Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Crosley Personal Computers

Before anyone gets excited: no, there are no Crosley computers. But can you imagine if the Crosley Corporation had been around for the personal computer revolution--with Powel or someone with his marketing outlook in charge?

For openers, the Crosley PC would have cost less than any other computer, low price being one of the basic tenets of Powel's school of marketing. And where Apple tried to get people hooked on its computers by giving them to schools, Crosley would have responded by putting his PCs in the hands of high-power celebrities, just like he did with his radios in the 1920s. Photos of the rich and famous with Crosley PCs would show up in newspaper stories and magazine ads.

The computer itself would have been really different. The first Crosley PC would have come with a (small) color monitor. The disk drives would have been on top of the monitor, and the computer would have more knobs and switches than necessary, plus a keyboard with 18 function keys, and a Crosley mouse that you could clip to your wrist and wave (patented by Crosley, of course). All in the interest of giving people more for less--just as with Crosley radios, appliances, and cars--and being different to get attention.

Crosley might have had its own OS early on, but Powel would have seen DOS and Windows as a practical direction. He may have tried to emulate the Mac, just to cover all (marketing) bases. And he might have lost a lot of money and a lawsuit trying to do that. Or, he may have won the suit, as he did with the Armstrong patent.

You can bet the Crosley PC would have been in Macy's and department stores across the country, as well as any shop that sold Crosley radios. With 17,000+ distributors and tens of thousands of dealers already in place, the Crosley PC would have overwhelmed the market.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Monday, December 24, 2007

Reviews of Crosley: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation

For those who are interested, here are some Web sites and publications where you can find reviews of CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation:

Paul West


Antique Radio Classified

Gentleman Agitator

The Chief's Forum

Check the August, 2007, issue of Road & Track at your local library or used bookstore for yet another review.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Crosley Automobile History

The December 16, 2007, edition of the New York Times has a nice writeup on the Crosley automobile, complete with illustrations from Crosley brochures--in color! Click here to see it.

(Note: I earlier posted the wrong date for my signings this weekend. They will be held on SUNDAY, December 23 in Cincinnati at Northgate Mall and Tri-County Mall. Click here for full info.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

How Close Can You Park to the Door?

(Photos courtesy Tom Miller)

Yesterday I did a signing for Crosley and my new book, Blogging Heroes, at the Borders store in Mason, Ohio--the home of WLW's transmitter and famous tower. It was a busy three hours, and Tom Miller brought out his 1948 Crosley wagon. You can see it on the left, the nose poking into the entranceway.

Originally Tom parked it on the walkway in front of the store, but the shopping plaza management complained, so he placed it in the tiny lobby of the store. It was a tight fit, to say the least. This photo will give you some idea how little space their was.

The Crosley didn't impede the flow of customers. Nearly everyone stopped to look at it. And, conveniently, the first thing they saw coming into the store were my books. Click photos for larger images. Click here for a slideshow of the event!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Congratulations, Susan!

Congratulations to my daughter,
Susan Banks, on her graduation
from Northern Kentucky University
December 15!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Powel Crosley's Office

It's 1934. You're the head of the Crosley Radio Corporation, manufacturer of radios used all around the world, appliances like the Shelvador, and a host of other top-selling consumer products. You've built airplanes and own a few, an airport to keep them in, and one of the city's most elaborate estates, among other properties. You also run the world's most powerful radio station, WLW. What's your office like?

The photo here shows just one corner of Powel Crosley, Jr.'s huge office in the tower of the Crosley factory building at 1329 Arlington Street in Cincinnati. (Powel's private dining room was one floor up.) The office is equipped with a working fireplace (the tiles are rumored to be Rookwood). There's a Crosley temperator to heat or cool the air on the sideboard to the left, along with an intercom and water pitcher and glasses. The cabinets under the sideboard feature a bar. The desk features a pen set decorated with elephants, a fancy blotter, and ashtrays for both the boss and guests. The photo facing the boss' chair is one of his wife. There's a single telephone set on its own table just behind the desk.
The huge console to the right is a custom-made Crosley radio receiver. The candle-like sconces on the walls hold electric lights. The wall panels are thick, solid wood, with brick behind them. The door with the arched top (you can see part of it at the far right) is several inches thick.

