1938 Incorporation

January 10

It is a busy start to the year at the Shop. They begin 1938 with several weeks worth of work already on the books and more has come in. Several distillery repairs are lined up and a few cooking jacket kettles are produced as well. The Kavanagh’s are entering a transition year as plans are being made to transfer control and ownership of the Shop to Joe’s boys, Leo (42) and Eddie (41). Joe has worked here for more than forty-two years and he is over seventy years old. It’s time for him to move aside and yes, enjoy the fruits of his labor a bit. This transfer of power might take some time to sort out, but it’s clear Joe will be gone soon enough.

February 7

Eddie receives a call from Gunther’s Brewery and they order three beer vats to be fabricated and installed. Eddie will lead the install but do as little of the physical work as possible to give his workers more experience. He needs to be sure his crew can handle these installations without his presence. Eddie is confident in his workers but he needs to be sure. He has developed a good relationship with Gunther’s after so much work in their facility. He has become friends with a few fellows there and this makes Joe happy. Joe is seeing great progress from his boys on the business side of the job. Eddie is a little more gregarious and is quite suited for dealing with customers while Leo is a bit quieter. Leo is fine with customers but not quite like Eddie. Still, Leo seems to excel at handling the accounts, both customers and vendors. They still have a bookkeeper who comes in once a week but Leo makes it easy for him, keeping meticulous records in the same fashion that his sketches and drawings are done to exacting detail. Every day, Joe is more convinced that his sons will make a great team. The crew of twelve men is busy on this bitter cold day with a copper storage tank to build and several small orders, a railing and some drip pans to make. The Kavanagh’s and crew are able to fight off the cold of February by heat and hard work. The winter’s cold can make a smith’s job that much harder but if you’re busy, you’ll feel a little warmer. Also, the day goes by faster.

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List of “Kavanagh” Brewing Fittings that the Shop made, sold and used in the 1930s.

March 13

After Sunday Mass, Joe sits reading the newspaper in his home on Thirty-third Street. The big international story of the day is Adolf Hitler’s Germany has annexed the nation of Austria. Hitler’s stated goal is to unite all German-speaking people under one country, thus the absorption of Austria. In addition, Hitler calls for Czechoslovakia to surrender a section of their land, the Sudetenland, to Germany, claiming the majority Germanic residents want to join his nation. Joe shakes his head as he finishes the story. This is eerily similar to what happened not so long ago, which led to World War I, the War to End all Wars. Joe hopes that moniker sticks but if things keep going they way they are in Europe, that could all change.

April 19

The Shop stays very busy through the spring with Eddie and Leo taking on more of a leadership role to Joe’s delight. The crew are toiling away with heat and hammers, shaping copper. The focus this week is an updated distilling system for Hannis Distilling, the makers of Joe’s favorite, Mount Vernon Rye. It has been designed by, and will be installed by the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Leo has handled the proper engineering and made full sketches and now Eddie leads half of the crew on the fabrication end. A Continuous Still for rye is built in the Shop, then it must be disassembled and installed next week. It’s a good job and truly their forte. The rest of the crew handle some smaller orders of fittings, parts and several commercial cookers.

May 14

Joe finalizes his plans for the future of the Shop and how he will pass it on to his sons. He has discussed it a great deal with his wife Johanna. She wants the boys to be protected but also wants Joe and herself to be well taken care of in their retirement years. Joe has decided to form a corporation with his sons, Leo as President and Eddie as Vice-President. Joe and Jo would still own the property and be payed $ 75.00 per week for the remainder of their lives. This way they will maintain some income, but will not be sole owners of the Shop. The three principles will own stock but Leo and Eddie will manage the day-to-day and Joe will be available as a consultant if needed. Joe likes this solution because it does give him the option of remaining a little involved if the boys need assistance and it guarantees he will have some money to enjoy his retirement. Upon Joe’s death, his stock would go to Johanna and then to the boys. He will mull it over for several weeks before presenting his plan to his sons.

June 6

Ed Jr has graduated from high school and is back to work at the Shop but will be attending the College of Commerce of Baltimore in the fall. After conferring with his father and brother, Eddie thinks it’s wise to have someone with a solid business education background working at the Shop. This will give Ed some experience and training on the management side of the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Young Ed will still finish his apprenticeship as a coppersmith but will also learn a bit about business and commerce. He will give the school a try in September and wait at least one year before he works full time.

June 19

Eddie and his younger son Jack visit Bugle Field for baseball on this Sunday afternoon. The Baltimore E-Lite Giants, a new club in the Negro National League has begun playing at this park. They play a short schedule of 20 – 30 games but Jack is very excited to see some baseball live. Two games will be played at Bugle Field today. Firstly the E-Lite Giants defeat the Washington Black Senators. The Senators will be in the bottom of the standings this year as they manage only one win in twenty-one games played. A young catcher who plays for Baltimore stands out. He’s only 16 but Roy Campanella looks to be a real good ball player. Eddie and Jack both are fans of catchers, the one player besides the pitcher who is in on every pitch. Jack is amazed that a boy only two years older than he, is playing professional baseball. The second game is another pair of Negro teams who barnstorm, playing in different cities as they travel around the country. A second game only adds to the fun for Eddie and Jack. They talk baseball on the entire ride home and Eddie tells his son, “We’ll do this again. Maybe we can do it every Sunday during the season.”

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Jack Kavanagh. Altar boy at St. Elizabeth’s Church. Patterson Park. 1930s.

July 17

The Kavanagh’s gather for dinner at Thirty-third Street on a warm breezy Sunday. Eddie and Jack have spent the day at Bugle Field. Eddie, true to his word, has taken Jack to games there each Sunday. There are always at least two games and on this day, there were three. The very rare triple header is a great thrill for Jack. The third game is comprised of local semi-pro and club teams. The talent and quality of play isn’t the same, but it’s still baseball. If two games are good, three are only better, according to Eddie. The E-Lite Giants are defeated in their game against the Homestead Grays. The Grays will win the pennant this year, led by Josh Gibson and Buck Leonhard; they are a powerhouse and win the title easily. Jack fills his grandfather in on the highlights of the games today. Joe loves that his grandson has this same passion for the sport that he has. After Jack has spoken at length about today’s ballgames, Johanna calls them all into the dining room for a lamb dinner. They eat, talk, and gather around the piano, taking turns playing and singing. Jack has been taking lessons for six years now and he clearly has some talent for music. Joe is pleased at his grandson’s progress and a fun time is had by all. Before Leo and Eddie leave with their wives and kids, Joe takes them aside and fills them in on his plans for the Shop. He doesn’t ask them what they think but simply tells them that they will form a corporation among the three of them. He tells them that Leo will be President and Eddie, Vice-President, and the building will still be owned by Joe and Jo. The boys are happy and shake their father’s hand; no disappointment from Eddie about being V.P. He knew that’s how it would shake out. Both brothers are confident they’ll be successful and look to the future for their children. Finally, Joe passes along that sometime next year, he will retire, but will always be available as a consultant.

August 12

The legal paperwork is finished and the Joseph Kavanagh Company becomes a corporation. It has little effect on the daily activity at the Shop, and like any other August day, they sweat and fight through these dog days of summer. The job is hot already but August is the cruelest month for a smith. The work is still plentiful and today is occupied with some boiler parts to be made and a long curved decorative brass railing.

September 5

Ed Jr. passes the pitcher test, the final “exam” of coppersmithing at the Shop. He heats and hammers a flat copper sheet, then shapes it into a drinking pitcher. Small careful taps with a finishing hammer smooth the surface and finally a handle is curved and soldered to the pitcher. This is the last test to prove your skills as a smith. His apprenticeship finished, Ed begins attending the College of Commerce in Baltimore to get a business background. Ed is excited to see what he can learn and is also happy to have several breaks from the Shop during the week. He has classes three days a week and will work three days a week at the Shop. Leo and Eddie both look on Ed’s education and the newly incorporated Shop as steps toward success in this ever more modern world.

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“Business Letters” Ed Kavanagh Junior’s school book from College of Commerce.

September 30

The Treaty of Munich is signed by Britain, France, Germany and Italy. Despite the Czechs being the focus of this meeting, they aren’t present or even properly represented. This accord surrenders the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Germany. This is done primarily to pacify Hitler and he promises that this is the extent of his expansion. He assures all parties involved that he will take no further action against the Czechs. The Kavanagh’s, like many Americans, are following the news closely, and some condemn this treaty as a capitulation to Hitler. There are rumblings and calls for the U. S. to prepare for a conflict in Europe and just as strongly, there are calls for the U. S. to stay away from any military intervention at all costs.

October 9

The New York Yankees sweep the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series. The Cubs keep it close in each game but lose them all. The Yankees are led by Joe DiMaggio, who hits .326 with 32 home runs for the year while the Cubs team is anchored by veteran pitcher Dizzy Dean. Dean’s arm carried them to the pennant this year but it’s not enough to overcome the Yankees offense. The Kavanagh’s read all about it in the papers and listen on the radio when they can, including the final game in its entirety today. The World Series is and always will be a big deal at the Shop and to the Kavanagh’s. They talk about each game and analyze the box scores closely; thrilled at each and every minor detail.

October 16

Joe switches on his radio this Sunday to hear a message from Winston Churchill broadcasting to the U.S. Churchill is the most adamant critic of the Munich Agreement. He labels it a defeat for Western Europe and a victory for Germany. He encourages Americans and Western Europeans to prepare for war to resist further aggression by Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Joe takes Churchill’s warning seriously and though he’s concerned for the nation, he’s very worried for his grandsons. He doesn’t want them fighting a war in Europe. He thinks to himself, didn’t we do this twenty years ago? He hopes and prays for the best.

October 30

Eddie and his family are gathered around the radio at 8 pm on a Sunday night. They switch to WFBR to listen to Edgar Bergen’s ventriloquist act with dummy Charlie McCarthy. Always good for a laugh or two, listening to this short broadcast is a Sunday night habit. After the act finishes at approximately 8:13 PM, Eddie tells his boy Jack to switch to WCAO’s Mercury Theater Production. This show is usually entertaining as the cast is lead by Orson Welles of “The Shadow” fame. Instead of the Mercury Theater, they find themselves listening to a live news report. It seems impossible but the report is that an invasion of Martians has occurred in New Jersey. Everyone silently focuses on the radio as the station switches transmission to a report directly from the scene of the alien landing. Eddie grins and his sons do as well, this must be a story they have joined in progress but it seems interesting. Suddenly, the phone rings and Eddie grabs the receiver and says hello.

“Do you have the radio on? Do you hear what they’re saying is happening?” asks the caller, whom Eddie recognizes as his father, Joe.

“Yes, I have it on. I think it’s a joke or a story. We just started listening. It can’t be real.” Eddie replies.

“I don’t know.” says Joe, “this is the news. It’s a news reporter. They say they’re fighting a battle up in Jersey.” Eddie hears his father place the phone to his shoulder and say to his mother Johanna, “Jo, lock up the good rye, at least the Mount Vernon.”

Eddie hears a distant but firm reply, “I will do no such thing,” from his mother. Eddie then calls his father back to the phone, “Joe! Joe! Joe, this isn’t real and Martians probably don’t drink rye anyway.”

“No rye? The heathens! All the more reason to be worried.” Joe answered.

At this point, young Jack gets his father’s attention and points at the radio as the speaker announces that this is a dramatization of H. G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.” Eddie nods and says to his father, “See. it’s fake. Just a show. They just said so on the air.”

“Oh, I heard it. Okay. Never mind.” The line clicks and Eddie stares at the phone with a wry grin spreading over his lips, shaking his head in amusement.

The next day the news of the hoax and the panic it caused is the talk of the nation. The panic is largely over-stated as most listeners knew it was entertainment. CBS did cut in several times to announce it was a drama but there certainly were individuals who were alarmed and frightened. Locally, one Baltimore jeweler, Samuel Shapiro, is reported to have had a heart attack during the program and he died two weeks later. The interest and press coverage is great for CBS and the Mercury Theater but there is an outcry from a few skeptics for no more faux news reports, but nothing comes of it.

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Orson Welles. 1930s. Courtesy of Library of Congress. Carl Van Vechten – Photographer.

November 1

A big showdown is scheduled in the horse racing industry. Sea Biscuit defeats War Admiral in a match race at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The Kavanagh’s are not horse racing fans but they certainly take note of it as the City is excited to hold this race. The Pimlico Race Course hosts the Preakness every year and it is celebrated throughout Baltimore and Maryland. This was a bonus once-in-a-lifetime match up.

December 3

At a Saturday meeting of Coppersmiths Local #80, Eddie learns that the J. D. Kavanagh Coppersmith Company has been awarded a contract by Baltimore Pure Rye Distilling. They are opening a new distillery and the Shop did quote them a price but the job goes to James’ firm. Eddie calls his father about it when he gets home and Joe is surprised but not upset. The Shop has had a good year and they will start 1939 with more work scheduled. Joe thanks Eddie for letting him know but says let’s see how it goes for James. Getting the job is one thing but doing the job is another. Joe tells Eddie that he wishes James luck and, as always, to pass along anything he hears from the union.

December 23

The Shop’s Christmas party is thrown on this Friday. They have been working most Saturdays this year but will be closed tomorrow. The family will attend mass as a group tomorrow with Sr. Mary Agnes at the Visitation Convent on Roland Avenue. Today the Shop is full of merriment and mirth as customers and friends gather with the Kavanagh’s and crew. After a morning of work, an hour or so of cleanup and decorating, the party is quickly in full swing. They celebrate another year in business and as a family. The Joseph Kavanagh Company has had a fine year and Joe feels even more confident about retiring. He is 72 years old now and it is clearly time. He will be the first Kavanagh to make it to retirement from the Shop in its history. With this new corporation formed, he believes he has set his sons up for success. They work well together and have a very talented hard-working crew. At one point during the party, Joe takes his usual stroll out to the corner of Pratt and Central. He gazes up Pratt Street toward downtown Baltimore but doesn’t really see what is there. In his mind, he is back 28 years ago when this building was first erected. He recalls how he and his brothers, James and Frank, moved into a small place on Central Avenue, then within a few years, into this new and bigger Shop. They couldn’t have done it without Johanna, of course. She loaned them money to get started, then pooled her money with theirs to build Pratt and Central. It’s hard for him to believe it has been this long but the time has blown by. They’ve seen more than their share of ups and downs between Prohibition, bootlegging and issues between the brothers but they’re still here. They are still open and working. Joe is very proud of what they’ve done and what they will do in the future. In a flash, he’s back in 1938 and rejoins the party. There is more song and celebration into the evening then home for them all. For a second, Joe thinks this might be his last Christmas Eve party at the Shop. He’ll retire early next year; he’s not sure of the date yet. Then again, he can always come in to visit and enjoy the party like the rest of them. It might not be the same without his singing voice so he’ll be at next year’s party. After all, it’s the Joseph Kavanagh Company, he can come in whenever he likes.

