Crosley -- Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation
By Rusty McClure with David Stern and Michael A. Banks
Reviewed by Dave Crocker
When A.R.C. asked me to review this book, I was at first a little reluctant, because I've been a Crosley collector for over 30 years, and thought I knew everything about Powel and the company. Was I wrong! I started reading and quickly turning the page, but after a while, I couldn't put the book down. Now I can say I really know the Crosley story.
The book tells in detail the story of Powel Crosley and his brother Lewis, from birth to death. You can't appreciate the closeness these two had and what they accomplished together until you read this book. "Powel dreamt it; Lewis made it happen" -- this is the theme the book keeps repeating.
They truly were a team, a team that would endure for over 50 years. And what things they accomplished! Crosley radios (of course), "Shelvador" refrigerators, "IcyBall" coolers, hair restorers, facsimile machines, safety tires, soft drink coolers, air conditioners, phonographs, radio broadcasting, cameras, flashlights, night baseball, baby strollers, TVs, airplanes, ironers, washing machines, exercisers, generators -- the list goes on and on. If it was marketable, Crosley sold it.
This book is more than just products, for if you really want to get the feeling of how it was back then, when the invention of radio hit the market, this book will make you feel as if you were there. Step-by-step, you witness radios introduction, its total acceptance by the public, and its good days and bad.
Not that it's all silver lining, for you become aware of the awful tragedies, bad luck and misfortunes of the Crosley family. There was a succession of premature family deaths, along with unhappy marriages and divorces. I personally knew the other Lewis Crosley, Powel's grandson, and got firsthand some of the family setbacks. It seems that with all the riches that success brought, the Crosley family had to deal with much unhappiness and disappointment.
Many of the new products that Crosley marketed became dismal flops. In this book, you'll see how World War I was a setback for Powel, even though he was involved in wartime production. The scarcity of manpower and material for manufacture was a constant problem. Even radio production was halted, and that was Crosley's main product.
Times were changing, and Crosley had to keep up. While Powel was eager to sink money into something new, Lewis, the guy who was responsible for producing it, was an unhappy partner. Lewis's dream had always been to be a gentleman farmer, a dream that was kept at bay because of the demands of his responsibilities for factory production.
Let us not forget that Powel's first love was the automobile. While Powel had early ventures into auto marketing and production, all of which failed, he always kept the dream alive. Someday he would make that dream come true, and, in fact, he eventually came out with a tiny Crosley car. The book gives every detail about why the car was so successful at first and why it died.
Read this book, and you too, will understand what really happened to Crosley in the many chapters of its history. Read this book and you'll have trouble putting it down.
I like pictures. My only wish is that the authors had included more pictures of the Crosley products, as there were so many unique ones. Some products are mentioned by name only, and I think more pictures would have helped. Otherwise, the book is a "Must Have" in your library.
Crosley: Two Brothers and a Business Empire that Transformed the Nation has been on the bestseller lists of several publications, including the New York Times, Business Week, and the Wall Street Journal. It was published by Clerisy Press in a hardcover format, and is listed at $24. It may be ordered from various booksellers.
(Dave Crocker, 35 Santuit Pond Rd., #4B, Mashpee, MA 02649)
Dave Crocker, a graphic artist and a semi-retired member of the A.R.C. staff, has been collecting radios for over 30 years. Many of those years have been spent researching and collecting radios made by the Crosley Radio Company.