Powel Crossley Jr

Tuesday 28th March 1961

Powel Crossley Jr. (74), founder and namesake of the Crossley automobile, Crossley radios, and longtime owner of the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, died in Cincinnati, Ohio, US. He enrolled in the Ohio Military Institute in 1901, receiving a degree from this institution in 1905. Crosley proceeded to enroll in the University of Cincinnati, pursuing an engineering degree, but the next year, he transferred to this institution’s law school.

Upon leaving the University of Cincinnati, Crosley began his own automobile manufacturing business. His firm quickly failed, as it lacked the necessary capital. Crosley proceeded to work several jobs; most of these positions were selling products by mail order. In 1916, he purchased an automobile parts mail-order business, and over the next two years, Crosley sold more than one million dollars in parts. Crosley liked to boast that he never earned more than fifty dollars per week until he was over thirty years of age. This may very well have been true, but with the purchase of this automobile parts company, Crosley would never have to worry about money again.

Beginning in the 1920s, Crosley extended his business interests into radio. At this point in time, most radios cost over one hundred dollars, making them too expensive for most consumers. Crosley designed his own radio, at first utilized especially college students to produce them in a phonograph factory, and sold the final product for approximately thirty-five dollars. By 1922, Crosley was the leading radio manufacturer in the entire world. Crosley next ventured into radio broadcasting, establishing WLW, a Cincinnati radio station. He increased the station’s broadcasting power to 500,000 watts, making it the most powerful station in the world. Supposedly, the station was so strong that people could actually hear broadcasts through the gutters on their homes. During World War II, the federal government utilized Crosley’s station to broadcast the Voice of America all over the world. Eventually, the Federal Communications Commission reduced the maximum wattage for radio stations to fifty thousand watts.

With the Great Depression, radio sales began to decline. Crosley, once again, diversified his interests. He began to sell household appliances, including refrigerators. Crosley’s company was the first firm to produce a refrigerator with shelves on the inside of the door. It was known as the Shelvador. During the 1930s, Crosley returned to automobile production. He hoped to reduce the costs of cars by utilizing cheaper building material, especially sheet metal. He continued to produce cars during the 1940s and the 1950s, but these lightweight and fuel-efficient cars never became popular among American consumers. It was in 1934 that Crosley purchased the Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati’s professional baseball team. The Reds played at Crosley Field in Cincinnati until 1970.

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