 

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States and this year he founds the March of Dimes. Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” is performed for the first time. Action Comics premieres featuring a character in a secondary story named Superman. Bugs Bunny makes his first appearance in a film called Porky’s Hare Hunt. Slacks are marketed by the Haggar company for the first time. The minimum wage is established. Bill Withers, Judy Blume, Etta James, Wolfman Jack and Evel Knievel are born. Clarence Darrow and Robert Johnson die.

There are still 48 states in the Union.

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Pratt and Central building. 1990.

To read earlier posts, click the Table of Contents link below.

Table of Contents

1937 Her Left Foot

January 11

It is a solid start to the year for the Joseph Kavanagh Company. The Shop is filled with distillery repairs and commercial cooking kettles to fabricate. Joe and his sons are busy fielding calls and bidding jobs while their crew crank out the work. More and more, Joe allows his sons to take some of the phone calls and deal with customers. Joe knows the boys’ time is coming and they need to start handling that end of the business. Once a job is received, Leo does any engineering and makes the necessary sketches. Eddie assigns the work to different members of the crew, taking care of the more difficult projects himself. He still leads the crew for most installs at distilleries and breweries but whenever possible, he passes as much off to the workers as he can. As Eddie and Leo must learn, sooner rather than later, Joe will be gone and his sons will be in charge.

February 15

Another member of the next generation starts at the Shop, Leo Jr. He has been playing baseball for different semi-pro teams in Maryland for several years after school. His father convinces him to give the Shop a try though the younger Leo isn’t particularly enthused. At nineteen, he’s a little old to be starting as an apprentice, but he’s persuaded by his father to step into that position. He works as a helper as any other apprentice would, but is also taught the basics of coppersmith work by his father. The Shop is flush with work: some boiler parts, a fountain and a brass railing to make in addition to some distillery repairs.

March 1

Distilling and beer brewing work continues to return to the Shop. The crew has grown to sixteen including the Kavanagh’s. Young Leo is struggling a little but most employees go through a period of adjustment to Shop work. It’s dirty, heavy and occasionally dangerous. Today, several beer vats are being made, the copper heated and hammered into the large basin-shaped vats. Once finished, they will be installed next week at National Brewery. The team of workers will be led again by Eddie but this time he will take on more of a supervisory role. He’ll allow his crew a little leeway during the installation. He wants his senior workers to take on more of a leadership position so he doesn’t have to.

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Bronze label attached to beer vats and stills in 1930s.

April 3

After a discussion with his father, Leo Jr. returns to playing baseball. The Shop is not for him and he’s quick to join a team on the Eastern Shore as the baseball season begins. His father may have been disappointed, but is happy his son gave it a chance and knows that baseball is young Leo’s calling. He is a good pitcher and player but not of the same caliber as the Major Leaguers. He is talented enough to work on the semi-pro side and in the minor leagues. He tells his father he wants to take his shot at baseball for as long as he can. Perhaps he will turn to coaching or even return to the Shop some day.

May 7

Joe reads the newspaper account of the Hindenburg disaster in Lakehurst, New Jersey and is horrified at what he reads. The airship exploded as it landed and thirty-six passengers were killed. Joe has always been very skeptical of air travel particularly airplanes. This is different though; these rigid airships were considered relatively safe. This is a terrible disaster whose memory will live on forever in the US. The live broadcast of the event is replayed on the radio for all to hear later that night. Joe listens and wonders at this terrible disaster and the loss of life.

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Hindenburg flying over New York just prior to the crash and explosion.

May 17

The Shop gets a phone call about the Statue of Liberty. Joe answers the telephone and the caller is from Coppersmiths Local #55 in New York. They wish to speak to Eddie and Joe passes the phone over to his son. They need some additional help on repairs to Liberty, specifically her left foot. The shackles are damaged and need fixing. It is pure coppersmith work; the feet like the rest of the statue are copper. It will require a deft and skilled hand to reshape the foot or it may need replacing. These repairs need to be done as quickly as possible because Liberty’s Fiftieth Anniversary is in October. A large ceremony is planned to celebrate her birthday. Eddie has made several trips to New York over the years. These trips are rare, but occasionally an out of state distiller needs the Shop’s services. This is very different, obviously, and Eddie is very interested. He assures his union brother that they’re happy to help and will get back to him tomorrow. After hanging up, Eddie explains the situation to Joe who is just as interested. Joe is all for it as he remembers that Old Uncle Joe played a part in the Statue’s construction. He regales his sons on the tale they have heard before: how Joe traveled to New York to offer his services in the building of Liberty. Learning that all the copper work was finished in France, Uncle Joe was undaunted and returned the next day offering to be a simple laborer. It was important to him to be involved. He helped rig and assemble the pieces that make up the statue. Leo and Eddie can see the excitement building in their father as he speaks to them. They know already that he wants this job and they will get it, whatever it takes.

May 20

Joe places a call to the administrator of the Statue of Liberty and quotes a price to repair the foot. He quotes a base price and then an hourly rate as they have yet to see the damage. Joe is excited to be involved in this project but several days has lowered his enthusiasm if not interest. He was never one to forget price and quotes a figure to be sure to make some profit. Joe is confident they will be awarded the job. Time is of the essence and the Shop has its experience and reputation.

June 7

Ed Kavanagh Jr. returns to the Shop for the summer to continue his apprenticeship. He did well in his first summer and with school finished he is back for more. His father teaches him the skills he needs, using a torch, using a hammer and the other details of copper work. He is welcomed back by the crew with a mix of enthusiasm and chiding. The young guy often takes a lot of ribbing at the Shop. You have to be tough enough to take it and find a way to fit in with the group. The crew is like a team and this is part of finding your place or position on the team.

June 28

On this Monday, Eddie travels to Bedloe’s Island in New York to do some repairs on the Statue of Liberty’s left foot. Eddie takes the train along with Mr. Funke and young Leo Giannetti. After getting lost briefly, they make their way to Bedloe’s Island by ferry. Eddie meets his fellow coppersmith union members and the details are quickly gone over. Eddie and his crew are escorted up on to the Pedestal to see the damage. The left foot itself has some wear and tear but the real issue is the shackles near the foot. They are broken to signify her breaking the shackles of oppression and finding freedom. That is how they are supposed to look but they are in far worse shape. The chains are pitted and split throughout with most of this damage caused by water. Eddie is told the copper apron at the bottom of Liberty’s garb is to be extended by about twenty-five feet. This will help to protect the feet and chains from rainwater in the future. There’s a crew in place to take care of the apron, but with a deadline to finish, additional help for the foot is called for. That help is Eddie and his two assistants. Eddie assesses the problem quickly and knows what needs to be done. The chains must be re-worked and in some places covered in new copper. He doesn’t think this will take them very long. He came here assuming they would need three or four days to complete the work but now he thinks two days might just do it. They set to work immediately and hope to be finished and heading home the day after tomorrow.

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The right foot of Liberty prior to construction. Postcard undated.

June 30

Eddie, Mr. Funke and Leo Giannetti head back to Baltimore via train. They have finished and the foot and the chains look much better. With Eddie’s union brothers near at hand, any tools and materials they needed were available. Eddie and the boys were able to borrow torches and hammers. Any holes were covered or filled with new copper. Those areas that were out of shape were hammered out and all seams were repaired. The administrators of the Statue of Liberty were very pleased with their work and quite grateful for the speed with which it was completed. Eddie and the boys smoke and play cards on the ride home. All the while, Eddie is going over the experience in his head. Not just for his own sake but for his father’s. Something tells Eddie that Joe will want to hear all about it. When they return to the Shop, Eddie gives his father a blow-by-blow account of their trip and what they did. It was not a big job but one of the more important ones they have been involved in. The story was short as the work was fairly straight forward for an experienced coppersmith like Eddie, but Joe loved hearing about it and was happy to pass it along to anyone he knew. And, of course, he was happy about the money they were paid.

July 4

Eddie and his wife Annie host an Independence Day cookout on Lakewood Avenue. Eddie’s parents, Joe and Jo are there, as are brother Leo and his family. They cook burgers and hot dogs in the backyard while enjoying potato salad and the rest of the trimmings. After they eat, they take the short four block walk to Patterson Park to enjoy some fireworks. They sit in the grass on a humid night and watch as the sky explodes in colors of red, white and blue. The children are getting older but still not so old to not “ooh” and “ah” at the display. The older Kavanagh’s talk baseball and the Shop as they watch. Joe brings up the story of Amelia Earhart, a famous female pilot who has gone missing during her transatlantic flight. Joe pontificates a bit about the dangers of flying but as a group they are hopeful that Miss Earhart will be found soon. When the fireworks are finished, the family joins the throng of spectators exiting the park. They make their way back to 434 N. Lakewood Avenue, all having enjoyed a great holiday.

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Letter from Administrator of Statue of Liberty to Director of the National Park Service referencing pictures taken of repairs to Liberty. July 7. 1937. Courtesy of National Archives.

August 14

Eddie leads a meeting of Coppersmith Local #80 on this Saturday night. The news is mostly good for the rank and file as more work has come back and more companies are hiring. Eddie has seen this himself at the Shop but other small shops are also bringing on new men. One thing that strikes Eddie is the news of a new coppersmith shop opening called the J. D. Kavanagh Coppersmith Company. He realizes immediately that this must be his Uncle James’ new place. He gives it some thought on the drive home and calls his father on the telephone upon arrival.

August 15

The Kavanagh’s enjoy a Sunday dinner at Thirty-third Street. Johanna prepares ham and potatoes in a large jacket kettle cooker made in the Shop by Eddie. After their meal, the kids and their Moms settle in front of the radio while Leo, Eddie and their parents have a chat. They gather around the kitchen table with Joe at one end and Jo at the other, each drinking a glass of much needed iced tea on a humid August night.

“So James has opened his shop. Eddie heard so last night at the union meeting, but we knew it was coming.” Joe announced to the room, though everyone there knew this. “We knew he was going to do it and I’m not worried. He can’t compete with us, not with our quality, our experience and our reputation. Good luck to him.” Joe finished and lit his pipe while his eyes moved from his wife to his sons.

“Do you think this will effect the Shop? I mean, sure, he can’t compete with us, but he could still take work away from us. He could call customers of ours.” Leo inquired before taking a long finishing drink of his tea, the ice tinkling in his glass as he put it down.

“I’ll handle it if he calls customers. I’m not too concerned. They all know me.” Joe answered, pointing at his chest with a jerk of his hand, “I’m not much worried about our old customers, but there are new distillers out there. With Prohibition long gone, thank God, more will keep opening. James knows how we price jobs. He could underbid us pretty easily. It’s a concern, but I’m not worried.” Joe puffed on his pipe and leaned back in his chair.

Eddie sat forward in his and said, “I don’t know where his shop is located yet or if it’s even open. I know there was an inquiry about hiring two coppersmiths and two helpers later this year. The union approved it and we’re waiting to hear back from James. My only concern is that he knows all about our business with James Connelly and the whiskey. He knows all we’ve done for the last fifteen years. Bootlegging with James and without. He was involved in it, but not like we were.” Eddie paused to strike a match and light a cigarette, his eyes focused on the tip as he brings the match to it. “Should I be worried about that?” he asked looking directly at his father.

“No. I’m not. James may have tried to stay out of our whiskey deals but he took the money. When there was money anyway. We did what we had to do to survive. Plus, he’s my brother. He won’t do anything about that. He’s just trying to make a living and that’s fine with me. If he calls our customers or tries to low bid us, that’s different.” Joe replied to Eddie. “Still, keep your ears open at the union meetings.”

Eddie nodded in response as his mother spoke up, “I think you’re right, Joe. He is your brother and he is trying to run a business like you are. Let him have his shop. There will be plenty of work for everyone. It seems much busier this year. Does it not?” Johanna looked to her husband but seemed to be speaking to all of them. Both boys quickly confirm that the level of work is better than it was.

Joe spoke up to the boys, chiming in, “See. Your mother says it will be fine so it must be true.”

Johanna grinned as her husband and sons chuckled then she continued, “I think the best thing to do is stay out of any trouble with James. Ignore it, and you boys,” she looked from one to the other, “take care of our Shop. That is more important than what James does.”

The Kavanagh men agree and the room grows quiet. Each is satisfied that they won’t worry about James and the J. D. Kavanagh Company. They will focus on the Joseph Kavanagh Company and may never cross paths with the other business as far as they know. Joe and Jo’s sons and families soon depart, ready to start another week on Monday.

September 6

Ed Jr. returns to high school for his final year. He has learned a lot in the second year of his apprenticeship at the Shop. He has not passed the pitcher test yet which is a time honored tradition for the Kavanagh’s: to be able to make a drinking pitcher from a flat sheet of copper, heating it and shaping it on your own. This has been the standard by which a coppersmith is measured at the Shop for years. Next summer Ed should be ready for that; it takes several years to get the skills and experience to make a good, balanced, smooth pitcher. It is the Kavanagh litmus test for coppersmiths.

October 10

The New York Yankees defeat the New York Giants to win the World Series in five games. It is a very one-sided series with the Yanks winning the first two games each by a score of 8-1 and is also the first series where a team, the Yankees, did not commit an error in any game. This World Series featured the last appearance by the great left-handed pitcher, Carl Hubbel and the last series home run hit by Lou Gehrig. With this championship, the Yankees pass the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston Red Sox for most series wins with six. The Kavanagh’s follow it closely as they always do with each game being discussed both at the Shop and around the dinner table. Eddie’s son, Jack updates his father every night on what he heard on the radio. The final game is on a Sunday afternoon and father and son are able to listen together.

