1871 Whiskey and Copper

February 7

Patrick & Katherine welcome baby, Alice. She’s named for her grandmother, the matriarch of the family, Alice Clarke Kavanagh. A new baby brings happiness and hope. It always does. Joe’s an uncle again for the sixth time.

February 15

A customer brings in two bottling and carbonating devices for repair. They are referred to as “Mineral Water Apparatus” at the time. A basic system made of copper tubes with some bends in each tube. Something new to them, but not at all out of their area. It’s copper and it’s bent. Pretty straight forward except after completion of the repairs, the customer does not show up. He’s gone. This will happen periodically. A job is done, but for whatever reason the customer doesn’t pick up. Usually, they are never heard from again. The pieces sit and then are scrapped.

March 9

Kavanagh & Smith places an ad in in the Baltimore Sun. They are trying to sell the two used “Mineral Water Apparatuses”. The Ad is below. It’s the earliest ad for the Shop. Alas, it doesn’t work. No one has any interest in the devices. They are scrapped a few months later.

July 19

Kavanagh & Smith receive an order for three big cooking vessels for a new restaurant/pub. These are quite large. Almost 4 ft. in Diameter. They are double-jacketed, as always, for faster and more even cooking. It’s a nice little job for the Shop. Joe and his apprentices are getting quicker in producing these vessels. Kettles this size need three men to make. Two with hammers and mallets and one to hold the thing still. Upon completion, they are lifted into the cart and delivered by George Smith.

August 8

The dog days of summer are upon Baltimore. The city is growing by leaps and bounds. More people. More work. It’s a time of growth and expansion of urban centers. Joe and his crew work oblivious to the heat. Joe’s nephews Martin and Joe visit the Shop today. Joe does his work and smiles softly to see them playing in the dirt of the Shop floor. Perhaps, he starts considering their future. Would they work for him? Wouldn’t that be something? I’m sure the thought pleased him. I can say from personal experience that playing in the dirt of the Shop is often how it starts.

September 23

Joe sits alone late on a Saturday night. The rest of the family sleeping. Joe has spent as many off-hours as possible at the Shop this year. Trying to “round out” the columns of his still. It was laborious to try to keep them as round as possible to a very tight tolerance. His work has paid off. Joe’s last batch of rye was clearly a higher proof. The taste is fine though a true distiller would flavor it better. Joe knows he’s no distiller, but his skills as a coppersmith have helped him. He can’t sleep if he wanted to sleep. He takes another sip and smiles for he has done it.

September 25

A cool fall day is a good day for working. Kavanagh & Smith go about their business. Joe informs George of his success with the still. The potential for better rye whiskey and more to the point ,the chance for more work. George tastes the rye and agrees with Joe. This is definitely a potent drink. Joe decides he will visit local distilleries. He will try to convince them to allow Kavanagh & Smith to service and repair their equipment. It might be a hard sell. The distillers have their own staff who fix problems as they pop up. Joe will have to be persuasive so he fills a bottle with rye. That will be his sample and his selling point. He makes his plans and hopes that this will open up a wide avenue of work and success for his firm.

October 16

It’s a Monday. I am sure that folks from that era had the same feeling about Mondays as we do. However, this day. This Monday. Joe is hired to do some repairs on a still by a Baltimore distillery. It’s his first chance to prove his abilities. He’s excited and confident. He knows his system will net a better rye. He’s sure of it. What he’s unsure of is where this whiskey work will take him.


Ulysses S. Grant is the President. The first Major League Baseball game is played but without a corresponding official league yet. In October, four large fires rage around Lake Michigan. The Great Chicago fire being the most famous. 100,00 are left homeless and 2500 die.

There are 37 states in the Union


March 9, 1871 Baltimore Sun Ad
The first Kavanagh & Smith Ad. The Baltimore Sun March 9, 1871. An effort to sell some used Mineral Water Apparatus.




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