his first house, and my post about Crosley's Pinecroft Mansion in Cincinnati. To learn more about the Crosley estate in Florida, Sea Gate, see

Crosley Descendents

Several newspaper and magazine stories have erroneously reported that someone billed as an author of CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation is the only descendent of the Crosleys. This is false. Powel Crosley, Jr. and Lewis Crosley's have scores of living descendents, including a Powel, IV and a Powel, V.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Crosley Reference Bibliography: New Edition!

When I have time, I'll post some more information about some of the specialized techniques I used to research the Crosley book. I've already written about some of them for The Writer and Online, and I've generated a huge bibliography of my sources. If you are a Crosley fan, you may want to get a copy of this list, which I call The Crosley Reference.

The Crosley Reference lists the books, magazines, and newspapers I turned up during my research. Each contains an article, chapter, photo, or other info having to do with Powel Crosley, Jr. The listings are weighted toward Crosley automobiles, but include many articles about Crosley's life as well as some special-interest pieces. Sources include all sorts of books, and everything from car magazines to The Saturday Evening Post, Time, Business Week, Radio Broadcaster, and more. The Bibliography also lists stories from scores of newspapers around the world. Covering 1911 through 2007, The Crosley Reference contains:
  • 378 books with Crosley information
  • 679 Crosley newspaper stories
  • 493 magazine articles that reference or feature Crosley
That's a total of 1,550 Crosley references. This can help you find those great old articles with photos of Crosley cars and other items you won't see elsewhere. And when you see some article clipped out of a magazine for sale on eBay for too much money, this will identify it and let you find a copy of the whole magazine, for less! This list will help you find original articles and photos available through Web archives, too.

Along with the listings, you get a brief, specially written biography of Powel Crosley's automobiles. It contains info not found elsewhere.
To get a copy of The Crosley Reference (30+ pages, 4th Edition), send $12.50 to:
Michael A. Banks
P.O. Box 175
OH 45056
Or pay with PayPal, sent to the address

Monday, September 10, 2007

Is it "Powel" or "Powell?"

There's always been a bit of confusion over the spelling Powel Crosley, Jr.'s first name (that goes for Powel Crosley, Sr.., III, IV, and V). Some people mistakenly assume that it's Powell (with two ells). I believe that's because we're accustomed to seeing the surname Powell.

I did a couple of searches with Google for "Powell" versus "Powel," and found that, since CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation came out, the incidence of Powell Crosley has gone way down.

Similar searches show that there's still lots of misinformation out there; hence, this blog.
(Powel had no middle name, by the way.)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Powel Crosley, Jr. Muzzle-Loading Rifle Championship

As anyone who knew Powel Crosley, Jr. or has read CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation knows, Crosley was really into hunting and fishing, pasttimes he'd pursued since childhood. As an adult he particularly enjoyed quail hunting and deep sea fishing.

Crosley was also interested in the "old-time" outdoorsmen of the 18th and early 19th centuries, in particular their muzzle-loading rifles, an interest sparked by his one-time Indiana hunting companion and star of WLW's "R.F.D. Hour" in the 1930s, Maurice "Boss" Johnston. Boss Johnston's radio show consisted of guest country music performers and Boss himself talking about farming and woodcraft, and telling tales passed down from his older relatives.

On one Saturday evening program in 1933, Boss got to talking about muzzle-loading rifles, and how it might be nice to have a shooting match. Within two days more than 100 letters came in to WLW asking when and where the shoot was to be held. Johnston told Powel Crosley, Jr. about this, and Crosley offered to fund a trophy (shown above) and donate prizes for such a competition. The Crosley match continues to be shot at the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association (NMLRA) annual meet in Southeastern Indiana. More details are of course in CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Saturday, September 8, 2007

How Jane Froman Got Her Start with WLW (Debunking a Myth)

The many famous people who filtered through Powel Crosley's WLW during the 1920s thorugh the 1940s guaranteed the growth of lots of legends and tall tales--from why Fats Waller really got fired (it was a racist matter), to how and when Powel Crosley, Jr. first heard singing legend Ellen Jane Froman. CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation erroneously mumbles a bit about Crosley's daughter knowing Ms. Froman from school (their ages and specialties were not close), and Powel hiring her to sing at a party. Those are the standard myths floating around, probably perpetrated by earlier writers who didn't bother to ask someone who knew. (NOTE: Watch for an errata sheet for the CROSLEY book, to be posted here and elsewhere.)
The truth is, late in 1929 Crosley happened to attend one of Mrs. Robert Taft's teas, at which Jane Froman (a non-traditional student at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music) had been paid ten dollars to entertain. Apparently Crosley was so struck by her singing voice he offered her a try-out at WLW. By March, 1930 Froman was staff soprano at WLW.

She remained at WLW for two years, slaving away under the standard heavy demands of the station's management; during one period she sang for 22 different shows each week, day and night. That's about three times a day.