October 28

The ceremony and celebration is held at Bedloe’s Island for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Dedication of the Statue of Liberty.

November 27

The Kavanagh’s visit Sister Mary Agnes at the Visitation Convent on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a tradition they follow every year. Sister Mary Agnes is Joe and Johanna’s daughter and she joined the order nine years ago. She sits with her parents, brothers and their families and has a long chat. They visit her once a month if they can and do keep her up to date on the family. They tell her the Shop is doing well and all of them as well. She is teaching now which makes her very happy. She loves children, and that certainly includes her brothers’ kids who call her Aunt Anna. She is thrilled to hear of Eddie’s work on the Statue of Liberty’s left foot, something that sounds very grand to her and much easier to be very excited about than their usual work. It’s a wonderful day and they make plans to return in several weeks and attend Mass with her.

December 24

On a chilly Friday afternoon, the Joseph Kavanagh Company’s Christmas Eve party is held. They convert the messy dirty Shop into a decorated festive place for a party. There is food, drink and song as there is every year. Customers and friends stop by through the day and celebrate with the Kavanagh’s and crew. It has been a very good year for Joe and his family. They do have the small concern of James’ shop competing with them but, for the most part, they are not very worried. Joe knows it will be difficult for the J. D. Kavanagh Company to be compared to the Joseph Kavanagh Company. They have years of experience and Joe has many friends in the industry. The distilling and brewing work keeps picking up steam as each year passes after Prohibition. Joe feels very confident that the Shop will do well and even flourish if the work holds out. He gives more thought to his retirement and even begins to look forward to it a bit. Joe begins formulating a plan for next year and beyond: how to transfer responsibility and control of the Shop to his boys. It must be done carefully and with thought to the long term. One thing he knows is that his sons get along very well and their partnership would be a very amiable one. Of course, things can change over time but Joe does not envision any situation like what happened with his brother Martin or with James. The party kicks into high gear, and calls for Joe to lead them all in “O Holy Night!” are heard. Joe sang this for years on the Lombard Street bridge on Christmas Eve in his younger days, both with his fellow members of the Primrose Quartet and on his own. Joe remembers those days with a smile but it is starting to be a very long time ago. It was just before and after the turn of the century. He takes his place in the midst of the party and starts to sing, his booming baritone voice filling the Shop. He is happy; they are doing well and he sees a successful future ahead for his family. They did a lot of work this year and they have more on the books. The distilleries, breweries and other customers are keeping them busy. Joe sings and his thoughts run to Old Uncle Joe. They went back to Liberty for work and a great deal of pride fills Joe at this thought. His uncle would love that they worked on the Statue again and both Joe’s might be surprised that it is still not for the last time.

 

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States. John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not are published. Daffy Duck appears in a cartoon for the first time. A soldier is stationed at the Tomb of the Unknowns in perpetuity. Spam is invented. The first issue of Detective Comics is released. Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs opens as the first full length animated feature film. The Lincoln Tunnel in New York opens to traffic. Jack Nicholson, Mike Cuellar, Morgan Freeman, George Carlin, and Madeleine Albright are born.

There remain 48 states in the Union.

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Statue of Liberty. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

Table of Contents

1936 Joe Stands Alone

January 20

The Shop is off to a strong start this year with several orders from distilleries, several beer vats to fabricate and a boiler repair. The boiler repair is for E. J. Codd, one of the Shop’s oldest customers. A copper liner is fabricated and several flanges to go with it. Joe is happy but his mind is on the lawsuit filed by his brother against him. The two sides have been negotiating through their attorneys and Joe is more and more hopeful that a settlement will be reached. James has hired Mr. James F. Thrift as his attorney while Joe is represented by Maloy, Brady, and Yost who have helped him with several legal matters in the past, primarily automobile accidents. ( Joe was a notoriously bad driver and had his share of lawsuits filed by other drivers.) Eddie continues to make and sell his illegal rye on Lakewood Avenue. Joe has stashed away his share of those profits and he will use it to pay his brother if and when they come to an agreement.

February 29

Joe hears from his attorney and a settlement with James has been reached. Both sides have agreed that the value of James’ share, less the loans from Johanna and any other debts, is $9,000. Joe has the money; it must be paid in cash within fifteen days of this notice. James signs an official release of his share of the Shop today and Joe will sign after payment is made. Joe is thrilled and very relieved that this conflict is all over. The settlement is very clear; James will relinquish all claims to the business and the property, and Joe will assume all debts and assets of the Joseph Kavanagh Company. There had been five Kavanagh Brothers at the start, and now Joe will be the last surviving brother at the Shop. Once James is paid, the Shop will pass through Joe’s line with Leo and Eddie being the next owners.

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Financial Agreement between James D. and Joseph A. Kavanagh. Page 1. February 29, 1936.
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Financial Agreement between James D. and Joseph A. Kavanagh. Page 2. February 29, 1936.

March 30

With a couple of signatures, for the first time in over thirty years, Joseph Kavanagh is the sole owner of the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Joe visits the office of Maloy, Brady and Yost to sign the agreement; the money has already been passed on to James. The entire process takes just a few minutes this morning, then Joe drives back to Pratt and Central, relieved and happy to focus on the day to day work at the Shop. The small corner office is shared now by Joe and his sons, Leo and Eddie. Leo sits at the drafting table where his Uncle James usually sat, as they both focused on drawings and engineering. Eddie sits at the desk previously occupied by Cousin Guy, close to the door, as Eddie is always in and out of the Shop more than his father and brother. Joe’s is the largest desk situated next to Eddie’s and across from Leo’s, covered in papers and a constantly full ashtray. While eating ham sandwiches and drinking coffee for lunch, the three Kavanagh’s discuss James and the future of the company.

“Boys, it’s all behind us now. We knew it would work out and that the Shop was ours but it’s good to be done with it. Now we just need to stay busy.” Joe announces to his sons as he lit his pipe.

“We’re glad it’s over too. Do you think you’ll hear from James? Do you think he was happy with the price?” asks Leo, still sipping his coffee.

“He took it, so I guess he was, and I haven’t heard from him. I probably won’t.” Says Joe, staring at the drafting table, not meeting Leo’s gaze.

Eddie, leaning forward in his chair and crushing a cigarette into the ashtray on his desk asks Joe, “Do you think he’ll open his own coppersmith shop?”

“I think he might,” replies Joe, “he’s got some money now and that seemed to be his plan.” Joe takes a slow puff on his pipe then continues, “We’ll know. You’re General Secretary of the union.”

“I know,” Eddie says into the cloud of smoke surrounding his father. “If he hires any of the union brothers, I’ll be the first to know. And congratulations. You outlasted them all.” Eddie finishes with a bit of a grin as he tosses a stick of Doublemint gum into his mouth.

“This was James’ choice, not mine. I’m glad it worked out this way for all of us. For your children too. Before long your boys might be working here. You told me that Ed Jr. would be starting this summer. This is how it should be.” Joe snaps in response.

“We’re grateful. Eddie doesn’t mean it that way,” Leo chimes in, casting a glance at Eddie. “We know it’s the best thing for all of us and our families. We’ll keep it going and pass it on.” Leo sometimes wearied of being the occasional peacemaker between his father and brother.

“Of course, I’m grateful. You know that, Joe.” Eddie looks directly at his father as he speaks. “And yes, Ed will start his apprenticeship this summer. It’s time.” Eddie nods and continues, “I do feel like I want to ask you something about your owning the Shop completely now. No brothers. No partners. Is this what you always wanted?”

Joe hesitates as both his boys sit silent waiting. For a moment, he remembers his four brothers. There once were five nephews of Old Uncle Joe at the Shop and now Joe stands alone. Joe stirs and says, “Yes. This is what I always wanted.” He turns his chair back to his desk and picks up the phone, placing a call to Seaboard Steel and purchases some steel rods they need in the Shop. Leo turns to his drafting table and resumes sketching a doubler for a distillery repair and Eddie stands, lights a cigarette and walks out into the Shop to get back to work on a domed lid for a large beer vat. It will take Eddie and two helpers two days to shape the lid.

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Settlement agreement between James D. and Joseph A. Kavanagh. 1936.

April 4

Eddie is doing his best to move some more of his whiskey, but his list of customers has shrunk. It’s mostly friends or friends of friends who he has sold to for years. He has talked to his father and brother and it’s time to think about stopping the bootlegging. The Shop’s work is picking up, and the concerns over James are finished. Eddie decides to keep selling to his regulars for a few more months until the end of summer but no later. He tells his remaining customers that he may be getting out of the game and they may want to stock up before he stops. He receives some bigger orders from his friends, nothing major, but two or three bottles instead of one. Today he’s delivering two cases of whiskey throughout the City and he needs to take his car. This is too much for the motorcycle. He takes his son Ed along, and allows the boy to drive. Ed does fine and is excited to take part in his father’s bootlegging. His father swears him to secrecy, but young Ed still brags to his little brother Jack about it at the first opportunity.

April 25

A Saturday evening meeting of Coppersmiths Local #80 is held. Eddie attends as General Secretary and as the Shop’s representative. Eddie will announce that the Shop is hiring another coppersmith and two helpers. In addition, there are more jobs coming back for other companies in the trade. The rank and file are happy as they head home; finally jobs are here and the men hope that the Depression is coming to an end. Eddie cruises home on his motorcycle, a cool spring breeze blowing through his hair as he turns onto Lakewood Avenue. He parks in his yard and heads through the door; he takes a seat at the dining room table for an evening cup of tea with his wife, Annie. He fills her in on how the meeting went while she catches him up on what their boys were doing today.

May 30

Eddie has more whiskey to sell and deliver before ceasing operations. Today Eddie drives off on his bike while Ed delivers in the car. This time, young Ed brings his little brother Jack who begged his father to let him help. Jack was jealous of his older brother and Eddie knew it was safe, so he allowed his younger son to take part on a run. Jack’s older brother Ed often teased him but this time he was glad to have him along. They chatted baseball as Ed drove from street to street. Jack stayed in the car and Ed handled the whiskey and the money but still, Jack was thrilled to be involved. What kid wouldn’t get a charge from riding shotgun on a whiskey run in those days?

June 7

Another generation begins working at the Shop as Ed Kavanagh Jr. starts his apprenticeship today. Ed is sixteen and the Shop is busier now so it’s high time he begins at the Shop. He’ll work during the summers first, as his father and uncle did, then be back to school in the Fall. His apprenticeship starts as they all do, as just a helper/laborer, but gradually he’ll be taught the heating and bending skills that are essential to coppersmith work. Ed grumbles a bit, but not much as he gets to work. His younger brother Jack has a change this summer too, but a much more pleasant one. Jack convinces his mother to allow him to skip his piano lessons for the summer and join a Little League Baseball team. Jack loves the piano but is thrilled to have a chance to play ball on a neighborhood team. He plays at St. Elizabeth’s Elementary School, where they have a team in several sports including baseball. Playing baseball and being part of a team is a thrill for young Jack. He’s nearly jubilant when his mother agrees; and he has no idea that Eddie did his best to sway Annie’s decision on this matter.

July 11

Eddie delivers two bottles of rye to Thomas Cunningham, his friend from Chester Street who is celebrating the birth of his third grandchild, Audrey. Eddie and he toast the new baby’s birth and Eddie informs Thomas that he will soon be retiring from the “Radio Repair” business. Thomas understands and tells him he’ll keep buying until Eddie gets out of it, then he’ll go to the bar like everyone else. Eddie smiles and promises to share a drink together some time soon, then heads off on his bike to finish his rounds.

July 18

The family visits Sister Mary Agnes (Joe and Johanna’s daughter) at the Visitation Convent on Roland Avenue. Joe and Johanna are there with both sons, Leo and Eddie and their families. Aunt Anna (Sister Mary Agnes) is thrilled to see the children. They play on the grass of the grounds, sit, chat and catch up. Joe tells his daughter that he has bought out her Uncle James and owns the Shop outright. She’s happy for him and promises to pray for them all and the business. She is delighted for Leo and Eddie as she knows soon it will be their place to share as brothers.

August 1

Eddie has a very busy and long Saturday between the Shop and delivering his rye throughout the City. He works at the Shop in the morning on some drip pans for a still. Copper sheet is bent into a box shape that is used to catch slow drips from the distilling system. They make them all the time at the Shop as standard fare for their whiskey-making customers. Eddie returns home for a quick lunch, then is off to take some of his rye to his last customers. Today he makes eight trips to different parts of Baltimore while his sons make several deliveries right in the Lakewood Avenue area. Ed Jr. drives and twelve year old Jack accompanies him. They stop at homes in the neighborhood, dropping off a bottle here and there and Ed takes the cash for his father. The boys return and sit listening to the radio when their father finally gets home for the evening. He greets his wife with a kiss and Ed Jr. passes the money along to his father who pours himself a glass of his own rye. He takes a sip then stretches out on the couch with today’s newspaper as the boys listen to the Lone Ranger. Ed Jr. has had a good first summer at the Shop; learning the basics of torch work, hammering and shaping, but more to the point, it was his first experience of working hard all day in the heat of the summer. He has learned a lot but will be happy to get back to school after his first months of apprenticing at the Shop.

August 23

Eddie and his younger son Jack spend a Sunday afternoon at Bugle Field in Baltimore. A doubleheader of semi-pro teams is scheduled on a hot and hazy day. Jack is very excited and he sits with his father sharing a bag of peanuts and a Coke. He watches intently as the first baseball game is played and then another follows it after a brief intermission. The players are mostly local fellows who play for businesses and municipal groups, many of whom have teams that play all over the City. It’s a thrilling day for Jack as he loves the game so much. He talks with his father about the particulars, the players and the rules. Eddie passes along the store of baseball knowledge that he possesses. For just a few cents, father and son have this wonderful day and Eddie promises Jack they will do it again.

