Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Steam Power in the Radio Age

The 1920s was an age of dichotomies. Almost no indoor plumbing. No mechanical refrigeration for homes--iceboxes, yes, and the ice mostly came from steam-powered ice plants.

Speaking of steam power (the more knowledgeable among you might have thought I was going to write about the Icyball again), it was steam that handled the heavy-duty part of the construction business. Laborers, mules, and horses did most of the hauling and lifting, but steam-power was still required for the heavy jobs. The internal combustion engine hadn't reached the same level of power and, besides, there were thousands steam-powered locomotives and steam shovels still in use.

Which leads to the juxtaposition in the photo: steam building the world's most powerful radio broadcast station. This photo (part of a larger one) was taken in 1928, during the real groundbreaking for WLW's Mason, Ohio transmitter building--the structure that first housed the 50Kw transmitter, and then the half-million-watt unit that would light up the countryside and speak to the world. That's Powel Crosley, Jr. to the right, with the operator and coaler at left. Click for larger image.

The Erie steam shovel (Type B-2) sits in the hole it was digging for the transmitter building's foundation and basement, representative of a fading technology helping make the way for leading-edge tech. (Interestingly, mules played a part in building this WLW site, as well. I'll share some photos of this later.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New Ruth Lyons Biography

I've received many questions about the publication date for my biography of Ruth Lyons, titled Before Oprah: Ruth Lyons, the Woman Who Created Talk TV.

The title was originally scheduled for October (I completed the manuscript several months ago). But the publisher has decided to wait until May, in order to allow more time for production and promotion. So, the book will be released on Mother's Day, though you can order it now.

As noted in the past, the book has quite a bit of information about Miss Lyons that has never been published. A good number of photos will be in the book, a number of them not previously published, as well.

My apologies to those of you who had planned on it being published last month. And thanks to those in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis, West Virginia and southern Michigan for your patience!
--Mike http//

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Powel Crosley's Toys

I've a nice photo from the air above Powel Crosley's Seagate mansion around 1938. In it, you can see his Douglas Dolphin seaplane (NC982Y) at anchor, the entire mansion and swimming pool, and in the yacht basin one of this yachts and a few motorboats.

That's a pretty good collection. But this photo is equally interesting. Taken in 1939 at Crosley's Cincinnati estate, Pinecroft, it displays the all-new Crosley automobile, along with Crosley's Fairchild 45-A (which he soon got rid of because he bumped into a center-cabin support too often)--all part of a publicity/advertising photo shoot. It's early spring, and that's Page Crosley standing on the wing root, her friends modeling the latest fashions.

Pinecroft had a grass landing field (standard for those days), but the car and the airplane on on a paved surface. It's probably the loop drive that runs by the main mansion yet today. Click on the image to see a large version.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Crosley Automobile Heir Gone!

The spiritual heir to the Crosley automobile is gone. Yes, the campy little Yugo is going out of production. In a time when nearly everyone wants a small, economic automobile, too! The same car that brought back the Crosley jokes. ("Why does a Crosley need a rear-window defroster? So you can see when you're pushing it.")

The details are in news reports, but one can't help but wonder whether they would be a successful import in America, if properly marketed. It might save GM or Ford to buy Yugo with their coming windfalls.

That sounds good, but when did a mega-corporation ever do anything smart? (Digression: Ford and GM and Chrysler continuing to turn out massive gas hogs for all these years proves something I've been telling people for years: too much money makes you stupid!)

Naturally we think, "Bring back the Crosley!" A Japanese company was ready to close on a deal to license the Crosley design and buy the tools and templates in 1954, but that deal went away. Probably for the same reasons the Crosley went away: few people were interested in the novelty or the high gas mileage. It was no longer the only new car available.

But the basic design could be upgraded. The automotive rights are probably vested in whatever company Aerojet General became (not in some trumpeting descendant). But that won't happen, either; it's easier to draw up a new car from scratch, or buy the Yugo and upgrade it.

Still, what would it take to update the Crosley as we knew it to meet 21st Century safety and performance standards? Brakes, for sure! Any thoughts?
(That's Tom Miller's '48 wagon on the right.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Icyball in Australia

Here's a newspaper display ad for the Icyball--from the January 9, 1930, issue of The Argus in Melbourne, Australia.

Click the image to see it full-size. It's interesting to think that these were made in Cincinnati or Toronto and shipped over. Today, I imgine they'd be manufactured in China!

1938: WLW Could Literally Light Up the Sky

Here's an interesting news story from the Canberra, Australia Times. for December 28, 1938. The paper talks about the possibility of lighting the night sky, and points out that two radio stations, WLW and Russia's RV-1 in Moscow, already have enough power to do an effective job of brightening up the countryside.

Both stations were operating at 500,000 watts at the time (WLW at 700,000 watts on occasion--and probably RV-1, as well).

Dr. V.A. Bailey, of the University of Sydney, points out that both stations were capable of producing small auroras with that much power. "But," Dr. Bailey adds, "a million kilowatts, a power not out of reach, would light ten thousand square kilometers of sky equal to the full moon." The light, he said, would be visible for 30 miles around either station.

Click on the article image above to read the entire story.