1886 Joe and the Statue of Liberty

January 5

The Enoch Pratt Free Library opens its doors on Mulberry Street. Within a few months, several other branches open throughout Baltimore.

January 18

The Shop has stayed busy through the winter so far. The New Year is more of the same. Joe’s reputation for quality stills and distillery work is beginning to grow. The Shop has received some inquiries from distillers from Western Maryland and Southern PA. The workers are spread throughout the Lombard Street building on several stills. Two small 10 gallon units for patent medicines and one 40 gallon one for Hannis Distilling. Hannis is right up the road. Also on Lombard St. That will make the delivery and installation easier. Joe and his boys are working hard enough that the cold is easily ignored. Joe’s nephew, Martin, is gaining more and more confidence. Joe trusts him to run the crew, to take measurements for jobs and is allowing him the freedom to quote work to customers. Joe is hoping Martin’s progress will allow him to take a trip to New York this summer.

March 11

A very busy Monday. A wagon from Baltimore Copper Smelting arrives early and needs to be unloaded. They are stocking up on copper block and sheet due to the amount of work. Joe speaks to Martin. They are pretty busy with more work promised. Today it is a small steamship repair and more cooking vessels. Joe tells Martin to hire the first two men he can find.

April 15

The pedestal for the Statue of Liberty is completed. Within days, the construction and assembly of the Statue begins.

May 10

Joe makes plans to visit his brother, James, in New York. He wants to see James and his family, but just as much he wants to see this tremendous work being made in copper. Martin will run the Shop in his stead. Martin’s experience and the extra manpower helps Joe to decide to go. It is also a test for Martin. To see how well he will do on his own. Joe will go to NY next month.

June 5

Joe prepares for his trip on this sunny Saturday. He packs a small bag to take along with his tool box just in case. The Kavanaghs have received a letter from Young Joe, the traveling musician. His troupe is out west then heading to Canada again. Young Joe is also selling insurance where he goes. Anything to add to his pocket is good. Singing still isn’t paying very well yet. The family is happy to hear from him. They track his movements as best they can, but still wish he were home.

June 7

Joe arrives early for his train ride. Packed and ready to go, he bids his Mother and family goodbye. He’ll be back in several weeks. No more than a month. It must have been very exciting for Joe. His first real trip or vacation from the Shop in 20 years. Plus, he is very anxious to see the Statue. He has decided to offer his coppersmithing skills. He would love to take part in this amazing project. It is almost a coppersmith’s dream. He’s greeted by James who meets him at the station. Happy to see each other they head to Brooklyn. James and his family live at 273 E. 9th Street.

June 10

After spending a couple days visiting with the now Brooklyn Kavanaghs, James and Joe leave early this morning to head to the Statue. They walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. As the site and partially built Statue come into view, Joe is in awe. He has never seen anything like it. Unfortunately, they can not get any closer. The ferries are for workers only. Joe asks to speak to someone in authority. He converses with one of the foreman at the ferry. He says he is a coppersmith and would gladly take a job working on the Liberty Statue. He’s crestfallen when he is told that all of the coppersmith work was done in France. His offer is appreciated, but they need laborers. Workers of a more general sense rather than a tradesman such as Joe. He accepts this answer and heads back to Brooklyn with James.

June 11

After a night’s sleep, Joe decides to return to the site of the Statue and offer himself as a laborer. He is 50 years old now, but still a hard worker. He is confident he can help in some way and, in fact, they seem fairly desperate for help. This time he walks by himself across the bridge toting his toolbox with him. After a lengthy conversation with several supervisors, Joe is hired. He is ecstatic. They need the laborers, for sure, but it’s likely that Joe’s background with copper may have played a part. He joins a throng of other workers, mostly immigrants, on the ferry to Bedloe’s Island. At this juncture, the steel beams that support the structure have been erected from the pedestal. The Statue’s crew is busily unpacking its pieces and assembling them. The sections of “skin” must be raised by rope to their positions then attached to the beams. As a slightly senior worker, Joe is assigned to assist in the raising of the pieces. He is thrilled. He must know this is a big deal at least in size. Its historical effect may have eluded him. These workers knew it was a very important American event. They still could not look at it from our view. So very far in the future. Such a strong symbol of our nation that it is now.

June 12

This Saturday finds Joe working on Bedloe’s Island. He assists in some unpacking, but is primarily involved in rigging the pieces before they are elevated. Joe’s mechanical mind is evident to his foreman. He does have some metal skills. Joe works through the day all the while in wonder at the lady being built before him. He marvels as the younger gents hang by ropes to place the sections. The pedestal and structure are too wide for scaffolding. They work as safely as they can. Each day a few more sections are raised and attached. In Baltimore, Martin and the boys are pounding away at the Shop. Several distillers pay a visit. They speak with Martin about the Continuous Column Still that the Kavanaghs make. Martin invites the group out for a night of tasting some rye.