September 4

In New York, a letter is sent to the Director of the National Park Service from an administrator at the Statue of Liberty. The National Park Service as part of the Department of the Interior is charged with the care and preservation of national monuments certainly including Liberty. The letter details some damage to the left foot of the statue that was discovered during a standard inspection. The copper chains that should be attached to the left foot are worn and some have broken away. They must make a careful evaluation of the damage because the last thing they want to do is make it worse. Copper needs to be treated with a skilled hand otherwise you can hurt more than you help. The maintenance department of the Statue will make an attempt to fix the chains as soon as possible. Some renovations and repairs are already underway on Bedloe’s Island to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Statue’s dedication next year. Every effort is being made to have the Statue in top form for this occasion and this newfound damage must be dealt with as well.

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Letter to National Park Service from Statue of Liberty administrators. September 4, 1936.

September 5

Another Saturday afternoon is spent by Eddie delivering his whiskey but this will be the last. He has sold nearly all of the last of his rye. He will save several bottles for nostalgic purposes but the rest are handed off to a few final customers. Thomas Cunningham and T. J. Burns buy their last several bottles and that’s that for Eddie. He speeds back to Lakewood Avenue and spends a quiet evening with his family. He does give great thought to what he’s been doing, this bootlegging/“Radio Repairs” work that he has kept at for over five years. He knows it has helped them with cash and it has helped to buy out his uncle but he won’t miss it. The hours got to be too much especially with the Shop busy now. He will miss his customers and friends, but the rest of it? No. He’s happy to stop.

October 6

The Yankees defeat the Giants to win the World Series in six games. It’s the first championship for the Yankees without Babe Ruth and the first with up and coming outfielder, Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio sets a Yankee rookie record by blasting 29 home runs in his first season, a record that will stand until 2017. The Yanks offense powers them to the championship including a game two 18-4 shellacking of the Giants. In this game, Tony Lazzari joins Elmer Smith as the only players to hit a grand slam in World Series play. Young Jack still races home to listen to all he can of each game on the radio. He and his father discuss each game during dinner throughout the series. Both still pull for the Yankees, as a residual loyalty to Ruth.

November 3

Roosevelt wins re-election to the presidency by a landslide defeating Republican challenger Alf Landon who only wins eight electoral votes to the incumbent’s five hundred and twenty-three. Landon was the sitting Governor of Kansas and after this defeat he retires from public life. The Kavanagh’s voted for FDR; the end of Prohibition was enough to secure their votes but the improvement in the economy in other areas only makes it easier for Joe and his family to support Roosevelt.

December 24

On a cold Thursday, the Joseph Kavanagh Company throws its annual Christmas Eve Party. The Shop is transformed from its dirty and cluttered self to a wide open space with a tree and decorations in a matter of an hour or so. Friends, both of the Shop and the family, stop by and help the Kavanagh’s celebrate. It has been a very good year and Joe is relieved that the issue with James is over. James is out and Joe stands alone. He is the last of Old Uncle Joe’s nephews and he retains the Shop. The Joseph Kavanagh Company will go to his children now, and in saving Uncle Joe’s legacy, he is also ensuring his own. He can see the future before his very eyes now with his boys carrying on as he and his brothers did. They have a good building, there is work with more on the way and his sons and the crew are a good team. They work well together and are highly skilled and experienced. Joe sneaks out of the party for a minute to smoke his pipe outside on the corner. He smokes silently in the chill December air looking up and down Central Avenue. He recalls so much of the Shop’s history. He started in 1895 but he was born the year the Shop started, 1866. Technically, he’s about six months younger than the Shop. He has seen so much pass through its doors and so much happen to this family over the same years. Joe does miss his brothers and remembers fondly those days when he, Martin, Eugene, James and Frank worked for their uncle. They too were a good team and did a lot of work, but time took its toll. Eugene was killed in a horrible train tragedy. Martin was a crook and nearly destroyed the Shop. Frank’s life was a sad one with deaths to his wife and son, then his own from malaria at the Panama Canal; finally, this fight with James which was a long time coming. Joe knows that James was not happy with the way things were going. He just didn’t realize how bad it was, but it’s over now and Joe is the last brother remaining. He is proud of what he has done to secure his family’s future and even his own legacy. Joe was not a man of small ego, he worked at a place called the Joseph Kavanagh Company, but was never the sole owner. Most folks thought he was when they met him, so it may have galled him a little occasionally that he was not, maybe not much, but enough to bring some satisfaction in owning the place, though he knows it won’t be for long. Joe is content as he can be and thinks now of when he will be gone. He envisions the days with Leo, Eddie and their sons all working together, his sons owning and running the Shop while his grandsons work there. Joe knows soon the time will come when the Shop will be out of his hands; he needn’t worry about it. He’s quite sure it will all be fine.

Roosevelt is re-elected to the Presidency of the United States. The Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge are finished. Bruno Hauptmann is executed for the infamous murder of the Lindbergh baby. Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” is published. American Jesse Owens wins gold in the 100 meter dash and the US Men’s Basketball team wins its first gold at the Summer Olympics in Berlin. The YMCA is founded. Barbara Mikulski, Robert Redford, Buddy Holly, Mary Tyler Moore, and Jim Henson are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

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Jack Kavanagh Sr. in his Little League uniform in front of 434 N. Lakewood Avenue. Age 12. 1936.

To read past years, click on the Table of Contents link below.

Table of Contents

1935 The Trouble with Brothers

January 10

The Shop’s year starts fairly well with some confectionery kettles to make and a few distillery repairs on the books. The country is slowly rising out of the deep Depression that has covered the US for years. Eddie is still making and selling his illegal rye to supplement his income and to provide the cash for his father, to buy out his uncle, James. Joe sends a letter to James’ lawyer informing him that Joe has no interest in selling the company and splitting it between himself and James. He offers to buy James out, but makes it quite clear that he has no intention of closing the Shop or giving up the name, the Joseph Kavanagh Company.

February 20

Eddie leads a crew of four on a brew vat installation at National Brewery on a very chilly Wednesday. The vat was hauled and placed in the brewing room yesterday and today they return to connect the fittings and valves and attach the vat to the existing brewing system. This job adds a boost to February and helps to keep them busier than usual for this time of year. The remaining crew work on some cooking kettles, and bending and shaping an ornamental brass railing for a large residence outside of the City. Today is a good day to be holding a blowpipe or torch in your hand; you can even work up a sweat on a frigid winters day. The workers occasionally huddle around one another, wielding torches today as they hold and direct what little heat there is in the place.

March 13

Joe receives a legal notice that James will go to the courts to sue Joe over the Shop. Joe finishes reading and folds the papers back up and places them back in the envelope. He sits at his desk thinking for a moment when his anger gets the best of him and he calls his brother. James picks up the phone but Joe was the last person he expected to be calling.

“Joe? I got nothing to say to you. If you’ve got something to say, say it to my lawyer,” James fumes.

“Your lawyer? We’re brothers and you get a lawyer involved in this. What are you thinking? I told you before I will not dismantle this company. I’ve offered to buy your half. Why won’t you just take the money?” Joe pleads.

“I don’t want your money. I want a fresh start for both of us. The Shop has served us very well but it is time to move on. Each of us.” James answers.

“I won’t break up the Shop. It’s not going to happen. Uncle Joe wanted the Shop for all of us, for our families, and that’s the way it’s going to stay.” Joe is firm.

“Well, that’s the whole thing right there. You want it for YOUR family. Don’t you? You’ve put your sons in position to run the place, to take it all over, and where would that leave me and Guy? Nowhere. That’s where. I won’t work for your boys. It’s not right.” James angrily retorts.

“I don’t know where you’re getting this. You know Leo and Eddie are our most senior smiths and both are very talented. They’ve earned everything they have, and Guy did have a place here. I told him he had a job as long as he wanted it, but he quit because of…of…,” Joe pauses, “because of this. This crazy stuff you’re making up. We all worked together before and it was fine. You know this.”

James responds with a snort, “It was not fine and that’s not how it would be. You’ll be out of there in a few years, Joe. We both know that, and your boys will find some way to force me out. And Guy. We won’t work for them. I don’t want that and I don’t want it for my son either.”

“You’re crazy. The boys get along great. Leo, Eddie and Guy are tight with each other. Close almost as brothers. Hell, Guy is godfather to Eddie’s son Jack. My sons won’t turn on him in anyway.” Joe says, shaking his head and gazing at the receiver in disbelief.

James slips into a tirade, yelling at his older brother, “You’re wrong and I don’t care. I won’t work for my nephews, ever. I won’t do it and neither will Guy. I own half the Shop. We are partners and I say close it down, go open your own company and I’ll do the same. Then we’ll see what happens.”

“Nope, this is the Joseph Kavanagh Company and that’s the way it’s going to stay!” Joe shouts into the phone, his blood boiling with anger.

“You’re not Uncle Joe. You’re not even a coppersmith. You just want his name. You’re not him.” James replies with a bit of a sneer in his voice.

“I’m not Uncle Joe but I AM Joe Kavanagh and this place is going to stay the same as it has for 70 years, brother. It is not going to change,” answers Joe, his baritone voice filling the small Shop office.

“Then, I’ll see you in court!” James shouts and hangs up the telephone.

Joe seethes for a few minutes, then calls an attorney he knows who has helped in the past. He needs to be prepared for James’ lawsuit which he now knows is coming.

All Kavanaghs but one. Left to right: James Sr., Eddie, James Jr.(standing), Frank, Leo(standing), Joe, Guy(back to camera), Anna. Mr. Fairbanks(Shop employee) on the far right.
James Kavanagh Circa 1920.

March 23

Eddie Kavanagh spends a busy day delivering some whiskey throughout Baltimore. He works a half-day in the Shop, then visits his friends and associates that still buy his cheap homemade rye. He distills the whiskey in the evenings during the week and makes most of his deliveries on the weekends. Eddie is still racking up many hours but it’s not quite as bad as last year. He enjoys driving through the streets of the City, especially on a warm spring day. Today he makes a stop to see Thomas Cunningham on Chester Street and drop off a bottle. For a few years now Eddie has known Thomas, who works at the Continental Can Company, a customer of the Shop’s. Eddie and Thomas exchange some pleasantries, Thomas offering him a quick drink, but Eddie declines. He has to head home, refill his briefcase and make one more round of visits to customers. He carries no more than four bottles in his briefcase which is strapped to the old Indian. Eddie is cautious, and he prefers it this way. The money he makes can still be used to buy out James, depending on how the lawsuit works out, and it gives Eddie some cash in hand which he can always use.

April 30

Baseball season begins and Babe Ruth has signed with the Boston Braves where he will finish his career. Ruth returns to Boston where he started out in the big leagues over twenty years ago. He has a tough go of it and his age is clearly showing. He is slowed by the years and his batting skills are not what they used to be; he struggles to play the outfield. It becomes painfully clear that the Braves have signed him merely as an attraction to get people to come to the games. Eddie and his son, Jack, have a discussion during dinner about Ruth and the Braves. Jack is still certain that Ruth will get hot and finish the rest of the season strong. The Babe walked three times yesterday according to the newspaper, and that shows teams are still afraid of his power. Eddie nods but notes that Ruth is batting a meager .240 at the moment. Eddie is certain that the end is near for Babe Ruth.

May 15

The Shop’s work has stayed steady but has not increased in volume very much. They are maintaining their crew of ten and for the most part are able to keep everyone busy. A fountain is fabricated today, thin sheets of copper are annealed (heated) until orange in color, then rolled into round tubes. Holes are then drilled into the tubes at measured intervals; these will allow the water to pass through. After cooling, the newly made tube is carefully bent around wheels and curved blocks until it is a circle twelve feet in diameter. The circle is trimmed and the ends butted together and a seam is soldered to close out the ring. A valve is attached to allow the water to flow in and out of the tube and spray in and out of the holes. Fountains are an example of coppersmith work they have been doing for many years, all the way back to when Old Uncle Joe owned the place. It’s a good job and the type of thing they will always make some money on.

May 26

Eddie reads the newspaper with his son Jack, recounting a great day for Babe Ruth at the plate. Ruth hits three home runs, delivering six RBI’s against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Forbes Field. Jack is excited and hopes that maybe Ruth is getting his stroke back despite a very slow start at the plate. Eddie is more realistic and tells his son that the Babe’s best days are past and this may have been his last hurrah. In fact, these will be the Babe’s final home runs, a swan song to a distinguished career.

May 30

Babe Ruth retires. His abilities have deteriorated; his batting average is down to .181 and he can no longer compete in the game that he re-shaped and changed during his long years in baseball. Amazingly, he ends his baseball life with an incredible 714 home runs. The next on the career home run list is over 200 below him. Ruth also tallies a .342 batting average and 506 doubles in his illustrious career. His status in the history of the game is assured. In fact, his deeds quickly become the stuff of legend. At the time of his death, Ruth remains the face of the sport, despite not playing for 13 years. He changed the game; he was the first superstar and he grew the game by his mere presence. A giant figure in sports and American culture, Ruth’s persona would become iconic for generations to come. Eddie’s son Jack is disappointed that his hero has retired but his father tells him that Ruth’s accomplishments will live on in the history of the game. He emphatically tells his young son that “There will never be another like the Great Babe Ruth.”

June 14

Eddie returns to Baltimore on a Friday after a four day repair job in Richmond, Virginia. He returns to the Shop after a morning train ride back to the City with Mr. Funke, Leo Giannetti and a young fellow named Vincent. This is the first job outside of Maryland they’ve received in ten years and Joe is excited. These are expensive jobs, but if the customer pays, there is money to be made. Eddie was less than thrilled, but took the crew and went. He would have preferred if Joe would have sent another smith along with Funke and the boys, but his father is his father so off he went. The year continues to be good, but not great, for the Kavanagh’s and crew.

July 17

Joe receives a notice at the Shop from the Baltimore Circuit Court; James has filed his lawsuit against Joe. James contends that the business is defunct now that he is not involved, and that since he and Joe do not agree on what to do with the place, it must be sold and the profits divided between them. Joe shakes his head as he reads it all. The basic contention is that the business was a partnership, and if one of the partners decides that it should be ended, then it should be so. James believes the assets of the business are to be divided and that neither party should have ownership of the name. The Joseph Kavanagh Company should cease to exist and the brothers would split everything and move on. James is suing over the name and reputation (and goodwill, in Joe’s mind). Joe knew it was coming and is very upset with his brother for taking it this far, but he can see that James is determined, so Joe will do whatever it takes to maintain the Joseph Kavanagh Company, its name and reputation.

