What? Powel Crosley, Jr. and Ayn Rand?
Right: An unliklier pair to appear in a header there never was. Powel Crosley was a staunch Republican and anti-union, which would have put him in line with Ayn Rand's philosophies. But Powel probably loathed the woman and most of her philosophies because he often ignored facts. And I think his misogony would have put him at a point where he loathed her for being a woman who not only had such philosophies, but expressed them in a popular novel. All of which makes it funny that Crosley is caricatured in Rand's The Fountainhead. I may be wrong, though.
I didn’t notice this the caricature I first read the book, over 30 years ago. But a recent re-reading finds Powel Crosley, Jr. thinly disguised as newspaper baron Gail Wynand. Wynand is an aviation enthusiast who spends a ton of money on the latest and best private aircraft. It is used to set a transcontinental speed record (as was Crosley's Vega), after which Wynand gives it to “… an enchanting aviatrix of twenty-four.” Shades of Ruth Nichols! Wynand's physical description matches that of Crosley, as well.
Rand also lampoons the controlled crash-landing Nichols made in a Pennsylvania field when she tried to set a Cincinnati-to-New York record. In the Wynand version, it is presented as an orchestrated publicity stunt, designed to draw the press--who were waiting there even as the aircraft approached from the west. (Crosley is also echoed in the radio and refrigerator manufacturer who is diversified beyond logic.)
Of course, the Wynand character is a composite of several people, with some original twists. (However, it's not quite the same as the portrayl of William Randolph Hearst in Citizen Kane.) For the writer, The Fountainhead serves as a good model for incorporating contemporary figures into a work of fiction without using their names.
Copyright © 2008, Michael A. Banks