Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
Powel Crosley, Jr. owned a least one American Austin (the predecessor of the Bantam). He kept the Austin at his Florida estate, Sea Gate. Neill Prew, the son of the realtor who sold Crosley the 63 acres on which Sea Gate was built, remembers that the first time he saw Powel Crosley, the radio magnate was in his American Austin.
Prew, who was 8 years old at the time, remarked that, "He looked like a whole bunch of clowns climbing out of that little car." This confirms that Crosley had some enthusiasm for diminutive autos, and it's easy to imagine him thinking in terms of the novelty value of a really small car. One of Crosley's biggest marketing strategies was to be different, and a tiny car certainly fit that criterion. By 1935, when Crosley was developing the first pre-War Crosley automobile, the American Bantam had supplanted the failed American Austin, but was about to fall on hard times. To Crosley this may have represented a hole in the automobile market--a hole that he felt he could fill and exploit.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks
Sunday, October 28, 2007
As the number of Crosley items offered fell off, I noticed a trend toward lower prices. The Simplicity of Radio, by Powel Crosley, Jr., for example, is selling for a quarter of what it was bringing a couple of years ago. It's possible that increased awareness of the Crosley name resulted in more people putting Crosley items up for sale on eBay, and thereby satisfying the market. The diminished market course means less competitive bidding, which knocks the heck out of prices.
I've seen this happen with other books, and I'll be following this phenomenon as other books on collectibles and history (including two of mine coming out in 2008) hit the market. This could lead to a new marketing strategy: if you have a large collection of a specific kind of item, try to get a book for collectors on the market, to increase awareness and drive up demand. If you can't produce a book, keep an eye out for forthcoming books that may affect the demand for your items.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Friday, October 26, 2007
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
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Narrated by Bill Nimmo (himself a WLW announcer and local TV legend), the video is a decent summary of Powel's life. The documentary has been shown rarely over the past two decades, and the 2007 broadcast was inspired by the appearance of CROSLEY: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation.
The production values are local-TV grade, which is to say not the best. Producer Gene Walz, perhaps the best in Cincinnati at the time, apparently did the what he could with the equipment and probable small budget he had to work with.
Surprisingly, there is no video of Powel himself--only still shots. (Video footage of Powel Crosley, Jr. does exist.) But the interviews with his sister, Edythe, and grandson, Lewis L'Hommedeau Crosley, are really good, and shed quite a bit of light on Crosley's personality. Segments with Crosley friend, neighbor, appliance dealer, and collector Bill Angert add a lot to the production.
Two slightly overdone fantasy sequences show a slice of life in the 1890s and the origin of the song "Moon River." For the latter, actors and actresses were hired and placed in a shadowy barroom setting to play out a scene in which prostitutes were supposedly reduced to tears by the words to the song as a Crosley employee wrote them. It was a nice vignette, but, unfortunately, the story is a fabrication.
Still, the video is well is worth seeing. It's completely enjoyable. But it's not easy to find. Crosley Automobile Club members can borrow the Club's copy. A few libraries have copies, but nobody is selling it online, perhaps because WCET is the sole distributor and the video wasn't produced in large quantities. WCET itself doesn't appear to be offering Powel Crosley, Jr. and the 20th Century, but if you contact the station you can probably buy one. Last time I checked, the suggested donation was $60.
CREDITS: Producer: Gene Walz. Director: Taylor Feltner. Writer: Thomas Ashwell. Financed by a grant from the Crosley Foundation (now dissolved).
Copyright 2007, Michael A. Banks
Monday, October 22, 2007
Decades later, Crosley was pulling similar stunts to draw attention to his products. Some are detailed in CROSLEY, but most aren't. For example, in the 1920s Crosley bought and rented aircraft to perform “special deliveries” of the latest Crosley radio sets to dealers around the country (in small quantities, of course). The airplanes were bannered -C-R-O-S-L-E-Y- on wings and fuselages, and when newspapers flocked to the photo opportunities Crosley got the free publicity he was after. And in 1947 when Cincinnati’s Terrace Plaza Hotel was being completed, he arranged for a Crosley pickup truck carrying an American flag to be hoisted 19 stories to the top of the building, where the flag was transferred to a flagpole. Crosley also set up less-dramatic stunts, such as the double-parked 1947 Crosleys shown in the accompanying photo, the cop scratching his head over how or if he should ticket a cars for sharing a space.
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks
Saturday, October 20, 2007
- Monday, October 29, 2007, Miami University Institute for Lifelong Learning, Oxford, Ohio, Noon. Contact: (513) 529-8600.
- Saturday, November 3, 2007, Books By the Banks, an event featuring Ohio Writers held at the Duke Energy Center (Level 2, South), 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM.
- Sunday, November 11, 2007, Ohioana Library Assocation, Cincinnati Public Library, 1:30 PM.
- Saturday & Sunday, December 1 & 2, at the Crosley Mansion in Sarasota, Florida (next to the Ringling Museum). I'll be talking about Crosley and signing copies of Crosley. A couple dozen Crosley automobiles, along with other Crosley artifacts, will be on display.
- In April, 2008, I will be giving a talk at the Cincinnati Old Time Radio Convention.
- May 2-4, 2008, I'm doing a Crosley presentation at the Early Television Convention, in Hilliard, Ohio.
- June 6 & 7, 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.
For a map, contacts and additional information, click here. Or call (239)-275-IDEA (4332).\
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
I'll be speaking about Powel Crosley, Jr. as an inventor and entreprenur. The meeting begins at 7:00 PM. For a map, contacts and additional information, click here. Or call (239)-275-IDEA (4332).
Monday, October 1, 2007
This was not new in the 1930s. I have a photo of an early 1920s mobile rig that I'll post at another time. I also have some fascinating images of the outside and inside of WLW-TV's first mobile unit, a 1948 bus.