July 21

After Sunday Mass, Joe sits at his piano in the parlor on Thirty-third Street, absentmindedly tinkering on the keys . He has spent the last several days going over the situation with James in his mind. After speaking to his attorney, Joe is very confident that his claim will be upheld, but there is always the chance that the Court will decide that if one of the partners wants to dissolve the company, it is his right. Joe believes the opposite; both parties must agree, or one is given the opportunity to purchase the other’s percentage. It seems logical to Joe but he is concerned and he can’t stop thinking about it. He wanders into the kitchen and sees his wife, Johanna standing on a wooden step stool pulling a canister of flour from a shelf. She climbs down and meets his gaze then motions toward the table.

“Sit down, Joe.” He sits as she pours them each a cup of tea, sitting opposite him.

“It will be fine, Joe. Don’t worry so much about this. It’s really quite silly of James to take this to court. They won’t want anything to do with it, I expect. Just wait and see, but they have better things to do than decide things between two brothers, and if they do, it will be in your favor. Maybe, almost as much as you want the Joseph Kavanagh Company to stay open, the City might want the same. Even the court.” She takes a slow sip of her tea and looks at her husband.

Joe smiles at her and says, “I hadn’t thought of that. It’s possible and I do think they would prefer to stay out of it. I hope you’re right, Jo. Still, we will have to put out some money, and I suppose it will be worth it.”

“We have the money between the two of us. Don’t worry so much. I’m not worried. I’m sure you’ll pay me back.” She finishes, a smile covering her face as she bustles up from her chair and begins mixing ingredients for pie dough, a peach pie today, her specialty. “Now, get out of my kitchen. Go play something. A song this time, not that just playing about.” She points to the parlor as Joe grins his way out of the room. He sits at the piano and breaks into Cruiskeen Lawn, filling the room with his voice and music, not thinking about James.

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Johanna Kavanagh’s step stool. Photo taken April 2019.

August 16

Joe reads the newspaper account of Will Rogers being killed in a plane crash. He was traveling with pilot, Wiley Post and they crashed just after takeoff from Barrow, Alaska. Joe is shocked and saddened. He was an admirer of Rogers but chalks it up to the fact that airplanes are still too dangerous for Joe’s taste. This is a tragic loss but people should be wary of such things as lifting up off the ground and flying through the air.

August 26

Joe is very happy today because the Shop has the sort of job he wants. Two large copper storage tanks have been ordered by Records and Goldsborough, one of Joe’s distillery customers. These will take several days to fabricate, then deliver and install, and will keep several workers busy throughout its construction. It all starts with Joe discussing the particulars with the customer and finding out exactly what they need and quoting a good price. Then Leo does the engineering and fluid mechanics involved in the tanks and makes the necessary drawings. Eddie leads the crew on bending the sheets of copper into the tanks and installing and attaching the necessary system. This is what Joe wants, he wants his sons working together using their specific talents. It’s very much like Uncle Joe with Joe and his brothers, and when Joe, James and Frank went out on their own, breaking away from eldest brother, Martin. James did the engineering and drawings, Frank was the best coppersmith and Joe made the deals. They each brought different skills to the Shop and they worked together. This system worked well for both the Shop and the Kavanagh’s and Joe wants the same for his boys. Leo the engineer and Eddie the smith and Joe still making the deals. The Records and Goldsborough tanks job is good for the Shop and Joe is getting more confident that the work he’s been waiting for is coming.

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Joe Kavanagh’s Shop Book. August 26, 1936.

September 23

Joe again sends a letter to James’ lawyer emphasizing his position and again offering to purchase James’ share of the business. Joe’s lawyer encourages him to negotiate a settlement with his brother as he is concerned about any outcome in court. He tells Joe that James’ lawyer feels the same way, as this is an unusual situation and it could go either way. Neither attorney seems confident or comfortable putting this in the Court’s hands. Joe is all for a settlement and he encourages his lawyer to keep in touch with James’ representative.

October 7

The Detroit Tigers beat the Chicago Cubs to win their first World Series title in their fifth try. They were defeated last year by the Cardinals but take the championship this year in six games. The Tigers win despite losing their star first baseman, Hank Greenberg, in game two after he broke his wrist in a collision with Cubs catcher, Gabby Hartnett. The Cubs had overtaken the defending National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals in the standings by winning an astounding twenty-one games in a row. They fall short in the Fall Classic and Detroit has its first World Series Championship. The Kavanagh’s follow along, reading the news accounts and listening on the radio when they can.

November 20

Joe receives another letter from James’ attorney and the court date is delayed. Joe is pleased with that and hopes that it never comes to trial. Joe’s lawyer has advised him that the Court would prefer if a settlement is reached in this matter. He has been in contact with James’ representative and it appears there may be a softening in James’ position. Joe believes that perhaps James is running out of money and he needs an influx of cash, especially if he means to open his own coppersmith shop. Joe thinks back to when he started working for his Uncle Joe. He was 29 years old and the fourth nephew hired. He was hired to do what he does now, to find work and deal with customers. A General Manager, Uncle Joe called him and Joe did well from the start. The Shop had customers up and down the East Coast then and the business boomed through the 1890s. Then the Fire happened, Uncle Joe died and they went through several years of Martin Kavanagh’s chicanery. Joe remembers when he, James and youngest brother Frank broke away from Martin and formed what is the Joseph Kavanagh Company today. They struggled, but found a home at Pratt and Central, then made it through Prohibition, and they are poised to bounce back. Joe is sure of this, the work is coming back. He knows they will get through this trouble and he decides to have a letter sent on his behalf by his attorney. Joe’s letter gives James an offer for one half of the Shop and the letter informs him that henceforth James should pursue any further negotiations with Joe’s attorney. Joe will wait and see.

December 24

The Shop’s Christmas Party is held on this Tuesday. The crew quickly cleans and decorates the place around Noon, and customers and friends begin arriving soon after. There is food, drink and a great deal of song to add to the celebration of the holiday. A good time is had by all, though the Kavanagh’s, particularly Joe, do worry about the situation with James. It hangs over them like a cloud; an unfavorable decision could change their lives. They are growing more confident that the Shop will remain open and still be the Joseph Kavanagh Company. It would be very different without that name. Their reputation precedes them with most customers. It stands out when they find that the Shop has been in business for nearly 70 years. It provides a level of trust that customers seek, and this experience that the Kavanagh’s have has calmed the nerves of many a concerned customer. They try not to focus on the lawsuit or a settlement, for they know it will be resolved one way or another early next year. Otherwise, this year has been successful, but not great. The Depression is still on and jobs and work are both still down, but the alcohol industry’s return to operation has very much helped the family. They can at last open the doors of Pratt and Central most days and the Shop is filled with men heating and hammering and shaping copper. They are doing better than they were but not as well as they would like. That probably goes for most Americans at this time, as well. Joe and his family hope for a better year next year as they always do but this time, they hope for a resolution on the James issue, one that leaves the business intact and completely in the hands of Joe and his boys. If they can do that, the Shop will continue on and pass down to Joe’s descendants.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States. The parking meter is invented in Oklahoma City. Alcoholics Anonymous is founded. Richard “Bruno” Hauptmann is tried, convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Charles Lindbergh’s baby. Airplanes are banned from flying over the White House. Porky Pig debuts. The first nighttime Major League Baseball game is played between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. The Hoover Dam is dedicated. Elvis Presley, Johnny Mathis, Jerry Orbach, Mary Oliver, and Frank Robinson are born.

There remain 48 states in the Union.

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Lawsuit filed by James Kavanagh against Joseph Kavanagh. 1935.

To read prior years, click on the Table of Contents link below:

Table of Contents

1934 The First Time Down the Ocean

January 5

The Shop starts the year with some distillery and brewery work to attend to while Eddie Kavanagh, assisted by Mr. Funke, continues to make and sell whiskey at 436 N. Lakewood Avenue. Joe receives calls for repairs and spare parts, valves, gauges and fittings. Finally, all of those stock parts they have been making for the last several years are in demand. The Shop has accumulated a large and varied stock of these parts. Joe is able to take advantage of this supply to offer quick installs and repairs. The Shop has the tools, the supplies and the manpower to respond quickly. The repeal of Prohibition has brought back those liquor industry customers, operations resume at a deliberate pace. There is work to be done but the alcohol industry is taking its time in getting back to full production. This makes the decision to continue making their rye easier. They need the money to help the Shop with cash flow but also to prepare for buying out James, Joe’s brother. Joe has not been in communication with James since December. James has stated clearly that he will not return to work, and Joe takes him at his word. At some point, James will want to be paid for his portion of the business. Joe uses his half of his son Eddie’s whiskey money to cover the Shop’s payroll when necessary and to put aside some cash to buy out James. The money is “loaned” at times by Joe to the business then paid back to him and Eddie. Some times vague general notations such as “General Distilling” or simply “still” work are made and cash credited to the company. Considering how tough January can be for the Shop, this one starts the year off very well.

February 12

The work has stayed steady at the Shop and Joe is proceeding as if James will never return. Today, Eddie is doing double duty. He works eight hours at the Shop, then spends the evening making some of his rye in his neighbor John Kellner’s basement. Eddie is very familiar with the distilling process, making his own mash and running passes through the still that he made himself. He spends a lot of hours in that basement but he has grown accustomed to it. Eddie’s rye is cheap, but most saloons and pubs are able to purchase legal whiskey with no problems now. Most of Eddie’s remaining customers are individuals who are still short of cash but enjoy a drink. The Kavanagh’s assume that eventually Eddie’s market will dry up but they need the money and he keeps at it.

February 26

Joe is saddened to read in the newspaper that baseball great John McGraw has died. Joe was always a big fan of McGraw as both a player and a manager. McGraw will be buried in Baltimore’s New Cathedral Cemetery where so many Kavanagh’s are interned. McGraw was a great player and an even better manager. He was hugely popular in the City due to his success as a player in the late 1800s with the old National League Orioles. He is also given credit for introducing duck pin bowling to Baltimore where he owned several sporting halls and billiard parlors. Joe was a great admirer of his skills, his baseball knowledge and his strong will as a manager. McGraw will be posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in three years. Even today in 2019, he is still second only to Connie Mack in Major League Baseball wins by a manager.

March 24

On a warm spring Saturday, Eddie cruises through East Baltimore delivering a few bottles of his rye. He is anxious to get home; he worked a lot of hours at the Shop this week as well as his “Radio Repairs” side gig. He makes his last stop on McElderry Street to deliver to a friend, T J. Burns. He meets Mr. Burns in his backyard and they chat a bit as Eddie hands over a bottle. They speak of the sweet weather as it is a night for short sleeves. Eddie bids him farewell and guns his motorcycle, coasting down the hill toward Lakewood Avenue and making a right. He drives a block and turns onto Jefferson Street and then into the alley, parking in his own backyard. He is finished for the night and walks through the door, a very tired man. Kissing his wife Annie hello, he settles into a chair in the living room where his boys sit listening to “The Shadow” on the radio.

March 31

Another week has passed for the Shop with work for the men, but still not what Joe was hoping for this year. They have a good solid crew but are only able to use some of them for two or three days this week. They rotate the men to keep them all on the payroll, but Eddie is the only man who is very busy. Between the Shop and his bootlegging, his hours keep piling up. The Kavanagh’s are still pleased as things are certainly better than they were two years ago, but they expected the work to come back faster than it has. They do attend to a job at Maryland Distilling, a repair of a still onsite. Eddie takes along two helpers, Vincent and Leo Giannetti and fixes the still in two days. On Sunday March 25, Eddie spends the bulk of the day making whiskey and making deliveries. Eddie’s hours are notated in the payroll journals as a “White Distilling” job and the cash is deposited as such.

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Shop Payroll Ledger. March 31, 1934.

April 13

The Shop’s crew are working on several brewing vats, the first ordered since the repeal of Prohibition. This is the type of job Joe was expecting after the ban on liquor was removed but it has been mostly small repairs and part replacements. Joe is excited to see the big vats being made by his workers and it feels much better for him to have a real crew of men. The Shop had a crew of over thirty before Prohibition and chances are slim that it will reach that level again, but it is a strange feeling at Pratt and Central to have just four or five men laboring in the Shop.

May 14

Joe has heard from his brother James, who wants the company closed and the partnership dissolved. Joe is nearly floored by this idea and offers to buy James’ half of the Shop. James is determined and tells Joe that in his eyes the business came to an end when he stopped working at Pratt and Central, September of last year. James suggests that they go their separate ways and each open their own business. Joe won’t do it; he won’t give up the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Joe wants the legacy, the history and above all else, he wants the name. He flatly refuses to even consider it and again offers to purchase James’ share of the place. James declines and says if Joe doesn’t reconsider, he may have to take legal action. After work, Joe passes all of this along to his wife Johanna who listens intently and tells him to be prepared for anything. James seems to have given this a lot of thought and if he plans to open his own coppersmith company then he would not want to compete with the Shop’s reputation. Joe agrees with her; James is doing his best to level the playing field if he goes out on his own.

June 8

Eddie tells his father he needs a break. He’s been working at the Shop and doing his bootlegging non-stop and he needs a vacation. Joe has trouble understanding why but Eddie insists and tells Joe that he is going to the beach for a few days in August and that’s that. He’ll take Annie and the boys to a beach resort town called Ocean City on the Eastern Shore. Joe tries to fight with Eddie about it but Eddie is decided. He insists and won’t even argue about it. Eddie enlists his mother’s help and she loves the idea of Eddie and his family spending some time at the beach. She thinks they deserve it and quickly persuades Joe to allow Eddie the time off and to pay him a normal week’s salary while on this vacation.

July 4

The Kavanagh’s celebrate Independence Day on Thirty-third Street as the rest of the nation does, with picnics, baseball on the radio and fireworks in the evening. Joe and Johanna’s grandchildren play in the yard and wait anxiously for the fireworks when night falls. As the rockets begin going off, Joe, Johanna, Leo and Eddie sit in the kitchen and discuss the Shop. They must decide what to do about James and they must be prepared for any legal action that he might take. He does own 50% of the business, that’s not in dispute.

“I haven’t heard from James in a couple of months,” Joe says,”but I know he must be planning something. I assume he’ll get a lawyer involved in this.”

