1877 Joseph M. Kavanagh, Coppersmith

January 8

A cold winter’s day at Kavanagh & Smith. Joe and his apprentice work hammer and tongs on a large cooking kettle. The work is still sparse. The Shop is still only open three days of the week. However, they have been regularly working one night late at Orient Distilling or one of the other distillers. This deal with Orient for maintenance has spread to several others. Still, the amount of money is just not there. George tells Joe he doesn’t think this is going to work for him. Joe understand his partner’s position, but encourages him to hold on a bit longer. To see how things go in the Spring when the weather breaks. George agrees.

March 25

The Kavanaghs attend mass at St. Vincent’s. They have a quiet relaxing day after church. The children out in the Spring sunshine playing on Albemarle Street. The adults discussing the news and family. Joe quietly listens, but he is distracted. The Shop is still struggling. Joe is still confident that the maintenance work in the distilleries will lead to something bigger. He doesn’t know how much time he has to wait though. He knows that George is ready to throw in the towel. He won’t try to dissuade his friend anymore. He knows George Smith has to look out for himself and his family.

May 2

Joe & George have lunch at the Shop. It’s a Wednesday. The Shop is still only opening, Mon., Wed. & Fri. George informs Joe that he has found an employment opportunity in NY. He has to take it. Joe listens and accepts what George has to do. They reach an agreement. Joe will take the little money he has set aside and buy out George. This concerns Joe, but he can not let George leave with nothing. He’s worried, but not overly. Again, Joe feels sure he’s going to some day be successful due to the quality of work he does on distilling equipment.

July 1

Kavanagh & Smith are dissolved. See the Baltimore Sun article below. George and Joe separate amicably. George will move his family and try his luck in the North. The firm will be known as Joseph M. Kavanagh, Coppersmith. For all intents and purposes, the Joseph Kavanagh Company is born on this day.

July 16

The B & O Railroad Strike begins in Baltimore. A third round of wage reductions is too much for the rail workers. They strike which starts a domino effect around the nation. Trains are left standing fully loaded. Some with perishable food items. Over the next several days, the strike gets bigger. More workers walk off the line as the B & O shows no signs of capitulation or cooperation.

July 21

The strike turns bloody. Overnight a riot and battle ensues. Local police and federal troops sent by Governor Carroll fire on the crowd. Things get very ugly and Baltimore slips into essentially marshall law. Federal troops are assigned to MD by President Hayes.

July 23

The City of Baltimore is in chaos. Coal is running low which impacts several other industries. There is no coal due to no trains so now those businesses have no work. In addition, bars and drinking houses are ordered closed. Though, some did and some did not. Enforcement on this was low. Still, Joe closes the Shop and it remains closed throughout the week. The unrest has spread across the country as the strike spawns like protests in Chicago, St. Louis and other cities. Federal troops are used to quell the unrest, but this strike is a stepping stone for the American Labor movement.

August 6

A sense of normalcy returns to Baltimore. Joe working with his one helper. He receives a message from Orient Distilling. One still has ruptured. It’s a mess. It needs replacement. Joe grins at HIS still in the corner. He tells the messenger he’ll be along shorty with a replacement. They load Joe’s still into the cart and deliver it. They stay late to install, but it’s working when they leave. Joe has sold his second still and this one at an “emergency” rate.

September 3

Joe is hard at work replacing the still he sold to Orient. They were thrilled at the expediency with which he replaced their damaged unit. Moreover, management informs Joe that his still works well and his rye is clearly more potent and at a higher proof then theirs. Joe knows this and accepts their accolades quietly. They tell Joe as time goes by, they would be most interested in using more of his design. Joe hires another worker. He begins a tradition that has been followed by the Shop for generations. When it comes to employees, grow your own. His oldest nephew, Martin, is 3 months shy of 15, but anxious to work. Joe takes him in and he becomes the second Kavanagh to work at the Shop.





After the disputed election of 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes is chosen as President after a compromise by Congressional Democrats and Republicans. The Indian Wars rage on. The first Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is held. Billy the Kid kills his first man. Thomas Edison invents the phonograph.

There are 38 states in the Union.

Dissolution of Kavanagh & Smith Co-partnership. Baltimore Sun July 27, 1877


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