Friday, October 26, 2007

Two Pioneers on Similar Paths to Radio

Back in 1898, Powel Crosley, Jr. and his brother Lewis made their first run at building an automobile. As detailed in CROSLEY, they based it on an old buckboard wagon stored in their maternal grandfather’s barn, and powered it with a scrounged electric motor and batteries.

They weren’t the first to motorize a buckboard, as the photo on the left shows. This was California radioman Earle C. Anthony’s first shot at building a car, at the age of 16. (On the right is Powel's 1927 sketch from memory of his electric-powered buckboard. Click for larger image.)

Anthony and Crosley had quite a few things in common in addition to their electric buckboards. Not the least of which was the fact that each was into automobiles in a big way. Both men made a lot of money in the automotive business before turning to radio. Anthony was the largest Packard dealer on the West coast (in fact, he had several dealerships), and eventually owned a large percentage of the Packard company, which put him into automobile manufacturing, where Crosley wanted to be. Crosley, of course, made his first small fortune in the automobile accessories business.

In 1923 Anthony became interested in radio, and followed Powel Crosley, Jr. along the trail the latter had blazed. Already wealthy from Packard, Anthony built a radio transmitter and receiver on his kitchen table, got an amateur’s license, and not long after that he founded radio station KFI in Los Angeles. KFI followed WLW in going to 50,000 watts (though it never reached 500,000 watts). Ironically, Earle C. Anthony passed away in 1961, the same year as Powel Crosley, Jr.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

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