What about the rest of it? I'll show you more another time, as well as what it looks like today. (Don't forget to click the image to see a larger version.)
--Mike mike at michaelabanks.com
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Crosley and Spring Grove Cemetery

(I can't believe I misspelled "cemetery" in the original header!)
I recently had reason to check some records in the online genealogy section of Cincinnati's Spring Grove Cemetary, where Powel Crosley and many of his family are interred. When I did a search for the name "Powel Crosley," none came up. Powel's wife, brother, mother, and others are there, but Powel, his father (Powel, Sr.), and son Powel, III are no longer listed.

"Might this be the result of the Crosley book?" I asked myself, thinking the popularity of this book may have led to too many queries for Crosley.

I contacted Phil Nuxhall, the official historian of Spring Grove Cemetery, and Phil consulted with the company's Webmaster. The four Powel Crosleys are now restored. There had been a problem with the fact that each was listed with a variant of the last name: Crosley Jr, Crosley IV, and so on. Now you can find them at http://www.springgrove.org/sg/genealogy/sg_genealogy_home.shtm

If you want more information about the Crosley family plot (Section 17, Lot 6 at Spring Grove), see Find a Grave. You can also leave virtual flowers and a comment.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Book Signing in Mason, Ohio, this Sunday, December 16!

I'll be signing both CROSLEY and my brand-new book, Blogging Heroes, this Sunday from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM at Borders in Mason, Ohio (5105 Deerfield Road). Click here for directions.

Mason is the home of WLW's transmitter and famous Blaw-Knox diamond antenna tower. You can see it as you drive into town. (While you're here, click the antenna photo and you'll see a larger version of it.)

Come on out: I'll have some special free handouts for everyone, whether you buy a book or not! Bring a copy to be signed, or buy a copy for your Crosley fan friends or blogging relatives as a holiday gift!
Note: Tune in 700 WLW (XM-73) Tuesday, December 11, at 5:40 PM to hear me on the Gary Burbank Show.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Correction: WLW-TV Mobile Unit

In an earlier post I mis-identified the silverside bus shown in the accompanying photo as a 1948 model. The bus, which served as WLW-TV's mobile unit was actually a 1947 GM coach. It carried two cameras, and was jam-packed with all the transmitting and monitorinig equipment the engineers could fit into it. The roof was equipped with a reinforced deck (for cameras and operators), fold-down railings, and a transmitting dish that lay flat during transit.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Television, Ruth Lyons, and Sunday Book Signing

As implied by previous posts, we'll be talking more and more about WLW-TV (as well as WLWC, WLWD, and WLWI) in the future. A Ruth Lyons dot com Web site is also on the way.

In the meantime, stop by and see me on Sunday, December 16, at the Cincinnati Borders bookstore in Mason (5105 Deerfield Blvd.) from 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. I'd like to hear your Ruth Lyons stores, and will be autographing Crosley and my new book, Blogging Heroes.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Change Coming in Radio?

I've been interviewing a number of people in the broadcast business, in connection with a book I'm writing. I've collected an interesting set of opinions on where radio is going--AM radio in particular. Just about everyone I talked with expressed the thought that the AM radio talk show with its "angry white men" has been overdone, and that something new is going to emerge. Problem is, nobody can say what that might be.

Thinking about it, one of the reasons the call-in talk show format got popular is because it is live programming. Radio listeners didn't just start demanding people screaming and saying shocking things--though many of them were certainly looking for a way to get on radio and speak their piece. I believe that the live element is what grabbed listener interest. Consider the success of Gary Burbank on WLW. He's not one of the angry white men--but he is live.