“You think he wants to close the Shop so he doesn’t have to compete against us. I mean, if he starts his own place?” Leo asks his father.

“He knows he’ll have to compete with us if he’s opening a coppersmith shop. He wants the building sold and the profits split along with everything else. Even if we were in another building, he would rather compete with us without the name, Joseph Kavanagh Company and the reputation. I’m not giving that up, none of it, no chance. We could lose too many contacts and customers, plus, we earned it. Especially these last few years.” answers Joe as he lights his pipe. He takes a slow puff then finishes through teeth clenched around the stem of the pipe, “I’m not losing that building either. It’s too perfect. I love that corner.”

“Do you have the money to buy him out? Because that’s what the solution will eventually be. His claim is legitimate and he’s going to have to get his money; even if we keep the name, he gets paid.” says Eddie, and he glances out the back window at the kids, along with his wife Anna and sister-in-law Maymie watching the fireworks and covering their ears to quiet the booms.

“I think we have the money. It really depends how you look at the value of the business. The building can be assessed, but the business itself is tougher to put a price on. And if we do pay him his half, we may go back to being cash poor again and I don’t want that. I won’t give James one penny more than he deserves. He abandoned us for one thing and now it seems to me he had some money held back that he didn’t tell me about. He seems to have it now despite not working and yet is prepared to open a business,” says Joe.

The conversation grows quiet as the rockets continue to explode outside in the air. Johanna takes a sip of tea then says, “Joe, you do all you can to sort out the value of the business. You have cash put away from the last year or so and I have some cash. We’ll find the money if we need to. Also, remember that the Shop owes me money. Those loans I made to start the place and to help buy the building were never fully paid back. Be sure to take James’ share of those debts off the value of the business. It’s only fair and that may make it easier for us to afford the buyout.”

Joe looks across the kitchen table at his wife and smiles, “Now, that’s a good thought, Jo. He does owe his share.” Leo and Eddie both grin at their mother and nod in agreement.

“Okay, we’ll start thinking about the numbers and we’ll figure out a way, but we are not giving up the name and we will not lose the building either.” Joe finishes, and they join Anna, Maymie and the kids outside and watch the final few bursts of fireworks lighting up the warm night. The rest of the evening is spent gathered around the piano, Joe and Eddie taking turns playing while the rest listen and sing along.

August 14

Eddie, Anna, Ed Jr. and Jack take a vacation to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. There is a burgeoning beach resort town there called Ocean City. The drive is long, taking about six hours to drive North to Delaware and then South to Ocean City. The boys love every minute of it; the end of the ride is along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. They’ve never seen anything like it and their eyes are glued to the windows as they pass several miles of pristine beach. The family stays at the Atlantic Hotel right on the boardwalk and spend several days playing on the beach, swimming and fishing. They walk the boardwalk and play arcade games and billiards. There’s a dance hall for Eddie and Anna and a bowling alley for the boys. The boys are in kid heaven as there is so much fun to be had. It’s a vacation they will never forget and Jack particularly will develop a great affection for Ocean City. He loves it all, the games, the beach, and especially the fishing. One day many years in the future, he will retire there.

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Shop Payroll Ledger. August 18, 1934.

August 30

Joe receives a letter at the Shop from James’ lawyer that states his position clearly. As James has told Joe, he feels as if the company was dissolved when in September of last year he ceased to work at the Shop. He believes the company’s assets should be split and that he and Joe should go their own ways. The letter merely re-iterates James’ thoughts on what to do with the Shop but doesn’t state there’s a lawsuit coming. It’s more of a veiled threat at this point. Joe ignores it and does not call his brother. He waits for James to call him, and then he’ll make him an offer for his half of the Shop. That’s what he will do but he’s not going to initiate it; he will wait for James to make the next move.

September 15

The Shop continues as it has been with some business but not enough to keep the full crew working for forty hours. Joe disperses the work so they all receive enough hours to make a little money; no one but Leo Giannetti and Eddie are working full time, and those two are credited with almost two weeks’ worth of hours. Eddie is credited with 79 ¾ hours this week and Giannetti with 62. Young Giannetti has been trusted to help with the bootlegging; the Kavanagh’s have taken a quick liking to the young man who is anxious to make as much money as he can. Mr. Funke is Eddie’s regular assistant with the distilling, but he is getting older and can’t put in the hours. The building on Pratt and Central has a crew in it but they are not as active as Joe would like. He rotates the workmen every couple of days, and he waits, waits for a strong run of steady work where each man can clock forty hours or more every week. That’s what Joe is waiting for.

October 5

The newspaper has been full of Jack Hart’s name for the last few days. He’s being extradited to Baltimore after serving one year in the Cicero Prison. Hart was sentenced to one to fourteen years and strangely he does only the minimum. He returns to the Maryland Penitentiary more than four years after his escape. The warden swears that Hart will never escape again. The Kavanagh’s are not happy to have Jack back in town, but this time the story disappears fairly quickly. After such a litany of escapes, recaptures and crimes, the original murder of William Norris for which Jack was convicted is a long time ago now. Twelve years have passed with manhunts, escapes, accusations against Kitty and questions and searches of the Shop and the rest of Kitty’s family and their homes. Kitty’s mother and sisters went through the same treatment by the police nearly every time that Jack was on the loose. The Kavanagh’s hope, once again, that this is the end of it all. Joe and Leo and Eddie discuss the possibility of Jack escaping again. They all agree that you never know with Jack Hart but Hart is older now and probably tired of being on the run. Also, they agree that with Kitty gone, Jack wouldn’t really be interested in escaping anymore. The Hart saga has been a long strange trip for the Kavanagh’s. They perhaps reaped what they sowed for being involved with Jack, but they had no idea of his level of criminal experience. They hadn’t known about his past, and they had paid a price for that ignorance. Years of random police appearances and searches along with countless repetitive questions, always the same thing: where is Jack Hart? They had made a lot of money quickly which helped them survive some very hard years, but they had paid a price in fear and worry. This will be the end of it though. Jack is in prison to stay.

October 9

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series, winning four out of seven games. The Cardinals team is nicknamed the Gas House Gang featuring the pitching Dean brothers, Dizzy and Paul. The Kavanagh’s follow the series closely as this one is a well-matched and very exciting series. As the year before, Eddie’s son Jack listens to as much as he can on the radio and tells his father all about it in the evening. The Cardinals’ superior pitching tips the scales in this one and St. Louis gains a championship. Eddie and his son Jack’s favorite player, Babe Ruth hits .288 with 22 homers for the season as his career is clearly winding down. He does eclipse the 700 home run mark for his career this year. At the time, no other player was near 500 career homers, Ruth’s teammate, Lou Gehrig came closest. This will be Babe Ruth’s last season in New York. Age is hitting him hard and the end of his playing days are near.

November 16

Joe opens another letter from his brother’s attorney. This one was very much like the previous, but it does explicitly say that if no effort to dissolve the company is taken by Joseph Kavanagh that a lawsuit will be filed in the new year. The letter requests Joe respond to the lawyer and begin the process of selling and splitting the company’s assets. Joe will not even consider such a thing and refuses to respond in any way. He is angry at James for not calling him, not talking to him. He is sure that their relationship is beyond repair but still feels bringing an attorney in to negotiate between brothers is unnecessary. Joe stews a bit about this for a few days then decides to reply after the holidays. If James’ lawsuit can wait until the new year, so can Joe’s reply. He will send him an offer to buy his half but will never sell and split the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Joe will never even think about doing that.

November 24

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Joe and Johanna pay a visit to the Visitation convent to see Sister Mary Agnes, their daughter who was born Anna. They often visit her on Saturdays and occasionally celebrate Mass at the convent on Sundays but they always make a point of seeing her near each holiday. Their visits are limited and under the rules of the cloistered life that the Visitation sisters follow. Joe and Jo discuss the family with their daughter as she tells them about her studies. She will soon begin teaching and is very excited about it. Her faith and devotion to Christ is matched by her enthusiasm to teach and work with children. She loves to hear about her brothers’ kids and they do come to see her as well. Joe and Jo do not bring up the unresolved problems with James. Sister Mary Agnes spends several hours with her parents, sharing tea and conversation and each other’s company.

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Shop Payroll Ledger.December 1, 1934.

December 24

A Christmas Eve Monday starts the week and also the annual holiday party at the Shop. The crew work for a half-day then begin the yearly clean up and decorating. As they do nearly every year, Leo and Eddie rush out in the Shop’s truck and purchase a tree. There are more customers this year and more employees to celebrate with the Kavanagh’s. Despite the issues with James, it has a been a good year albeit slightly disappointing. The return of the distillery and brewery work, even at a slower rate than hoped for, has bolstered the Shop’s billing, but not enough to abandon Eddie’s bootlegging. He has lost more customers as legal booze is readily available. There are no more speakeasies or pubs to sell to, but he has a few individuals who still buy his cheap rye. Joe is moving forward with the Shop without James. He fully anticipates a lawsuit but hopes that he and his brother can come to terms. Joe is prepared to do whatever is necessary to keep the name, Joseph Kavanagh Company. The Kavanagh’s have some final closure on the Jack Hart story now that Jack is back home in Baltimore, in the Maryland Penitentiary. It was a long time ago when Prohibition became law and the Kavanagh’s got involved with Hart who was married to Joe’s niece, Kitty. They had several good years where the whiskey trade kept the business alive, more than that. They made more money than they expected, and faster, but it all crashed down when William Norris was murdered. The mess that ensued may not have been worth the money. Jack’s larger than life personality made him great fodder for the press and Kitty’s flamboyant style only added to it. During Jack’s escapes the Shop had to deal with police searches and questions over many years, random and infrequent appearances by the police, but still disconcerting. Finally, Kitty died several years ago and then Jack was arrested. He resides again in prison on Madison Street not all that far from the spot where Jack and his gang killed Norris. He will serve out the remainder of his term and is by all accounts an excellent prisoner, bringing an end to a long thorn in the side of the Kavanagh’s. For years, they feared it would be found out that they supplied the whiskey that Jack sold, but that never happened. Now Joe and his sons face the challenge of buying out a partner and consolidating control of the company. Joe has been running the Shop for years as it is; James has been gone more than a year now, so now it just needs to be made official. James needs to be paid his share, clearing the way for Joe and his sons to own the business.

 

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President. The Apollo Theater opens. Albert Einstein visits the White House. The US Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Archives are established. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night” is published. The first Soap Box derby is held in Dayton, Ohio. In Baltimore, the Walters Art Gallery opens. Jim Gentile, Carl Sagan, Charles Manson, Hank Aaron and Gloria Steinem are born. It is a very bad year for bank robbers as Clyde Barrow, Bonnie Parker, John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson are all shot to death in gunfights with law enforcement officers.

There are 48 states in the Union.

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James Connolly AKA Jack Hart. Mugshot. 1934. Baltimore Sun.

To read prior years, click on the Table of Contents link below:

Table of Contents

1933 The End of Prohibition

January 13

The year has begun just as last year did. There’s no work in the Shop and they don’t bother opening the place. Joe has continued to lend money to the Shop to make payroll though he is no longer taking a salary for himself or his brother James. The only money they have coming in is from his son Eddie’s bootlegging. Eddie makes the whiskey and gin in his neighbor’s basement at 436 N. Lakewood Ave.; he bottles and delivers it all over the City per customers’ needs, still using the code word and guise of “Radio Repairs.” The Shop continues to pay Joe’s sons, Leo and Eddie and James’ son Guy as well as Mr. Funke and Mr. Stromm, their two long-time employees. Eddie splits the profits from the bootlegging with his father, who uses the money to make payroll at the Shop. The money from the illegal booze has kept them going so far but the Kavanagh’s worry about how much longer they can do this. That’s why Joe isn’t drawing a salary or paying James, who understands but isn’t thrilled about it. The Shop is closed nearly every day but Friday and that’s when the employees pick up their pay. James doesn’t bother coming in even on Fridays, but he and his brother speak on the phone to update each other.

January 29

Joe and his wife Johanna invite their boys and their families over for dinner. Johanna makes a large pot of lamb stew for them all and they gather at 1629 Thirty-third Street. After dinner, Johanna has pie for them all as usual. She does a great deal of baking these days and sells her half-pies in her neighborhood to help make ends meet and in order to be able to occasionally treat her grandchildren. They relax in the parlor with Joe and Eddie taking turns playing the piano and singing. Young Jack sits with Eddie and pounds out a few notes; he is taking lessons now and learning fast. They talk of the family but mostly stay away from the subject of the Shop until Joe mentions that he has heard the movement to repeal Prohibition is gaining steam. Roosevelt is much more interested in getting rid of the ban on alcohol than Hoover ever was. Mostly, FDR is trying to break the country out of the Depression. Joe and his sons briefly discuss the implications of a repeal. It would be a great boon to the Shop. It might take some time to get rolling but the volume of work could be tremendous. They would need to hire some workers quickly, but that’s a problem they would love to have. They all agree to keep a close watch on what goes on in DC and do whatever is necessary to grab that work if it returns.

February 20

Congress passes the Blaine Act to repeal Prohibition. In order to finish the repeal, a twenty-first amendment is prepared which a minimum of thirty-six states must ratify. This will certainly happen as the push for repeal is very strong. It will take months but the hope is that Prohibition is gone by the end of the year. The Kavanagh’s are pleased and Joe begins formulating a plan to prepare themselves for the inevitable rush of work that should come with the return of the distilling industry.

March 3

By executive order, President Roosevelt closes all US banks today calling it a “Bank Holiday.” The economic situation has gotten rockier and this is an effort at a reset. It has little effect on the Joseph Kavanagh Company as they are running entirely on cash at the moment and the building at Pratt and Central is closed. FDR is trying to shore up and support the financial institutions of the country while finding ways to help those who are out of work. What will be called the “New Deal” is being written. It is a combination of efforts to provide a safety net for citizens and a boost to the economy.

