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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Cincinnati's Crosley Family Had Close Ties To Warren County

Dallas Bogan on 28 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Many of us folks can call upon our memory, and with a little nudge a recollection of things past suddenly become numerous. The subject of our article this week is the Crosley family. The name Powel Crosley, Jr., tends to jog the memory, which brings back reminiscence of old Crosley Field, home of the Cincinnati Reds for many years; the Crosley refrigerator, the Crosley car, the Crosley radio, and of course, radio station WLW. The Crosley name, sometimes spelled Crossley, from which Powel (one "l") Crosley, Jr., was descended, has its Ohio origins in Clear Creek Township, Warren County.
The origin of the Crosley family goes back to the fourteenth century in England to the vicinity of Lancashire and Yorktown. The name at that time was spelled "Croslegh," but a hundred years later, it was changed to "Crosley." The family started immigrating to America as early as 1660, settling first in New Jersey, and later was found to be living in Pennsylvania, and still later, in Maryland.
Moses Crosley was born in 1764 and died in 1843. He was the first of the family to come to Ohio, first settling in Mason County, Kentucky (Maysville), and later in Warren County. He served in the Revolution from Maryland. Moses was married to Rachel Powell, their son, William, born in 1785, migrated to Ohio from Kentucky in 1810. He settled in the northern section of Warren County and the southern sector of Montgomery County.
William was a manufacturer of gunpowder, which enabled him to acquire considerable wealth. He was involved in politics serving in many township offices. He moved to the Centerville area in 1834, becoming a commissioner of the Dayton and Lebanon Turnpike, and serving as its president and treasurer. William also served in George Rogers Clark's army in his Vincennes expedition.
Powell Crosley, Sr., was a descendant of Moses and Rachel Powell Crossley. He was born on a farm in northern Warren County and resided there until he was seventeen. His older brothers, William J., and Luken S. Crosley, served in the Civil War. William was captured at the Battle of Fisher's Creek and spent time in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia.
Powell Sr. attended school in Springboro, Ohio; next he taught school at Clarksville, Ohio; afterward he became manager of a commercial house in St. Joseph, Missouri. He later gave up business to study law. He was graduated from Ann Arbor Law School in 1876, and later made his residence at Cincinnati to begin his practice of law. He was associated with Congressman Benjamin Butterworth.
Powell Sr.'s interests in wireless and radio began at the birth of these two man made miracles. He bought some stock in Marconi's original company after the first signal was flashed across the Atlantic Ocean.
Crosley Sr. was born Christmas Day in 1849 and died at Cincinnati's Christ Hospital, September 13, 1932. Attorney G. Albert Rummel that stated wrote a tribute to him: "He ranked with and was recognized as one of the best lawyers in Ohio during the last half century. He had the genius to see 'all around' and the common sense to consider all sides of a question of the law, made him remarkably successful in trial work, as well as mediation in having adverse interests unite in harmonious action."
Powel Crosley, Jr., was born on September 18, 1886, in Walnut Hills in Cincinnati. In 1893, the family moved to College Hill. He was educated in the Cincinnati public schools and enrolled in the Engineering College at the University of Cincinnati.
He was married four times; his first marriage was to Gwendolyn Aiken on October 17, 1910. They had two children, Martha and Powel Crosley III.
Powel Jr. acquired an early interest in automobiles. When he was 13 years old he had rigged up an electric car for his own use. He had built, in 1907, his first six-cylinder engine and his interests were directed toward the Indianapolis Speedway. He built his first marketable car in 1939. The convertible coupe sold for $325 and the convertible sedan sold for $350. The weight was less than 1000 pounds. It encompassed an air-cooled engine that delivered 12.5 H.P. at 4000 RPM.
Much skepticism was tossed around concerning the small car. The fuel efficiency of 50 miles per gallon was apparently stirring up much interest, but the public was not quite ready for it. Crosley was several years ahead of his time.