Live programming is, of course, where radio started. (That's live, as opposed to automated stations and chatterers playing music.) It makes one wonder if more live programming--of a different type--is waiting in the wings as the angry white men duplicating one another's shtick fall away. It seems as if everything comes back if you wait long enough ...
For some interesting background on all this, have a look the book Something in the Air, by Marc Fisher. You'll find my review of the book here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The OTHER Cincinnati Reds Betting Scandal

The Pete Rose baseball betting scandal has to be the longest-running story of its type, what with its near-annual revival in connection with Pete not making it into the Baseball Hall of Fame. But it wasn't the first betting scandal to hit the Cincinnati Reds. That may go back to 1951 and Powel Crosley's involvement in betting on horse raises.

Early that year, when it was discovered that Crosley was breeding thoroughbreds at a farm in Kentucky, baseball Commissioner Ford Frick demanded that Crosley get out of racing entirely, citing Mountain Landis's contention that "baseball cannot get along with gambling, and horse racing can't get along without it. So the two just don't mix!"

Even though National League President Warren Giles (and former Reds' manager) defended him, Crosley gave up his racing interests.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Crosley History (and more!) on CD

There are precious few audio archives from the heyday of Crosley Broadcasting, from the 1920s through the 1940s. A lot of what exists isn't available, including The Nation's Station: Cincinnati Radio (1921-1941).

Fortunately, WGUC, Cincinnati's public radio station, makes available two great audio archive/tribute CDs. (And they have great prices--at least ten bucks less than I've seen one of these for sale at eBay and Amazon.com.) Shown above, the CDs are:

P.O. Box 175, Oxford, OH 45056

Monday, December 3, 2007

Joe Nuxhall

As many reading this know, Joe Nuxhall was the youngest major-league baseball player ever. He was 15 when Powel Crosley's Cincinnati Reds hired him in 1944. The war made for a shortage of players, but that wasn't the only reason the 15 year-old made the team. He was a talented pitcher, as his record showed. He played in the major leagues from 1952 to 1967, wearing a Cincinnati Reds uniform for all but one year.

In 1967 Joe Nuxhall went to work as a voice of the Cincinnati Reds, and broadcast games for the next 38 years. He retired a couple of years back, and passed away in November, 2007, at the age of 79. WLW-TV has made available its tribute to Joe Nuxhall on YouTube. Click here to watch WLW-TV's "Good-Bye to Joe Nuxhall."

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Crosley Broadcasting Programs Online!

More and more old television programs are popping up on YouTube, including some old Crosley Broadcasting shows (or portions thereof) from WLW-TV. Produced in Cincinnati, these were broadcast over the WLW network, which included WLW-C (Columbus), WLW-D (Dayton), and WLW-I (Indianapolis) in addition to the Cincinnati station.

The most popular of these was Ruth Lyons' 50-50 Club, which ran from Noon to 1:30 PM every weekday afternoon. (The audio was simulcast over WLW radio.) WLW-TV has uploaded part of a 1951 episode of The 50-50 Club to YouTube. Click here to watch it.

Middletown native Jim Witt has kindly provided the original WLW-TV newscast aired the day Ruth Lyons died here:, along with the WLW Ruth Lyons special tribute (hosted by Pat Barry) broadcast a couple of nights later.

There's another set of Ruth Lyons excerpts here. In the future I'll post info on more Crosley Broadcasting radio and TV programming online.
P.O. Box 175, Oxford, OH 45056

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Another View of the 1937 Flood

Here's another look at the aftermath of the Flood of '37. The vantage point here is the third floor of the main factory, looking north toward the burned-out and collapsed Building K. The straight "pathway" in the middle is actually the roof the the second-story enclosed bridge between the main plant and Building K, which contained a conveyor along which completed radios moved. The sets were packed for shipping in Building K, and then loaded directly onto railroad box cars.

The sign at the bottom-left reads "The Crosley Distributing Company." This was a company formed by Crosley to enable it to go around its distributors and sell direct to large wholesale accounts. As with the photo in the preceding post, this was supplied by retired engineer Robert S. Butts. (Click on the image to see it full-size.)
Copyright © 2007 Michael A. Banks
P.O. Box 175, Oxford, OH 45056