Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Powel Crosley, Jr. and Medical Research

During the waning years of the Crosley automobile, Powel Crosley went through a brief illness that left him bed-ridden for time. He continued to work from his bedroom on the second floor of his Pinecroft mansion, even seeing visitors there.

One of the visitors, an account executive from the ad agency handling the Crosley Motors account, was surprised to find Crosley stocking a wide variety of patent medecines, and to see that his bed and its canopy were festooned with cotton balls. After Powel's death, his brother, Lewis remarked that Powel was a real nut for patent medecines and oddball cures. Perhaps this is why he backed a Cincinnati inventor's patent medicine, which the Crosley Manufacturing Company bottled and sold by mailorder in the early 1920s. (Dick Perry, writing in Not Just a Sound: The Story of WLW, claimed that the medicine was named "Peptikai," but the real name is slightly different. We also referred to it as "Peptikai" in CROSLEY. I'll post it later when I find my notes.)
Crosley's commercial interest in things medical went beyond the patent med. There was, for example, the Xervac, a hair-restoring machine that the FCC jumped on, forcing Crosley to withdraw claims as to it effectiveness. Powel Crosley also backed a medical researcher in the 1930s and 1940s. The researcher was Dr. George Sperti, who developed "Preparation H," and other cures.

Sperti did extensive work with tropical and sub-tropical plants in Florida, stating that he was on the track of a cure for tuberculosis (which would kill Crosley's first wife, Gwendolyn), and even cancer. He came up with several burn ointments and some citrus by-products. At one point Crosley was going to give his Sarasota mansion, Sea Gate, to Sperti as a research base. This was in 1946, seven years after Mrs. Crosley had died there. For whatever reason, Crosley ended up selling the mansion. Sperti had, by then, gained the support of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati. This was dropped a few years later, the event surrounded by rumors of misspent money.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

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