Powel Crosley Junior’s life was in expansion mode in the late 1920s, both professionally and with regard to real estate. Previously, we covered his AM radio goals via the ever more powerful 700 WLW station, his new company HQ in Cincinnati, and the growth of his personal real estate with new estates in Cincinnati and Sarasota. But those goings-on didn’t distract Crosley from the entrepreneurial interests he always maintained. Let’s talk about airplanes.
Today we return to the Powel Crosley Jr. story, in 1928. As an aftermarket car parts company owner, Crosley saw business diversification opportunities in the burgeoning field of home appliances. In his first foray, he took on established phonograph manufacturers with his value priced Amerinola.
Then as broadcast radio entered public consciousness in the early and mid-Twenties, Crosley began selling simple radios that didn’t require an outside power source. From there, the new Crosley Radio Corporation branched out into powered radios via the low-priced Pup.
Once again, Crosley took on established players like RCA by offering a comparable radio at a fraction of the price. But once customers had their radios in hand, Crosley ran into an issue: It was 1928 and there was nothing to listen to.
Powel Crosley Jr. entered a new and much more successful chapter of his life in 1916 when he founded the American Automobile Accessories Company (Americo) alongside Cooper Tire Company founder Ira J. Cooper. One of the earliest large-scale retailers of aftermarket car parts, Americo was a pioneer. The company sold parts made by other firms and manufactured its own parts. Many of the latter were invented by Crosley himself.
After just two years Crosley bought out Cooper’s share of the business and pulled in his younger brother Lewis as a new business partner. Despite not having an eye for the financial part of business, Powel was great at sales, advertising, and anticipating what the consumer wanted and needed most. And what they needed circa 1920 were home radios.
We pick up our coverage of the life and times of Powel Crosley Jr. in 1916. At 30 years old, Crosley had a spouse of six years and two young children. He’d given up car-selling ventures in Indiana for a permanent return to his native land of Cincinnati.
His experiences in car sales and hype in Indiana turned the inventor into a marketing man, and Crosley’s main source of income was ad copy. He did that in between short-lived side jobs at small local automotive companies (that all went bust). All the while Crosley kept one eye on the automobile market and took notice of just how common and numerous the automobile had become on American roads. It was almost time for a new car venture.
We return today to our coverage of the life and times of Powel Crosley Junior, the first subject in our new Rare Rides Personas series. Born in Cincinnati in 1886, Crosley was the son of a lawyer and the eldest of four. From an early age, he showed adeptness at engineering and technology but lacked an interest in the classroom learning behind it.
He and his brother Lewis built their first car - an EV wagon - at ages 12 and 10 to win a bet with their father. It was the first of many car ventures for Crosley, who was completely fascinated with the up-and-coming automobile. By age 21 he was raising funds to start a car company.
Welcome to a new series in the Rare Rides universe, where we’ll spend some digital ink considering the humans behind the automobile experience. This series will focus on the life and times of the industrialists, inventors, engineers, tycoons, and the like who decided to devote a portion of their life to the automobile, whether intentional, accidental, or against their will. Ideally, we’ll proceed with personas first, and then cover their automobiles in a Rare Rides or Icons series.
Our first Rare Rides Personas subject is Powel Crosley Jr., a well-known native of your author’s present city, Cincinnati, Ohio. Commenter Jeff S suggested some Crosley coverage back in May, and here we are a couple of months later with the launch of an all-new series. Onward, to Crosley!
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