Eventually, Powel Crosley's famous pal, orchestra leader Paul Whiteman, recognized her talent and began luring her away with outside engagements. He slyly arranged an audition for Froman at NBC in Chicago. From there her career was nothing but up and away from WLW. From NBC she went on to stage, screen, Vegas, and television. Her life story (a tale of success, tragedy, and courage) was made into a 1951 movie titled "With a Song in My Heart." Susan Hayward played Jane Froman.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks
Source: Missouri Alumnus, March, 1952

The House that Auto Acessories Bought,and an Early Crosely Antenna

Before Powel Crosley, Jr. made a fortune in radio, he made a much smaller fortune in automobile accessories. Thanks to his business success, Crosley was able to move out of the Glenwood Apartments in College Hill and into a nearly new house on Davey Drive in College Hill. The house featured a mature grape arbor (a part of this is visible on the left in the photo below, an in-ground swimming pool, and later a small outbuilding to house hunting dogs and a horse.

The attic dormer where Crosley experimented with early radio can be clearly seen, and in the right foreground is an antenna post, from which a baling wire aerial ran to the house. (A cropped closeup image of the antenna is posted to the left of this text.)

This was in a relativley new housing development in an upper middle-class neighborhood. The Crosleys bought the home at a reported bargain price because the developer (who lived in this house) was going bankrupt.

Click for larger image.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Friday, September 7, 2007

The House that Radio Built

(Note: Larger photo to come.)
If you start reading summaries of attractions in cities across the United States, you'll find them peppered with millionaires' mansions. That is, mansions that were built back when having a million bucks meant something, from the birth of the nation through the 1960s. Just about every good-sized city has its _____ Mansion or ______ Estate, often more than one.

There are several such in Cincinnati, including the Fleischmann estate, but one in particular went without notice for decades: the Crosley Mansion, Pinecroft. Pinecroft sits on the grounds of Cincinnati's Franciscan Mercy Hospital, outside College Hill. The 73 acres surrounding it and now home to the hospital originally included a working farm (with a house for the tenent famer), Powel Crosley's daughter's home (vacated after he died in 1961), tennis courts, a large swimming pool, gatehouse, and a variety of garages and other outbuildings. Lots of stained glass windows--even in the basement--and a monkey wearing headphones, mounted on the main staircase newel post.

When I began researching CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation in earnest in 2000, I had already been on the grounds of the mansion several times, and found it fascinating. I'll talk about the interior in a later post, but here's a photo of the main part of the mansion. Not shown to the left is a small wing that ties into an open, walled outdoor party area with a stone gazebo. To the right is a larger wing that contains an immense kitchen, dining area, two of the many garages, and other rooms. The house boasts two walk-in safes--one for booze, as it was built in 1927 during Prohibition.
Photo © Copyright 2007, Michael A. Banks

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Crosley WLW Super-Power Receiver Sells for $55,000 at Auction!

One of the largest--and rarest--radio sets ever made, Crosley's WLW Model Super Power Radio Receiver, was sold at auction on April 28, 2007, for $55,000. Except for missing two of its four amplifiers and two speakers, the set auctioned was in excellent condition. Complete, it might have brought $75,000 to $100,000. Only one other example of the Crosley WLW Model is known to exist today. The sale was conducted by Estes Auctions in Burbank, OH ( Auctioneer Richard Estes also sold a Zenith Stratosphere for $55,000.

I'll post more info on the WLW Model Super Power Radio Receiver here in a few days, but here's some background: the WLW receiver was built in 1936 by the Crosley Radio Corporation as the world's largest and most powerful receiver. The set was inspired by Eugene MacDonald of Zenith turning out the Zenith 1000Z Stratosphere receiver a year earlier--which at the time it was the world's largest set.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Crosley Book Billboards

For those who may not have seen the publicity, here's one of the Crosley book billboards that appaered just before Chrismas, 2006.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Speaker Available: Official Crosley Historian, Author and Expert on Crosley Radios, Cars, WLW, and More

(I was going to head this "Crosley Speaker Available," but that might lead some to think I have a Musicone for sale.)
You are probably familiar with the story of industrialist and broadcast pioneer Powel Crosley, Jr. And you may have read the New York Times bestseller CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation, of which I am the primary author and researcher.

You may not know that there is quite a lot of information about Powel Crosley, Jr. and his activities that did not make it into the book, for one reason or another.

As the leading Crosley historian and an expert on early broadcast history and other topics, I will be pleased to share my years of research with your organization as a speaker at your convention, trade show, or other meeting. In addition to what didn't make it into the book, I've continued my research and have uncovered lots of new information since the book was published. I am available to speak on these and related subjects:

  • Powel Crosley, Jr.'s life and times
  • Crosley inventions
  • Crosley radios, WLW, and the early broadcast industry
  • Crosley automobiles
  • Crosley airplanes (yes, Crosley built aircraft and aircraft engines!)
  • Crosley's many contributions to winning World War II (including the Proximity Fuze)
  • Powel Crosley, Jr. and the Cincinnati Reds
  • The evolution of high-power radio broadcasting
  • The Crosley approach to product development and marketing

    As I have the opportunity, I share some of this knowledge via magazine articles (here is an example), but I'll never get to publish it all. It is, however, available to your organization.

