1883 Copper vs. Music

February 5

Another cold winter’s day in the Shop. They have work, but not nearly the amount they’ve had for the last several years. Still, Joe’s 9 man crew are busy. Today, it’s more cooking vessels and some overflow pans for Orient Distilling. Joe prefers to work alone. Making the pans while Martin and the other men deal with the rest. Joe’s not much better. He’s still in mourning. He throws all he has into his work. Keeping himself busy helps to keep him from thinking about Mary and their child.

April 9

Today is the 17th anniversary of the Shop. It passes with no celebration or fanfare. It’s an accomplishment certainly. Not of the order of 152 years, but still an impressive achievement. They are making some man-hole covers for stills. These give access to the still during production. They get a lot of wear and tear. They do have to be replaced occasionally. Joe decides to make a few to have in stock. A good use of some slow time and a good idea to have them on hand for quick repairs.

May 6

Another Sunday service at St. Vincent De Paul Church. The Kavanaghs pray and worship. Patrick’s wife, Katherine, is expecting again. Another baby on the way for the family. Joe is still struggling with his loss. His faith and his family sustain him and aid him.

May 25

In France, Edouard Laboulaye dies. He was a french statesman and author. Laboulaye is the man who first dreamed up the idea of the Statue of Liberty. The idea of the United States as a bastion of freedom and liberty for the world. The work on the statue continues in Paris led by sculptor Frederic Bartholdi and engineer Gustav Eiffel. Joe reads of Laboulaye’s death in the newspaper. He’s an immigrant and a coppersmith. A giant copper statue would, of course, pique his interest at least a little.

June 18

The Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company is founded. Eventually, this will be shortened to simply, C & P. Telephone service is on the way to Baltimore. Another innovation and new technology that will change the life of every resident. The effects of these new devices will be both immediate and long term. Whether it be phones, electric lights or vehicles, Baltimore and all of America will never be the same.

July 3

Frances Aloysius Kavanagh is born. The ninth and final child of Patrick and Katherine. The family is thankful and excited for a new baby. Frank, as he is called, is over 20 years younger than his oldest brother, Martin.

July 25

It is Young Joseph A. Kavanagh’s 17th birthday. The family enjoys a pleasant meal together. Afterward, the Kavanagh men, Uncle Joe, Patrick and brother Martin, enjoy a toast or two with Young Joe. Rye, of course. They discuss Young Joe coming to work at the Shop. Joe declines to his uncle, father and brother’s chagrin. He informs them that he is serious about working as a musician. He’s now been singing and playing the piano for 10 years. He sings at church and local events. Whenever he can. He wants to see the world and be an entertainer. His father and mother have long enjoyed his musical talents, but had no thoughts of it being a profession. The conversation grows a bit heated. The elder Kavanagh men emphasize to Young Joe how difficult a life of music could be. They assure him of the importance that the security of the coppersmith trade can provide. Plus, the benefits of working for family. Joe is unmoved. He’s determined to give it a shot. Though disappointed, his family gives their blessing at the urging of his mother. Katherine loves her children dearly and she wants nothing more than for Young Joe to be happy.

August 18

On this Saturday, Young Joe boards a train to Boston. He’s heard of a theater that has opened there for something they are calling vaudeville. Music, singing and acting on one stage. His parents wish him well. Along with Uncle Joe, they give the young man some cash to find lodging and meals. They are all concerned, but supportive. They make Young Joe promise to return or let them know if he is in need of anything. He guarantees he will be fine and keep in touch. He’s nervous, but beyond excited to pursue his dream. The train pulls away while a weeping Katherine waves goodbye to her second son.

September 10

Another Monday to start a week of work. The Shop is still plodding along. With work, but hardly swamped. Joe decides to finish closing in the back of the Shop’s plot. To complete the building. It will be a wise use of this idle time and give them the room they need. Joe knows the work will come back soon in full force.

October 3

The construction is complete on the Shop. The rear of the property is completely enclosed. 16 W. Lombard Street is now approximately 40 feet wide by 140 feet long. Plenty of room to grow and with winter on its way a good investment against the coming weather.

November 15

Joe works alone on a small still for one of the local patent medicine companies. He still prefers to work by himself. He’s slowly healing, but seems in a fog some days. Despite himself, his thoughts are consumed by his lost love. Work is the best distraction he has. Martin leads the rest of the crew on an extensive repair job for a steamship. This one is not the usual rush as the ship is docked for several weeks. Some wood repairs are being done for the deck, as well. This affords the Shop a little more time to fix the stacks. In addition, some repair and clean up is down on the brass gauges. True brazier work. Martin takes care of those himself.

December 5

An early heavy snowfall hits Baltimore. The Shop works through it, as always. Martin and Joe have a long discussion. They are both worried about the decreased volume of work that will likely be worse through the winter. Martin encourages Joe to let several of his workers go. Joe refuses. He will not run the risk of losing a skilled tradesman. He’s invested a great deal of time in teaching and training them. He won’t “start over” again when the work returns. He tells his nephew that they must wait. They must ride out the hard times and the winter. Once again, hoping for a better spring.




Chester A. Arthur is the President. In Boston, B.F. Keith opens the second story of his Gaiety Museum for musical performances. The first vaudeville theater. The Brooklyn Bridge is completed and opened for traffic. The first rodeo is held in Pacos, Texas. American and Canadian railroads establish 5 time zones in North America.

Still 38 states in the Union.

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