1870 Maryland Pure Rye

February 7

Snow falls in Baltimore on a chilly Monday morning. There are no snow days. Joe & George open there Shop like any other day. Their two young apprentices work with Joe on several large Jacket Kettles. Similar to the one pictured below. Joe teaches them how to use smithing hammers, wooden mallets and a brass hammer. All most likely of his own construction. Meticulous work every day. You can try to go fast, but this can lead to mistakes. It’s a balance of brevity and accuracy. His young charges seem to be learning well. When completed, the kettles are delivered by George in the Kavanagh & Smith Cart.

May 11

Joe works on a funnel or stack for a steamship. A rush-rush repair job, but one that the Shop is well-suited to do. The funnel is the large spout that releases boiler steam and smoke. With his helpers, Joe anneals and bends the brass tubes. He hammers and shapes to get the right curve and degree. The steamship repairs are not steady work, but it all adds up for Joe & George. While Joe and the boys work on the funnel, George sells their copper items to the general public. They make sure to have a bit of an inventory of pitchers and pans now. This makes walk-up purchases a possibility. Business is good and they are busy.

June 14

A quiet Saturday night spent with the family. Joe still thinking of the Column Still. He’s of the mind that if he can adapt the still enough, there is a way to make a higher proof without sacrificing taste. He thinks that the key may be in the beer still. A beer still is the first phase of distilling. Distilling is, essentially, boiling fermented liquid then cooling it quickly. This creates vapors which are liquified and gathered. The beer still separates the water and the alcohol from the mash. The better it works. The higher the proof of the end product. After passing through the beer still, the product is distilled again (sometimes several times) and flavored. The true Maryland Pure Rye has been distilled in MD for over one hundred years in 1870. Maryland is the 3rd largest producer of Rye in the U.S. at the time. The MD rye is quite popular. Opinions seem to vary on why, but it’s most likely the quality of homegrown MD rye and the soft water of our temperate location. No matter what the reason, the MD rye is some of the best available. Joe decides to start from scratch. He’ll make his own Continuous Column Still starting with the Beer Still. The Column Still is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a column of pots, basically. Each with perforated copper between the layers to catch the mash or slop (the rye mix including a little corn & barley malt). Joe thinks that irregularities in the diameter of the columns or pots may be contributing to the lower proof of the rye. He will make his own taking pain-staking detail to keep the circular pots as round and true as possible. A real challenge when these pots are made by hand with no machinery. He will do it bit by bit as he can. Joe believes if he can make better columns, he can make a better still. This work in distilleries could be his biggest money maker.

August 22

Kavanagh & Smith are hard at work in the heat. Coppersmithing is such hot work. While holding that torch in the summer heat, one can see the waves of heat rising from the copper. You might get light-headed and dehydrated. There is still no refrigeration so any water you drink is warm. It’s still refreshing, but not of the order of popping open a bottle water and downing it. You do what you can to deal with the heat. Focusing on the work to be done. Joe stays late many nights. He’s working on rounding out his columns. Trying to get them as perfect as possible. His days and nights are long, but he’s quite certain some day it will be worth it.

December 30

The Kavanaghs celebrate the 10th Wedding Anniversary of Patrick & Katherine Kavanagh, Joe’s brother & sister-in-law. A small party is held. Some toasts and many smiles. Joe feels happy for his brother and his growing family. They have 2 boys (Martin 8 and Joe 4) and their 2 year old daughter, Alice. Katherine is expecting so their fourth child will arrive next year. They gather and honor each other. It is Joe, the youngest brother James, their sister, Katherine, her husband Edward Brody and their 2 boys, Patrick and his family and, of course, their mother, Alice. Alice was the leader of this family. They know how much they owe her for bringing them to this nation. More to the point. She is their mother and the source of the love and life that they all enjoy. The year ends. Their life is happy but hard. Still no indoor plumbing, electricity, sanitation or running water. The “necessities” of today are not even thought of yet. Not luxuries, but non-existent.



Ulysses S. Grant is the President of the United States. The Department of Justice and the National Weather Service are created. Christmas Day is declared a federal holiday. Old Faithful is discovered and named by Henry D. Washburn. Robert E. Lee dies.

With the return of the last of the Confederate States, there are now 37 states in the Union.



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