March 5

Leo and Eddie meet with their father and mother at their home on Thirty-third Street. They spend some time fiddling with Eddie’s old Indian motorcycle in the backyard. Eddie loves this bike and refuses to give it up; his brother is good with auto repairs and helps keep it running when necessary. Johanna brings them some iced tea and the discussion is about what to do in the buildup to Prohibition’s repeal and, for that matter, what to do after the repeal. The “Radio Repair” Bootlegging calls are going well, in fact, Eddie has some customers that don’t need to call. They have standing weekly orders and Eddie works hard to keep it all going. With the end of Prohibition, the brewery and distillery work will doubtlessly return. The question is how quickly will the Shop get that work. Joe will telephone his old friends in the industry to remind them that the Joseph Kavanagh Company is still open. Joe believes the calls for the repeal and all the steps that lead to it should increase sales for Eddie; as the enthusiasm increases so should interest in drinking. Eddie agrees and believes they should do their best to take advantage of this. They all agree they need to work together and help out wherever necessary. Joe, with Leo’s help, will keep his house full of ingredients, the rye and corn they need. Leo will transport the supplies to 436 N. Lakewood, the Kellner’s house where the still is busier than ever. Eddie will keep mixing the gin, distilling the rye and making all deliveries. He prefers multiple small deliveries on his bike but uses his car when necessary. Instead of worrying more about the police, which was rarely a concern anyway, the fellows worry even less about the law. The state was always a “wet” state but now Baltimore seems to anxiously await the return of alcohol.

March 13

US Banks re-open after Roosevelt’s extended “Bank Holiday.” The Shop remains closed for now but Eddie keeps bringing in cash. They gather at Pratt and Central on Fridays to receive their pay despite no hours worked.

May 12

The Kavanagh’s hold a meeting and decide to hire some more men. James is very much opposed but Joe is insistent. They will need a good group of smiths and they need to start assembling that crew. The signs are that a great deal of work will come once Prohibition is legally gone. Joe wants to be prepared for it and have a good crew of talented workers on hand. Eddie will find the best men available in Local #80 and begin hiring as soon as they can. As General Secretary of the union, Eddie is in a good position to pick and choose the best of those coppersmiths available. His brothers in the union are as excited as he is at the prospect of work from the alcohol industry. Much of this work is coppersmith work which will be a big boost to the struggling rank and file of Local # 80.

June 10

The Shop hires several helpers, a man named Harvey and a young fellow named Leo Giannetti who both join the union and are qualified to work. They also hire another coppersmith from Local # 80, Tony Bagaur who Eddie knows personally. The company has begun receiving several orders from breweries and distilleries to do some maintenance. It isn’t much to start but it is work. In addition, some jacket kettle cookers have been ordered. The Shop works its first full week in two years, and combined with Eddie’s whiskey runs it makes for a busy week. They decide to bring Funke in on the bootlegging on Lakewood Avenue now that they have work in the Shop. He is someone they trust and he will assist Eddie in handling the uptick in demand for illegal booze. Leo, Stromm and Bagaur will do the coppersmith work at the Shop assisted by Harvey and Leo Giannetti. Eddie and Funke spend an hour or so each morning at the Shop but the bulk of their day is spent making and delivering whiskey and gin. They use the Shop’s truck and are able to group many deliveries into one trip through town. Eddie works many hours, some legitimate but most spent on alcohol production and sales. Joe is pleased but anxious and his brother is in a sullen mood. James is still against hiring new men and still upset he is not getting paid. The pay part is entirely Joe’s call as he is the one who’s been putting up the cash for the last several years. For now, Joe and his brother must wait to get paid. James accepts Joe’s decision but is not happy about it. As he did when they were open in the past, James reviews some of Leo’s drawings but these days it is almost unnecessary. Leo is an experienced and talented draftsman so James’ days are mostly full of waiting, reading the paper and counting the hours. Joe notices it and encourages his brother to speak to customers if they call but James has no interest in that. He remains quiet and detached and Joe assumes it will be so until some money comes his way.

July 6

On a Thursday afternoon, the first Major League Baseball All Star Game is played at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The best players from each league will square off for an exhibition ballgame. Eddie, taking a break from his whiskey rounds, and sons Ed Jr. and Jack listen on the radio as the American League wins 5-3. Babe Ruth does not disappoint, hitting the first home run in All-Star history. Frankie Frisch, “The Fordham Flash” homers for the National League in a losing cause. The game draws an impressive 49,000 fans to Comiskey Park. Baseball’s owners take note of this and the game becomes an annual event. The Kavanagh’s listen to their first radio baseball game and they enjoy every moment. Father and sons quickly discuss the game between innings and hang on every pitch.

August 5

James does not come to the Shop at all this week. Joe doesn’t call him nor does he hear from him all week. Joe is not happy and doesn’t know what to do. He will call next week if James does not show up. It’s not the first time James has taken some time off but at this point, Joe wants everyone on hand. Even though it seems like there is little for James to do, Joe feels they need him. He’s 56 but still could do some work in a pinch. He notes James’ absence in the payroll ledger by scribbling “not at Shop” next to his initials in the payroll ledger as he closes the Shop for the day.

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Shop Payroll Ledger. August 5, 1933.

August 8

Joe calls James and they have a heated discussion. James wants to be paid and insists he won’t work anymore without it. Joe retorts that James is an owner and owners get paid last and still must show up. Joe is putting the money up to keep the place open and prepare for a glut of work he’s confident will arrive soon. They’re working full weeks now and it will only get better. James is uninterested and hangs up on Joe saying he will let his brother know what he decides to do. Guy is privy to part of this chat as he walks into the office in mid-conversation. Joe glances at him then returns to his paperwork making no comment as Guy is James’ son. Both get back to work in silence and the office is quiet for the rest of the day.

August 28

James “Red” Kelly is arrested in Chicago for shooting three men during a card game. He shoots two brothers, John and Joseph Donbrowski, and another man, John Brennnan. All three are seriously wounded but survive. James “Red” Kelly is described as intoxicated in the police report and is taken to the prison in Cicero just outside of Chicago.

September 7

Joe reads the newspaper and is shocked to read that Jack Hart has been caught. He has been confirmed as a man arrested several days ago in Chicago claiming to be one James “Red” Kelly. Jack shot three men in a card game and was arrested. This time they figured out it was Jack and they have him. Joe reads the article quickly and wonders how it happened. It seems that Jack finally screwed up. He was drunk and got crazy mad in a card game. Joe calls his sons into the Shop’s small office to talk about it. The consensus is they hope Jack Hart is caught for good this time and this should be the end of the associated nonsense. The Kavanagh’s assume there will be a lot of media coverage and discussion when Jack is sent back to the Maryland Penitentiary, but that should be the end of it.

October 7

Despite a request for extradition by Maryland, James Connelly/ Jack Hart is convicted of the three shootings in Illinois and must serve time there. He is sentenced to 1- 14 years in the Cicero prison. It’s over and he won’t be coming back to Baltimore, the best possible scenario for Joe and the Kavanagh’s. They hope this puts an end to it but they can’t help but wonder if the Cicero prison can hold him. Jack is wily and smart and so far he has managed to escape each time he has been incarcerated. Still, he is getting older now and perhaps he will stay put.

October 8

The New York Giants beat the Washington Senators four games to one to win the 1933 World Series. “The Meal Ticket,” lefty Carl Hubbel wins two games, leading the Giants to the championship. The Kavanagh’s follow the series as they always do, including young Jack who rushes home from St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary Elementary School to catch any of the games he can on the radio. Every night he talks to his father about each game and the series in general. Eddie is delighted that his youngest son is developing such a passion for the game he loves. Jack is a huge Babe Ruth fan just as Eddie is, but despite homering in the All-Star game, Babe Ruth begins showing his age, his batting average dipping to .301 and home runs dropping to 34. He is still the big star of baseball but teammate Lou Gehrig and Boston’s “Double XX” Jimmie Foxx begin to steal some of Ruth’s limelight. Jack knows that Ruth is getting older but still considers him the best.

Jack even asks his father straight out, “Is Babe Ruth the best player of all time?”

Eddie grins and says, “No, Ty Cobb is the best baseball player of all time. Ruth is second though, but don’t ever tell your grandfather that I said that.” Eddie’s face widens into a grin with his son beaming back at him.

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Shop Payroll Ledger October 14, 1933.

October 18

Maryland votes to ratify the 21st amendment repealing Prohibition. The Kavanagh’s knew that Maryland would vote in favor as soon as they could. Maryland was one of the “wettest” states all through the years of Prohibition. The citizens of this great state have spoken and what they want is a drink

October 27

Guy tells Joe that he is looking for another job. He feels very conflicted but can no longer work here with his father’s status in doubt. Joe agrees to continue paying him for a few weeks while he looks for another position. James is still adamant that he be paid or he won’t return to work He and Joe do not talk much and Joe is losing his patience. Eddie and Funke continue to make money with whiskey and gin as the demand increases. There were many parties to celebrate the state ratifying the 21st amendment. The Shop itself is busy with small bits of distillery and brewery work coming back in expectation of the repeal. Joe continues loaning money for payroll and sundries. They buy some pulleys and steel stock and copper for future work. Joe, more than anything, wants to be prepared for these jobs when they hit. He speaks to his sons and decides to hire two more coppersmiths and two more helpers to be prepared. Eddie finds the right men from the union and they are brought in to work at the Shop.

November 17

Joe gives James an ultimatum to return to work by the end of the year or he will be considered to have resigned his position. James answers that he does not want to work for his nephews. He feels like that is the direction Joe is taking the company with Leo and Eddie taking such prominent roles. Joe is surprised by this but answers that they are the most experienced smiths and they are Kavanagh’s. James merely repeats that he does not want to work for his nephews and ends the call. Joe knows he and James are still partners but begins to realize he may have to find some way to buy him out. While continuing to crank out whiskey and gin to make money, Joe begins to hold back some of those monies for just this purpose.

December 2

Guy finds another job and leaves the Shop for good. He will be missed by uncle and cousins. He worked hard in the office, kept the books and assisted Joe in many ways. He did his best to stay out of the situation between his father and his uncle, it was inevitable that Guy would leave. Joe hires a new bookkeeper, a Mr. McQuade, the following week. McQuade comes in on Friday, goes over the books and hands out the payroll. He came recommended to Joe by a friend and is only in the Shop once a week and that suits the situation well, considering the bootleg cash being used.

December 5

The 21st amendment is ratified by the necessary 36 states and Prohibition is repealed. Across the nation, there are celebrations and more than a few hangovers.

December 22

Joe and James argue over the phone about James’ refusal to return to work at the Shop. He tells Joe he will find another way and is considering starting his own business. He won’t return to work at the Shop and an angry Joe takes James’ name off the books. Joe decides to pay himself now, drawing four weeks back pay. He will need cash in his name now as he assumes James will have to be bought out. Joe feels sure that is what will have to be done.

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Shop Payroll Ledger. December 23, 1933.

December 23

The Shop’s Christmas Party at Pratt and Central is held on this Saturday. In the early afternoon, the traditional last minute cleaning and decorating is done including a Christmas tree, and the Shop is ready for the holiday. It is a joyous and boisterous affair with the Kavanaghs, some customers and their now ten employees. Finally, they truly believe the future looks bright. They have hired the best men available and are ready for a rush of work. Eddie continues to generate cash for the Shop and they are confident that they are headed toward better days. Jack Hart is far from Baltimore and behind bars again, so that is hopefully the end of police questions, searches and the whole mess. Joe’s brother James is absent but they celebrate as they haven’t in years. The singing is louder and the smiles are brighter as three generations party. Joe sees his sons and his grandchildren gathered about him and thinks of his brothers. He is proud of his boys and thinks of a future for their families at the Shop but can’t help but wonder what will happen with James. He wanders away from the party and steps outside into the cold winter sun on the corner. Gazing up Pratt Street, he recalls the other brothers who worked at the Shop: Martin, who died in Chicago in an industrial accident after his publicized arrest for shooting a bartender on Christmas Eve 1910 and Frank, who died of malaria at the Panama Canal in 1924. His brother Eugene was killed in 1903 in a train wreck returning from a distillery in Connecticut. Eugene had taken the necessary measurements for an estimate the Shop was preparing to build and install. He was killed on the return trip. Joe and James are the last brothers who worked for Uncle Joe. Joe is shaken from his thoughts when Eddie approaches, placing a glowing match stick to the end of a cigarette.

“You should get back in there. It’s almost time for “O Holy Night.” Eddie says to his father as his first puff of smoke is blown away into the wind.

“I was just heading back in,” replies Joe, his gaze still fixed in the direction of downtown.

“What are you going to do?” Eddie asks looking at Joe.

Joe looks back at Eddie and answers, “About James? I’ll see what he wants. I don’t know what he’s thinking. Once I know that, I’ll figure it out.”

“It will be kind of strange without him and Guy around the place. I’m sure we’ll get used to it but I’ll miss them.” Eddie says, looking again at his father who seems not to have heard him.

Eddie takes another draw on his cigarette and asks,”Is there any chance James comes back?”

“No.” Joe answers, looking directly at his son before taking one last curious glance up Pratt Street, then gesturing that they should return to the party. As they open the door, they are met with the sound of Leo’s mandolin and a Christmas party like the old days. Food, drink and song, and hope in the air, in the Shop. Joe and Eddie join in the festivities as the room fills with laughter and holiday cheer. The focus is on family and friends celebrating Christmas together. As 1933 ends, the Shop is suddenly in a very good position to bounce back and quickly.

 

 

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is sworn in as the President of the United States. Work on the Golden Gate Bridge begins in San Francisco Bay. The Lone Ranger premiers on radio. The singing telegram is invented. Giuseppe Zangara attempts to assassinate FDR in Miami, Florida but fatally wounds Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak instead. Mount Rushmore is dedicated. Frances Perkins, as Secretary of Labor, becomes the first female member of a presidential cabinet. The U.S. gets off the gold standard. The first drive-in theater and the first Krispy Kreme open. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Carol Burnett, Willie Nelson, James Brown and Johnny Unitas are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

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Eddie Kavanagh 1920s

To read prior years, click the link below.

Table of Contents

1932 The Great Depression and Half-Pies

January 4

The Shop has two kettles to make for an ice cream company and nothing else to start the year. Joe and James discuss the business. Joe tells James that they will have to put up more cash to keep the doors open. James tells his brother he cannot put up any more dollars. Joe will come up with the money himself rather than permanently closing.

