Monday, December 25, 2000

Entrepreneur Crosley reigned over Reds

By Randy McNutt
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Callers to sports-radio talk shows have been unhappy over money issues lately with Carl Lindner, the homegrown entrepreneur who sells products to the world and owns the Reds — presumably out of civic duty.

        If it sounds familiar, it is.

        Fifty years ago, another Cincinnati entrepreneur, Powel Crosley Jr., owned the Reds and worried about their financial well-being.

        Like Mr. Lindner, Mr. Crosley was considered the reigning business genius of the Queen City.

        “Earlier this week, we received into our collection a car from his collection — a station wagon that he owned,” said Rodger Pille, spokesman for the Cincinnati Museum Center. “We also have on display a Crosley convertible. So his presence is still felt here.”

        Mr. Crosley, who bought the Reds in the mid-1930s, broadcast their games on his WLW Radio as early as 1922.

        “Powel Crosley Jr. was not so much a genius of invention or innovation as he was a genius of marketing and promotion,” said Cynthia Keller, curator of audio-visual collections for the Museum Center. “These include a chemical-mechanical ice box called the Icy-Ball, a baldness remedy called the X-er-vac, a bed cooler called the Koolrest, and the Reado facsimile system which transmitted words and pictures via radio waves instead of telephone lines as facsimile does today.”

        He was born in 1886, the son of a prominent Cincinnati attorney. He manufactured automobile specialty items early in his career. His life changed one day while he was shopping for a radio receiver for his 9-year-old son.

        It cost $135. “That's a lot of money for a radio, son,” he said. So he built his own for $35. It became the forerunner of the Crosley radio.

        By 1921, he was manufacturing affordable radios. In 1922, he started WLW Radio — a whopping 500,000 watts for years, until the federal government reduced the power to 50,000 watts.

        His Crosley Corp. owned a number of radio and television stations, including WLWT in Cincinnati.

        His company also made the Shelvadore refrigerator and the Crosley, a small car with good fuel efficiency that was ahead of its time.

        Under his ownership, the Reds won a National league pennant in 1939 and a national championship in 1940. He renamed Redsland Field as Crosley Field.

        When he died of a heart attack on March 28, 1961, he was CEO of Crosley Corp.

        “From Another Time” is an occasional series that celebrates the region's culture and history. Enquirer reporter Randy McNutt, a Butler County native, has covered the area for 25 years. He is the author of Ghosts: Ohio's Haunted Landscapes, Lost Arts and Forgotten Places (Orange Frazer Press).


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