1891 Joe and Jo

January 15

The winter has been mild so far and the work has been plentiful. Today, several beer vats are being fabricated for Brehm’s Brewing along with a 40 gallon still for Sherwood Distilling. Martin leads several boys on the still while Joe has the rest of the crew working on the beer vats. It is a beautiful sunny Thursday for January. Joe walks home at the end of the day, recounting the years that have passed since he opened his Shop. He can hardly believe how far they have come.

March 17

The Shop crew spends a day working on several pump-chambers. One for a steamship and one for a large boiler. They have a backlog of work of at least one month. Joe is astonished at the amount of jobs he has on the books. He feels very successful and secure for the first time since this Shop started. In the evening a raucous St. Patrick’s Day party is thrown on Albemarle Street. They celebrate their heritage, but also the impending wedding of Young Joe and Johanna. They gather at Patrick and Katherine’s home. They eat, drink and sing many songs led by Young Joe Kavanagh. Music and laughter fill the small row home. A celebration of family and good fortune. Young Joe is heading back to Boston for a few weeks. Several musical shows to do. He’s still living his musical dream though his marriage may change that.

April 9

Joe’s business is 25 years old today. He has grown from a two-man operation with his partner, George Smith, to a 15 man crew. He was a new tradesman trying to make it work in a small stall. Now, he has an established business with a good reputation in a great building. For this anniversary, Joe throws a small party at the Shop. Family, friends and employees have lunch together. Joe walks a few folks who are not familiar with his place through the building. Telling stories of jobs he’s done and items they have made. His pride shows, but he knows enough not to get caught up in that. Twenty-five years is no small amount of time. Certainly, worth a nice lunch.

May 31

Joseph Anthony Kavanagh marries Johanna Long at St. Thomas Aquinas Church. The family rejoices and shares in their happiness. Joe will continue his touring and his insurance sales, but will return to Baltimore as frequently as possible. Johanna will continue running her mother’s boarding house. A complicated arrangement, but one that they hope will work. Joe and Jo are my great-grandparents.

June 1

Eugene Kavanagh returns to work. He is finished with his schooling and ready to work full-time. Joe is excited to have him back. As much as Joe loves smithing, he finds particular pleasure in teaching his trade to others. Teaching his nephews is even sweeter for him. The Shop is full of copper kettles and vessels being hammered and shaped. More cookers are primarily today’s job. A steady stream of orders are flowing into the business. Joe’s confidence continues to grow as there seems to be no end to the work to be done.

August 14

Young Joe is in Philadelphia performing at a small theater with his troupe on a Friday night. He’s singing and appearing in some comedic skits. After the show, Joe is sitting at the bar sipping a glass of rye. In a chance encounter, he strikes up a conversation with one of the patrons. This man thanks him for a fine show and congratulates him on his singing talent. Joe is gracious. Thanking the man. He is a baseball player. He plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates who are in town playing a series against the Philadelphia Phillies. Joe is suddenly more interested. Besides music, Joe is a great fan of baseball. They drink and have a long chat about the game. The player invites Joe to be his guest at the park for Saturday’s game. The player is a catcher though he plays some first base occasionally. His name is Connie Mack.

September 5

The work week ends on a warm Fall Saturday. The crew finishing another still that will be installed at Orient Distilling next week. Joe’s reputation continues to grow in the distilling and now brewing industries. Joe decides to augment that a bit. He will place a large ad in several publications. Strike while the iron is hot is the old adage. He thinks that advertising might just spread the word further. Below is an early 1890s ad for Joe’s Shop.

September 11

Young Joe returns to the city. Johanna is happy to see him. They live in the boarding house she operates. He tells her stories of his trip, his tour and meeting Mr. Mack. She listens quietly then trumps his tales completely. She’s pregnant and due in the Spring.

November 12

Martin and Mary Rachel have a third daughter. She is named Loretta. Another baby with yet another on the way. The Kavanagh family just keeps growing.

November 20

Joe’s ads may be paying off. He has received three more orders for large stills. Two in Georgia and one in Ohio. Despite winter’s approach, Joe asks Martin to hire two more men. With Eugene working full-time, this brings the crew up to 18. Some days, 708 E. Lombard seems tiny with so many workers. Many days, however, several of the employees are out of the Shop. On sight. Installations and repairs take some of Joe’s boys out of the building regularly. Martin, in particular, seems to enjoy the trips out of state. Martin’s behavior sometimes gives Joe pause, but he can’t deny he’s a good worker and very good at schmoozing customers. That was never Joe’s forte.

December 24

Christmas Eve. Young Joe and several of his friends meet on the Lombard Street bridge after mass. Joe begins a holiday tradition that he keeps going for years. He and his pals sing “O Holy Night” while the neighboring church bells ring. A merry Christmas is had by the Kavanaghs. The golden age of the Shop is upon them. They don’t know it yet, but that is what is happening.




Benjamin Harrison is the President. The Wrigley Company is founded in Chicago. In New York, Tchaikovsky conducts the first public performance at the Music Hall later called Carnegie Hall. The escalator is invented by Jesse Reno. Thomas Edison demonstrates his kinetosope for the first time. Cole Porter, Fanny Brice and Henry Miller are born. Herman Melville dies.

There are 44 states in the Union.

Joseph M. Kavanagh, Coppersmith Ad, Early 1890s.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s