    I am a speaker with wide experience in addressing groups of all sizes, as well as television and radio audiences. In addition to doing a presentation for your organization I will be pleased to spend time with individuals. Plus, I have various Crosley artifacts to share during my talks.

    For more information, please contact me at: banksbook at yahoo dot com
  • --Michael A. Banks

    What About Those Crosley Appliances?

    Many of you have seen new Crosley appliances for sale--washers, refrigerators, and the like. In case you're wondering, these have nothing to do with the original Crosley Corporation, nor with the Crosley family or former Crosley Motors or Crosley Corporation stockholders. The Crosley name was licensed by a huckster named Buddy L. Dixson from North Carolina (in a story of his life he relates a rather vulgar tale that has him uriniating while demanding that AVCO, owner of the trademark, sell or lease it to him).

    I contacted that company in 2001, when I began work on CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation. Dixon's response was a pair of threats that his "lawyers in Washington" would make sure that no book on Crosley would ever be published, because he owned the name. I ignored his threats and continued writing the book. I intended to send a copy to him, but he was getting up in years and died before CROSLEY was published. (His owning the Crosley name trademark did not and does not preclude someone making a book or film about Crosley.)

    In the meantime, Dixson tried to hire someone to write a Crosley book for him (and that's a story that person can tell). With the aid of still another person--someone who was neither a good writer, nor a decent editor--Dixson put out a book that was supposed to be a bio of Powel Crosley, Jr., but upon examination is obviously a biography of Dixson himself, with some reprinted (much of it inaccurate) info about Crosley.
    As Bugs Bunny would say, "What a maroon!"

    The Crosley Automobile Club

    If you are interested in Crosley and/or are a classic car fan, you should check out the Crosley Automobile Club (click on the name).

    The club publishes a quarterly newsletter that's chock full of information about the history of the Crosley, Crosley owners and collectors, photos and lots more. There's a Crosley National Meet every July near Wauseon, Ohio, and several regional sections of the club serve Florida, Ohio, and other areas.

    Dues are very reasonable ($20 per year), and the group also supports fans of Crosley's other products (radios, appliances, etc.)

    Welcome to the Crosley Biography Blog

    Welcome to the Crosley Biography Blog! This blog will serve as an informational clearinghouse for information Powel Crosley, Jr., his inventions and products, and related topics. It is maintained by Michael A. Banks, the originator and primary author of the book, CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation.

    Banks was responsible for more than 90 percent of the research and the 715-page original draft. He was contracted to be the author of the book several years after he began working on it.

    Banks also obtained most of the photos in the book. Additional unpublished photos will be shared here from time to time, as will informaton that didn't make it into the book, and new information Banks has turned up in his ongoing research.

    In addition to the Crosley biography, Michael A. Banks is the author of more than 40 other books, the most recent of which is Blogging Heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World's Top Bloggers. He has also written books on hobbies, computers and the Internet, educator references, and science fiction novels. For more information, see

    As for how and why Banks ended up writing Powel Crosley, Jr.'s biography, he says it all started when he was looking for a biography of Powel Crosley, Jr. ini 1965. In high school at the time, he assumed Crosley was ranked with Henry Ford as one of the more important inventors and industrialists of the 20th Century. That being the case, he figured his high school library would have a biography of Crosley. It didn't. Nor did the country library; the book didn't exist.

    Why did Banks think Crosley was so important? Growing up in a Cincinnati suburb in the 1950s and 1960s, everything was Crosley. The Cincinnati Reds (owned by Powel Crosley, Jr.) played at Crosley Field. Crosley's WLW radio station and WLW-T television station broadcast many of the games. In the 1950s, a next-door neighbor owned a 1951 Crosley station wagon, and Banks remembers standing in the neighbor's driveway and spinning the propeller on the car's nose. His grandparents had a massive Crosley console radio in their living room. An aunt used a Crosley Sav-A-Maid industrial-size ironer. There were lots more Crosley appliances and cars just about anywhere he went--this included family trips to an aunt's home in Mason, Ohio. On each trip WLW's tower would loom on the horizon and gradually grow to become the largest thing he had ever seen. The first station he received on his first crystal radio set was WLW ...

    With that background, it was natural that Banks ranked Powel Crosley, Jr. right up there with Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. One day in 1965 he visited his high school library in search of a Crosley biography; he assumed a biography of such an important personage must exist ... but it did not. I was reading a lot of biographies at the time and having grown up with Crosley I figured he was like Henry Ford and expected to find a biography of him in the local library. No luck.

    Banks began publishing shortly after he graduated high school, mostly magazine articles. He thought again about a biography of Crosley, but he'd never written a book. By the time his first book was published in 1981, there were other books to write and he was sure that someone else had to be writing one.

    Three dozen books later, in early 2001, he decided that no one else was going to write the book, so he down and began writing the book. There are some intersting stories from the research and writing of the book (including threats against Banks if he were to write the book!) Somoe of those will be shared here, along with previously unpublished information about Powel Crosley, Jr. and his world. Stay tuned!