Powell Crosley Jr. was born in Cincinnati on September 18, 1886. Just over twenty years separated him from the civil war. The first practical light bulb was only six years old at that time.
Powell was born right between the ascending columns of urbanization and technical innovation that raised the pediment of the civilized world. Golden drops of electricity fluttered down from the streetcars, buildings began to rise above ten stories, and the ground began to rumble with the hum of the subway.
After graduating from the Ohio Military Institute in 1901, Crosley sought an engineering degree from the University of Cincinnati. He switched to law only to drop out and immerse himself in what he truly loved – the automobile.
The born entrepreneur began his own auto-manufacturing business. His attempts to market an affordable six-cylinder failed to materialize, because things were brewing over in Europe between the Serbs and Bosnians.
In 1916, with the roll of the dice, he landed on an auto accessory sales firm. After being employed for a year, he purchased the company. Using his own innovative ideas, he designed and produced various new accessories to sell. His company, co-operated with his brother, collected over a million dollars within two years.
In 1921 Powell was looking for a radio for his son. But he was not going to pay the retail price of nearly $100. Instead, he built his own. Employing college students, he began to mass-produce his design and began selling them for $20. They rolled off and out of his production lines into the hands of satisfied consumers - loyal consumers who propelled Crosley to world leadership in radio manufacturing.
As Flanders smoldered the great depression tightened her grip on our economy’s throat. Radio sales plummeted. So Crosley rolled the dice again. He lands on radio broadcasting.
In 1922, the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation began pumping out the radio waves through their new station WLW. Crosley sought to make it the most powerful station the world. Like a mad engineer shoveling the coal into the boiler of a speeding locomotive, he brought the total broadcasting power up to 500,000 watts! His theory: the more power the transmitter has, the less power a radio needs to receive the signal. He could maintain producing affordable radios.
WLW became known as "the Nation’s Station", since it could be heard all over the country, not to mention in other parts of the world.
Another roll of the dice and he moves a few spaces – appliances.
He manufactured the Icyball, a non-electric refrigerator and the Shelvador, the first refrigerator to have shelf units built into the door.
Rounding the board, Powell Crosley lands back on his home territory of automobiles. His plan was to utilize sheet metal and focus on gas efficiency.
Scooping up the dice, applying a few hopeful shakes and casting them onto the board, he advances to major league baseball.
In 1934 Crosley buys the Cincinnati Reds. As if paying homage to the era of his birth, Crosley’s Cincinnati Reds were the first team in baseball history to play under lights. The night game was born on May 24, 1935.
Moving along, he picks up a CHANCE card. It reads, “Uncle Sam needs your help. The War Production Board employs you!” With that, Crosley joins the war effort.
During WWII the Crosley Corporation manufactured one of the greatest weapon innovations that gave the allies the upper hand called the proximity fuse.
Following the war, Powell Crosley went back to the auto-works. He continued with his light weight gas efficient cars, but the concept never took hold with consumers. Gas was cheap. He did, however, introduce disk brakes to the auto-world.
The Powell Crosley game finally ends on March 28, 1961 - heart attack.
Hopefully when you put the game away, you recognize the brilliance of this light that once shown over Cincinnati. A light that represents what is possible in this nation of free enterprise, competition, risk, and the ability to chase after your dreams. Powell Crosley was a beacon from the American dreamscape, and he still shines right here in Cincinnati.