June 21

Joe takes his early long walk across the bridge to the ferry. He and his fellow workers continue the arduous task of assembly. The Statue is coming together now. Joe enjoys the work. He is not smithing, but he’s working with others. He feels a bond with these other fellows as he hasn’t felt in some time. He is concerned about the Shop, but trusts Martin. He will stay another several weeks. The Statue will not be finished by then. Joe knows he can’t stay away from his business much longer than that. Still, he unpacks crates, he rigs them safely and helps haul each piece to its position. He is not envious of the men hanging by ropes to attach them. That seems dangerous to him, though no one dies or is gravely injured during the entire construction phase of the Statue of Liberty.

June 29

Martin’s schmoozing may have paid off for the Shop. Several more stills are ordered. The work keeps rolling in and the crew stays busy. The Lombard Street building is a sweltering hot mess of heat, sweat and non-stop hammering. Martin knows his uncle will be happy. He also knows he might be a tad dubious of Martin drinking with potential customers. Joe is quite the expert on distilling. He enjoys a glass of whiskey sure, but not much more than a glass. Despite his skills in distilling, he’s a great believer in moderation.

July 4

Joe spends Independence Day with James and Martha Kavanagh and their children. New York is a big town. Their celebration of the 4th dwarfs the ones in Baltimore. Fireworks and parades and parties. Joe celebrates our nation’s independence while working on Liberty. Certainly, a holiday he will never forget.

July 8

Joe has decided to return to his home next Monday. He must get back to the Shop. He makes a point of staying long enough for the opening of the crate containing the Statue’s face. It’s not ready to go up, but he wants to see it. To touch it. He feels a strange pride in what he’s doing. He’s known pride in his work before, but after seeing it come together, I’m quite certain the scope of what they are doing is definitely getting through to him. I think it’s pride in being an American. That’s what he feels.

July 12

Joe leaves New York and returns to Baltimore. He has insisted that his brother and the family visit next year. James has promised they will. They will return to Albemarle Street next year and see all the Kavanaghs. Joe sits in thought on his ride home. He has changed. He has found his love for work again. He is enthused to get back to the Shop. To make it more successful. To do more work. Mostly, I think he feels more uniquely American now. Yes, he’s an Irish immigrant, but he also feels more American than he has ever felt before.

August 3

Joe has come back to work energized. He will always mourn his wife and child that were lost. But, he will focus his life on his family and his trade. On his Shop. He is a true smith. He loved his work and now he does again. Whether it was the work he did in NY or the trip itself, Joe feels better. He’s working today with several of his apprentices on a decorative brass railing. Some fancy engraving and leaf work on it. Martin has taken 2 boys on a distillery repair while the rest prep for another.

September 13

Another week of work begins at the Shop. The crew is working on the usual cooking vessels and still parts. This is augmented by a very large boiler repair job for E. J. Codd. Several boilers that need some tube and fitting replacements and a complete sets of brass bearings. The men work their way through the day. Saturday’s win by the Orioles over the Louisville Colonels is discussed. It’s another rough year for the Birds, but they’ve won three in a row. That’s something.

September 20

Rachel Uhlfelder gives birth to a daughter, Catherine. Martin is the girl’s father. They are not married. For this time, it was quite scandalous. The family is shocked. Patrick encourages his son to do the right thing. He makes it clear that Martin’s proper action should be to marry Rachel. Her parents decide to call Baby Catherine, Kitty.

October 28

The Statue of Liberty is unveiled and dedicated. (Coincidentally, 109 years in the future, I will be married on this day). President Grover Cleveland presides over the dedication ceremony. A raucous crowd cheers from across the harbor. Only dignitaries were allowed on Bedloe’s Island. A power plant is installed on the island to illuminate the torch. Lady Liberty stands 150 feet tall, holding out a light, a guide for those who seek our great land. She’s real and symbolic.

December 14

Martin Kavanagh marries (Mary) Rachel Ulfelder at St. Leo’s Church. They call her Mary essentially because it sounded Catholic. Rachel is a Jewish girl. Again, for this time, a bit scandalous and certainly out of the ordinary to marry out of your faith. The name Mary is used to conceal that somewhat. The family does attend. They are happy Martin and Mary Rachel are wed. Uncle Joe and Patrick both hope this will calm Martin down a bit. He’s a good worker, but a bit of a hard partier. Perhaps being a husband and father will change him.

December 25

Another Christmas with the Kavanaghs. Young Joe is home for a visit. Longer than before, as he will stay through the winter. He is not giving up on his musical dream, but rather taking a brief respite. He’ll try to sell some insurance in Baltimore for a bit. He doesn’t want to endure a Boston winter or a chilly tour of the Mid-West. The family relishes the holiday. Their time together. The spirit of the season and their shared faith. Joe smiles as he watches the younger Kavanaghs in mid-party. He has retold the story of his trip to NY many times. Over the generations, the details will get lost a tad. This one man of many working on this large creation is a microcosm of the Shop’s work. We do a small part of something. Almost never a big part. Some small piece to a greater project. Some tiny add-on. Still, we do our part as Joe did. Just one of many who worked together for something so grand. At the very least, he has touched the face of Liberty.

Grover Cleveland is the President of the United States. He becomes the only sitting President to be married in office. After the Haymarket riots, the 8 hour work day becomes standard for all American workers. Coca-Cola is invented. Al Jolson and Ty Cobb are born.

There are still 38 states in the Union.

Statue of Liberty courtesy of the National Park Service.

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