He displayed the compact car at the Indianapolis Speedway on April 28th, 1939. Powel Jr. was a common man with a keen sense for business, an entrepreneur whose sights were set not on wealth. He possessed an almost inborn sense to help others. His credo was that "He who serves best profits most."
Crosley Sr. lost most of his money through unfortunate investments. Powel Jr. says of his father: "My father left nothing in worldly things. Looking back now, I am much more grateful for his moral legacy: a philosophy of perseverance, a gratitude to a bountiful country, a knowledge that my future was my own to forge the way I would."
One day Powel III asked his dad for a new wireless outfit. Powel Jr., seeing his son's jubilance over the thought, purchased a one-tube set for $150, quite a price to be paid for a nine-year-old boy. The elder Crosley left the store with a 25-cent book called the ABC of Radio. After reading the book, he became somewhat intrigued. Making another trip to the store, he asked where he might buy parts so he could assemble them himself.
For a minimal cost of $20 or $25, he returned home with headphones, tuning coil, a crystal detector, a condenser, along with other gadgets, and built a set. This was the beginning of the Crosley Radio Corporation. Absolutely fascinated with the venture, he was sure it had a future. He went to another shop and had them build a 3-tube set for something like $200. He then ordered a 2-watt transmitter and started sending out recorded music over the air. Crosley hired a couple of University of Cincinnati engineering students and built the Harko receiver, which sold for $35, much less than anything on the market.
In 1921, he secured an experimental broadcasting license for a 20-watt transmitter, which was to be used in his home. From that he expanded to a small commercial station. So successful was this station that in 1935, with a 500,000-watt transmitter, WLW was the most powerful radio station in the world. The station was making plenty of money, but it was all poured back into the enterprise.
Crosley was very successful in the advent and sale of radio parts, too many to mention in this article. Other Crosley gadgets were: he devised a strip of material for calking draft leaks at the top of the windshield; he marketed "TREDKOTE," a patch for auto tires; and "DRIKLENIT," an auto polish. He built phonographs and marketed them under the trade name of "MARION."
He conceived the idea of a walker for babies and called it "GO-BY-BY." He sold the combination kiddy car and baby stroller, and consequently the new owner used the name "TAYLOR- TOT."
Crosley devised the first refrigerator. It was shaped like a dumbbell. He later conceived the "KOOLREST" refrigerator, which had an electric motor that cooled. He also came out with the first Shelvador; a refrigerator with a door used to store food.
Powel Jr. contrived a "hair-growing machine" called "X-ER-VAC." It was a floor type apparatus much like a hair dryer that fit over the scalp. He pioneered with a "SNOW VEHICLE" which the Army used to haul sleds. He also built washing machines, dryers, kitchen equipment, etc.
Baseball was born in Cincinnati in 1869. In the early 1930's, the Cincinnati Redlegs were having financial difficulties. Powel Crosley, Jr., had no inclination to get into the baseball business, but the ball club had gotten into financial difficulty and was in the hands of the Central Trust Co. in Cincinnati. Crosley, in 1934, invested $200,000 and received complete control of the Redlegs. He announced that in 1939, $163,000 had been repaid him. He paid team manager, Bill McKechnie, and Warren Giles, business manager, $30,000 a year each.
A taxi driver mentioned to Crosley that the publicity of him buying the Redlegs would be a great advertising venture. He immediately changed the name of the baseball park from Redland Field to Crosley Field.
Larry McPhail had arc lights installed in Columbus, Ohio. In his first talk with Crosley concerning night lighting, McPhail described the remarkable powers of night baseball. His hope was to persuade the major league tycoon to use the power of artificial light. The first night game in major league history was scheduled in Cincinnati for May 23, 1935. However, it was postponed 24 hours because of rain. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, seated in the White House, pressed a button, and by some long distance method, the 632 lamps lit and Crosley Field was illuminated.
Philadelphia was the visiting team and Ford C. Fricke, president of the National League, threw out the first ball. The attendance (20,422) that night was ten times greater than it would have been for an afternoon game with the Phils.

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