January 17

On a cold Sunday, the Kavanagh’s have a ham dinner at Thirty-third Street. Joe and Johanna host their boys and their families, oldest son Leo, his wife Maymie and their children Leo Jr. and Mary, and younger son Eddie, his wife Anna and their sons Ed Jr. and Jack. After a comforting dinner, they hold a meeting about the Shop. Joe, Leo and Eddie retire to the parlor while their wives begin cleaning up after dinner and tending to the children. Joe pours them each a glass from his dwindling stash of Mount Vernon Rye. He has broken into his last case, given to him nearly twenty years ago. The men sip their whiskey and talk about work a little but mostly they wait. After several minutes, Johanna leaves her daughter-in-laws to the household chores and joins her husband and sons, toting a platter of apple pie and tea. Once everyone has a piece of pie and a cup of tea, Joe begins telling them the Shop will need an influx of cash. There’s no chance that the business will survive without payroll, not just for themselves, but also for Funke and Stromm, the two talented workers Joe doesn’t want to lose. He glances at Johanna, then looks to Eddie.

“We’re going to need your Radio Repair money to help us keep going, Eddie.” Says Joe. “Leo and I will come up with a list of people who might be interested. I bet we can find more customers for the whiskey and that other stuff you sell.” (Joe doesn’t understand why anyone would buy the bathtub gin.)

“I can handle more customers and deliveries. It seems to be working out pretty well. I just won’t be able to spend much time at the Shop if we find more buyers.”

“I have a feeling we won’t need you much. I think things will get worse before they get better in this country. We have to do what’s necessary to keep the Shop going and for all of us to survive. I can help you with buying corn and barley. I can find the best deal on ingredients. I’m sure of that.” Replies Joe.

Leo chimes in, “I can get my part-time job at the auto shop back. That will help me with money so I won’t need my normal salary, but I will need something, and I’ll get you a list of friends who will be buyers. I know some folks that will be interested for sure.”

“What about your brother James” Johanna asks her husband.

“James says he can’t help with cash anymore but he expects to be paid.” responds Joe. “I’m not going to talk to him about what Eddie is doing but I’m sure he knows something’s going on. He doesn’t need to know, but he is my partner and my brother. He’ll have to get something out of this even if it’s less than he wants.”

His wife nods as she sips her tea and then asks Eddie, “You’re being careful? None of this is worth doing if you get yourself into trouble.”

“I’m very careful. I don’t think Annie even knows what I’m doing and I want to keep it that way. The only ones who know are my customers and the people in this room.” Eddie answers his mother.

A small smile crosses Johanna’s lips as Joe pipes in, “We should figure on splitting the money in half. I’ll use half to make cash loans to the Shop to make payroll. You keep your half for you, and hold some aside because if things keep getting worse, that could be a fallback for all of us.”

“Will you and Mother be okay?” asks Leo, his brother Eddie nodding to show he shares his concern.

“We will,” says Johanna before Joe can speak. “We’ve been through tough times before and we’ll get through this too. I’ve been selling some half-pies in the neighborhood and I’ll continue to do that. We’ll stretch our money and all of us will be okay.” she assures them.

Eddie takes a forkful of apple pie and says, “Keep making them like this Mother and we won’t even need whiskey sales.” He smiles at Johanna as they all chuckle softly. Soon, Maymie and Anna and the children join them in the parlor. Joe plays some piano and sings for them all, his youngest grandson Jack sitting next to him on the piano bench, paying close attention to Joe’s playing.

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Mount Vernon Rye Bottle. 1914.

February 12

There is no work at the Shop. Eddie has added more names to his book of customers. He keeps a journal of his “Radio Repairs” customers, addresses and notes. Joe and Leo have brought in some more interested parties. Today Eddie visits a speakeasy for a much larger delivery than he typically makes, a case of whiskey and a case of gin. Eddie is finding more and more customers every week as friends tell friends. Baltimore still loves having a drink now and then and Eddie is benefiting from it. He makes runs around the City daily. He still prefers his motorcycle and briefcase, but when necessary he’ll drive the car. At home, he and Anna are worried for their son Jack who has the mumps and is very sick. Although the boy recovers, his parents are saddened when the doctors tell them Jack will never be able to father children. They know that doctors aren’t always right and they pray for their son, still grateful that he has recovered. Those doctors would turn out to be very wrong because Jack will father nine children.

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The Shop’s ledger entry for week of February 13, 1932. No work. No hours.

April 24

The Kavanaghs’s hold another Sunday dinner meeting to discuss the progress on the “Radio Repairs.” Eddie lets his parents and brother know that sales are going well, and he continues to get many calls, but could use Joe’s help with supplies. Joe suggests he order the supplies from now on, the corn, rye barley and empty bottles which will be stored at Joe and Johanna’s house on Thirty-third Street. Eddie will pick them up as necessary. The cash is starting to roll in and bolster the Shop; Joe will continue to make cash loans to the Shop to cover payroll. Joe tracks all these loans in the Shop’s ledger, referencing Eddie’s journal with small cryptic notes. They’ll save what they can against any emergency that might come along. After their discussion, Joe sits at the piano with young Jack next to him showing him some chords and melodies. At seven years of age, Jack has taken a strong liking to the piano; Eddie and Anna have decided to pay for piano lessons for him. Next week lessons begin at twenty-five cents a pop at St. Elizabeth’s School where Eddie’s boys attend. Joe is very pleased to hear it and loves the thought of his grandson carrying on the tradition of music that is very much at the core of the Kavanagh family.

May 13

Joe opens the Shop on Central Avenue to pay everyone. His brother, sons and the rest of the crew stop in for their money. After they leave, Joe stands for a few moments on the corner and thinks about what they’re doing. As always, the family is doing what they have to do. He trusts his son to be careful and keep producing good liquor. This seems to be working until the real work comes back, whenever that may be. Joe returns home and tinkers on the piano while his wife is bustling about the house. Johanna is spending a busy day baking pies and the occasional cake if a neighbor has a special request or is throwing a party. She begins baking in the early morning and sells a few half-pies just about every day. Neighbors come to the back door of the house and she tells them what she has. More often than not a sale is made and Jo puts this money in her own safe place. She uses it for household expenses, her baking ingredients, and special treats or gifts for the grandchildren. Joe does his best to stay out of her way, sitting at the piano smoking his pipe.

June 19

Joe reads the Sunday paper and finds a story about Jack Hart. There’s a report that Jack has been spotted in Montana. According to the paper, the Sheriff of Missoula, Montana has requested a description of Jack Hart before they will confirm or comment. The story recounts the whole sordid Jack Hart affair from 1922 on, before stating that, after receiving Hart’s description, the Montana authorities denied any knowledge of his presence in their state. Joe keeps wondering when will this Jack Hart thing come to an end. He sighs and calls his brother and sons to inform them of the article. They all read it and feel the same as Joe. It seems like Jack can not stay out of the news even when no one is sure where he is.

June 30

Maryland Governor Albert Ritchie loses his final bid to be the Democratic Candidate for the Presidency. Ritchie had campaigned for the nomination in 1928 as well. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, New York’s governor, secures the nomination in Chicago after four ballots. Roosevelt leads after each vote but falls short of the required number in the first three rounds. House Speaker John Garner is a distant third in a crowded field and he endorses Roosevelt to deliver the necessary votes. Garner joins Roosevelt’s ticket as his Vice-Presidential Candidate. Ritchie appears in all four rounds of balloting. Humorist Will Rogers appears in one. The Kavanagh’s supported Ritchie’s slim chance but were satisfied with the choice of Roosevelt. The Depression makes it easy for them to not support the incumbent Herbert Hoover.

July 5

Eddie takes his sons to their first ballgame, an exhibition game between the New York Yankees and the International League Orioles at Oriole Park. The boys as well as Eddie are very excited to see the hometown hero and superstar Babe Ruth in person. Ruth is a mammoth figure in baseball at this time, the superstar of superstars, especially in Baltimore where he was born. Eddie and his sons have a great day as the Orioles win easily 9-2. Eddie buys a large bag of peanuts and a large cola for them to share as they take in their first game of baseball, their first time hearing the crack of the bat and the roar of the crowd. Buzz Arlett and Heinie Sands each knock one out for the home town Orioles. Ruth doesn’t homer but settles for a double and a walk. The Kavanagh’s are not at all disappointed; the home team won and they saw Babe Ruth.

July 22

On this Friday, Joe is preparing to leave the Shop after paying everyone when two men in suits appear at the door. Joe greets them and they inform him that they are from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, special agents Frank O’Neil and Dick Rosengarten. Joe is taken aback but motions them into his office. They tell Joe with Jack Hart still on the loose the case is in their hands now. They’ve been trying to speak to the Kavanagh’s for several weeks but the Shop is always closed. The Police told them to come by on a Friday because that’s the only day the place was always open. Joe is still shocked at their presence in his office but responds quickly that the Shop is struggling these day like every other business. Agent O’Neil continues that they are tracking and investigating Jack Hart. They ask Joe about Hart and he gives them the same story he has told the police for years. The Kavanagh’s knew Jack Hart as James Connelly. He was married to Joe’s niece and god-daughter Kitty. They didn’t know him well and they want nothing to do with him. The agents seem to believe Joe about Jack Hart but they think since Kitty is dead, Joe might be someone who could tell them more about him. Specifically, they want to know if Jack Hart has any family or contacts in the Northwest. Joe says he has no idea and tells the agents he saw the report that Hart might be in Montana. Special Agent O’Neil is quick to say they can not discuss any details but Hart is a wanted man. He is considered a fugitive in all 48 states and they will find and catch him. Joe wishes them luck but re-iterates that he has no contact with Jack nor does he expect to hear from him. Now that Kitty is dead, Joe thinks Hart has no reason to return to Baltimore and doesn’t have a clue whether or not Hart knows anyone in Montana or any other state. The agents politely thank him for his cooperation and leave the Central Avenue building, informing Joe they might return. Joe nods and forces a smile telling them the best day to come by is on a Friday. Joe breathes a sigh of relief and sits at his desk a moment before locking the front door and heading home for the day. Joe can not believe this is still happening and tells his brother and sons so when he calls them all to tell them of the agents’ visit.

August 15

Johanna has her grandsons over for the day. As she bakes in the kitchen, they enjoy some peach pie. She begins slicing two pies into halves and the younger boy looks at her curiously.

Jack asks his grandmother, “Why don’t you sell a whole pie to people? If they like your pie, they’ll eat a whole one.

“Well Jack, if you want someone to buy your pie every day, never sell them a whole one.” Johanna answers, her eyes smiling at the young boy.

“That’s pretty smart, Grandmom. I didn’t think of that.” Jack says through a mouthful of pie. Johanna grins and returns to mixing and measuring her ingredients. Jack watches her, slightly fascinated, as she seems to do three or four things at once with great ease. The boys finish their pie and head outside with gloves in hand to play a little ball.

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Johanna Long Kavanagh. 1930s.

September 14

Eddie has ten deliveries of whiskey and gin to make, mostly in East Baltimore today. Eddie zips through the streets on his motorcycle, briefcase full of booze strapped to the back. Friends and friends of friends call every day now and especially on Fridays when most people have received their wages. His wife fields many of these calls and passes along the customers’ needs. Eddie suspects Annie (as he always called his wife) does, in fact, know he is selling alcohol and not fixing radios. She’s a smart woman and he is doubting his ruse lately. Eddie has deliveries every day including Sundays and distills every night. He does spend a lot of time next door, and again, Annie seems okay with it. He has shown John Kellner how to work the still properly but doesn’t trust him to run batches of whiskey very often. Eddie is so confident in his abilities and his product that he prefers to do it himself.

October 2

The New York Yankees sweep the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. This was the tenth and last World Series for Eddie’s favorite player, Babe Ruth. He hits two home runs in the series both in game three including his famous “called shot.” Pictures show Ruth making a gesture toward right field before blasting an estimated 500 foot homer. The story spreads quickly that he had “called” or predicted the home run and it was reported as such in the newspapers. Ruth concurred when asked if he had motioned that he would hit one out, being always aware of the value of his image and how to work the press. The story grows into baseball legend but the truth of it is up for debate. Eddie assures his son Jack that “calling his shot” was exactly the sort of the thing the great Babe Ruth would do. Jack is a rabid Ruth fan now just like his father. The Babe hits .341 for the season and belts 41 home runs, another good year for the now veteran star.

November 8

Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected the thirty-second President of the United States, defeating incumbent Republican Herbert Hoover. The Kavanagh’s vote for Roosevelt. The Depression has crushed them and they are obliged to vote against Hoover. The family are all registered Democrats now, something that has changed from a generation ago.

November 19

Joe and Jo visit their daughter Anna, Sister Mary Agnes, at the Visitation Convent on Roland Avenue. She speaks of her studies in her goal to become a teacher. She is learning much and doing well. She loves the Visitation and is very pleased she answered the calling. Her parents are happy as well. It has taken some time but they are more comfortable with her vocation and the cloistered life she lives. Joe and Johanna tell her about her brothers and their families. She’s particularly delighted to hear that Eddie’s son Jack is learning the piano.

December 23

The Christmas Party is held at Central Avenue appropriately enough on a Friday, the one day they were regularly open. The Kavanagh’s are there with their employees and their families and just a few friends. They celebrate the Yule together with food, drink and song as they always do. They’re making it work through Eddie’s bootlegging and working together as a family. Johanna sells her half-pies and Leo has returned to auto work to help with money. A year has passed with nearly no jobs and no hours worked, but the business still exists even if they aren’t open many days. The Depression is deep, many are destitute, and bread lines are long. The list of unemployed is frightening, but the Kavanagh’s go on. The men have jobs and still have their houses thanks to the illegal whiskey and gin. They’ve made it through another year and are doing far better than most folks in these tough times. They do as they have done so many times before. They hope for a better year.

 

 

Herbert Hoover finishes his term as the President. Hattie Wyatt Caraway becomes the first female Senator in the nation representing Arkansas. The Olympics are held in Lake Placid, New York in the winter and Los Angeles, California in the summer. The first gas tax is enacted. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century premiers on radio. Radio City Music Hall opens in New York City. Johnny Cash, Elizabeth Taylor, Sylvia Plath, Ethel Ennis and Little Richard are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

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Eddie Kavanagh. Circa 1920s.

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