By Caryl Clem
Ross Siragusa had worked summers testing and building transformers at the Jefferson Electric Company. He had started using company equipment to test out his own ideas. This risk taking teenager was fired for not following lab use procedures. In 1924 after graduating from Loyola High Academy, confident Ross, 18 years old, asked for his father’s blessings to set up his business sharing space with him in a cobbler shop located in the garage. A legendary Chicago Industrialist in the radio and television market originated under his first sign that read, “Transformer Corporation of America”.
Four years later, his long hours and innovative talent moved the fledgling company to a 4th floor factory at 2309 S Keeler Avenue in Lawndale supplying radio parts around the world. Receiver production expanded the radio market; he introduced his popular classy, eloquent Clarion design radio.
The stock market crash swept him into instant debt. Ross faced financial failure that he spent the next three years trying to pay. Ross never lost his determined to start over. His spirited fascination for new product development was inspired by viewing a television at the 1933 World’s Fair. Fast forward, his company would sell in 1951 , a radio, record player cabinet with a 20 inch T.V set feature black/white with color as an option for $1,000 dollars, adjust to a value of $8,000 today.
Gambling on his ability to succeed, he sold personal property, factory equipment, and borrowed money to secure funds. Another garage luck charm from a friend started his new company in 1934, Continental Radio and Television Corporation. Siragusa knew he was facing stiff competition from credible Chicago based supplies made by with Zenith and Motorola. His financially responsible reputation allowed him to reconnect with former suppliers. Ross centered his efforts on portable, less expensive, stylish radio models that any consumer could afford.
In 1936 he bought the trademark “Admiral” for his product line that later would become the company name. His first plant was in 1937 at 3800 West Cortland. By 1950, Admiral manufacturing employed more than 6,000 workers, a leader in radio, record players, and television.
Ross spent money on newspaper advertising, for example, “Here’s a radio you’ll get a tremendous thrill out of owning! So smart, with its golden-mesh metal grille and dial . . . so contrasting in choice of Ivory, Beige, Green or Mahogany cabinet colors. So low-priced for the performance it gives! This is the new radio you have been looking for!” —Newspaper ad for the $24.95 Admiral Deluxe Table Radio, 1955
Admiral was in constant demand. Ross was a millionaire by the age of 44 in 1950 because of his uncanny ability to select a model and style at the best price for consumer popularity and loyalty. During his entire career, Siragusa kept expanding the range of his product line. A true Chicago entrepreneur, honest, dedicated, believing there were no limits to hard work and ambition.