Powel Crosley, Jr. was born on September 18th of 1886 and lived until March 28th of 1961. He is best remembered as an industrialist, entrepreneur and American inventor. He played a major role in support of the U.S. military effort during the Second World War. For many years, he was the owner of the Cincinnati Reds major league baseball team, and later, Crosley Field, a stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, was named for him.
He was the builder of the Crosley automobile and his experience in the automobile industry dates back to the early 1900s. He formed a company in Connersville, Indiana that focused on building an inexpensive automobile, dubbed the Marathon Six. This venture would later fail, but it was a sign of a future yet to come.
After his business failed, he traveled to Indianapolis where he obtained a job with Carl G. Fisher in the Fisher Automobile Company. The job last for a while, until he broke his arm while trying to start a car. He went to work for several other auto manufacturers in Indianapolis and Muncie, Indiana before returning to Cincinnati, Ohio. Just after the end of the First World War, Crosley attempted another entrance into the automotive production industry, one attempt was even a cycle car, but most attempts failed. He did find success in auto accessories, and in 1916 he co-founded the American Automobile Accessory Company with Ira J. Cooper. Their top-selling product was a tire re-liner invented by Powel. Sears, with their successful mail-order catalog, later picked-up the product. By the close of the 1910's, Lewis Crosley and Powel had sold more than a million dollars in parts, and had begun diversifying into other areas of business.
During the 1920s, he built his own radio and soon was manufacturing radio components. By 1924, the Crosley Radio Corporation was the largest radio manufacturer in the world.
In the 1930s, Crosley manufactured refrigerators and other household appliances. His 'Shelvador' refrigerators, which had shelves in the doors of his refrigerators, became one of the best selling models in the country.
Return to Automobiles
Just before the onset of the Second World War, Crosley made a return to the automotive industry. In 1939, he introduced a small car which was sold through independent appliance dealers and department stores. The Crosley automobile had a wheelbase that measured 80-inches, weighed 925 pounds, and was powered by a 2-cylinder air-cooled Waukesha engine that displaced 38.87 cubic-inches. It carried a price tag of just $325 to $350, making it affordable to the masses. It came in a few colors, including gray, yellow or blue. All of the cars had red wheels and a black top. Before the start of WWII, a total of 5,757 Crosley cars were produced.
During WWII, the Crosley Corporation aided in the war effort by making a variety of products. The company returned to automobile production at the conclusion of the war. They continued their tradition of lightweight, small, and low-priced. Their cars sold for under $900 and could achieve 30 to 45 miles per US gallon. Unfortunately for Crosley, these features did not appeal to the American public. The large engines and big cars of other automakers took advantage of the newly created American roadway system. The war was over and the country was ready to indulge in the finer things of life.
The Crosley automobile became the first American car to be fitted with disc brakes in 1949. This feature could be found on the entire Crosley range, from their pickup-trucks to their stylish Hotshot sports car.
Crosley automobile production continued until 1952, with around 75,000 examples produced.