While Powel Crosley Jr. never made more than $50 a week before he was 30, by age 33 he had amassed a fortune selling auto parts through the then-unheard-of medium of direct mail.
His son wanted a wireless radio, so he perfected and manufactured the first low-priced crystal set, the hugely successful "Harko," opening that entertainment medium to the masses. He ventured into radio broadcasting to sell more radios and at 500,000 watts had the most powerful station in the world. His radio station – The Nation's Station, WLW – was the proving ground for the early careers of many who went on to global stardom.
His television station became the first NBC affiliate, and Crosley's own Cincinnati Reds baseball team became the first sports program ever broadcast in color. In his lifetime, Powel Crosley Jr. used his fortune and his enterprise to assist many others up the ladder of success. His many charitable contributions provided a teaching environment for tens of thousands of young men and women.
By the end of his life, he had invented, developed, manufactured or produced:
- The first compact economy car (1939)
- First auto radio (1930)
- Electric wagon (1900)
- Shelvador refrigerator
- 500,000-watt radio station (1934)
- Night baseball (1935)
- Soap operas (1934)
- Facsimile machine (1940)
- First 4-wheel disc brakes (1939)
- 35mm camera
- Airplanes (4 different)
- First radio broadcast from an airplane (1930)
- Phonographs, scalp massagers, canoes, furniture, baby carriages, washing machines, stoves and bed-cooling systems.
In 2013, Powel Crosley, Jr. was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame.
Watch the video
The History of the Powel Crosley Estate
Powel Crosley built the Florida winter home for his wife, Gwendolyn, in 1929. The two-and-a-half-story Mediterranean mansion was built in the southwest corner of Bradenton on a 60-acre parcel of land on Sarasota Bay adjacent to the John Ringling Estate.
The 11,000-square-foot home has 21 rooms and 10 baths, and an adjacent carriage house has room for three cars and servants' quarters on the second floor. Originally the mansion had a swimming pool, a seaplane dock and yacht basin. The home featured many innovations for its time, including a steel frame encased in cast stone, embedded pipes and wiring, and a 135-day construction schedule.
Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, Seagate was saved from commercial development and purchased for renovation by Manatee County, which operates it as a meeting, conference and event venue. Take a virtual tour of the Powel Crosley Estate.