1894 Singing in Prison

January 7

Eugene Kavanagh weds Mary Ann Gribbin. The Kavanaghs gather and celebrate as another branch begins on their family tree.

January 8

It’s been a slow winter work wise, but the jobs never ran out. They do not have the backlog they enjoyed for the last two winters. Yet, they kept busy. Their standard jobs have rolled in and Joe had the boys make some stock items to fill in the time. They are well stocked on copper kettles and pans. They also have 2- 10 gallon stills ready for sale. One of those made almost entirely by Uncle Joe and Eugene. Joe teaching him all he can about the Column Still. The careful hammering and shaping of the copper to achieve the good even curves that are necessary for efficiency. Eugene is learning a lot. He is a very receptive apprentice and is becoming a talented coppersmith.

February 21

Four very large cooking pots and a 40 gallon still destined for Ohio are being made by Joe’s crew today. A nice bit of work to end the winter. Joe will be glad to see spring arrive. The winter, though not horrible, has been a good days/ bad days kind of season.

March 6

The Shop has its first telephone installed. An innovation that Joe probably still marvels at. It certainly will make it easier to communicate with customers. Assuming they have phones too. Most of the crew are working on pots and vats while Martin and three fellows do some repairs at Orient Distilling.

March 13

Mary Rachel Kavanagh gives birth to a boy. Martin J. Kavanagh Jr. Martin Sr. is particularly proud as this is their first son.

May 14

Steamship work is the order of the day at the Shop. Some small brass parts to be made, a small railing for the Bridge and a pump-chamber for the ballast tank. Another good job for Joe. The ship is docked for one week. The boys work hard and the items are finished on schedule.

April 7

Young Joe takes a train to NY. He has been invited to perform at a few small shows with his old troupe. Johanna tells Joe that these trips of his make it tougher for her. She has the two boys to raise and a boarding house to run. She encourages him to find steady work in Baltimore. He listens while nodding a lot and saying nothing. He is not nearly ready to give up on his musical aspirations.

June 4

James is finished school and will become a full-time Shop employee. The crew welcomes the youngster back especially his brothers. Joe will set to training James himself. He has had a taste of the Shop for two summers. He is more than ready to go to the next level. James jumps right into things by assisting Joe in making some custom pans for a commercial kitchen.

June 8

The Orioles have won 6 in a row including a 14 – 2 victory over the Louisville Colonels the previous day. The Shop’s workers are very excited about Baltimore’s baseball team this year. They seem hungry and very talented this year. Joe’s nephews, in particular, are huge fans and they follow the team every day. Joe receives an order for a 40 gallon still for Monticello Distilling. One of their oldest and best customers.

June 9

Joe makes a point of having his three nephews, Martin, Eugene and James, come into the Shop on this Saturday. He wants his nephews with him on this Monticello Still. So the Kavanagh boys tackle this one as a team. Joe loves every minute of it. He holds court explaining the Column Still system. His nephews are working together to get this job started. The younger two learning from their uncle and Martin, as well.

July 5

Young Joe sings at the MD Penitentiary. Reverend L. F. Zinkhan of the Prisoners’ Aid Society organized the event. Performers of a wide range were invited to attend. Singers and comedic actors primarily. Some members of Hinrich’s Opera Company were involved. Joe sang several solos and told a few jokes and funny stories. It was just a bit of entertainment for the incarcerated. A break from their normal life. The prisoners responded with much applause for each performance especially the humorous bits.

August 13

The dog days of summer are always tough at the Shop. The temperature is overwhelming when coupled with the heat of a torch in hand. The older employees have grown accustomed to it. The younger gents such as James are still adjusting. The heat will take a lot out of you, but it is the job. Today several beer vats are made for George Gunther’s Brewery. The vats are made by curving copper sheets then hammering them into a bowl shape. Two men use smithing hammers from the outside while another holds a wooden mallet on the inside to protect the vat from damage. They move in unison from one area of the vessel to another. It’s a slow process, but one that the Kavanaghs have gotten pretty good at pretty fast.

August 23

Young Joe has organized a group of his friends and fellow singers into a group. The Primrose Quartet is formed. Barrett, Diets, Gibbons and Kavanagh are the members. Joe and his band mates plan a trip to Philadelphia. Joe has some contacts at venues in Philly. They will play 8 shows in 2 weeks. A brief trip, but not bad for their inaugural tour. Johanna reluctantly agrees after informing Joe, once again, that it is getting more difficult for her to care for two small children while working at her mother’s boarding house.

September 10

The Orioles have won 16 in a row and will stretch the streak to 18 before losing. The crew of the Shop are excited following this team. They have an amazing offense. McGraw is back again adding base stealing to his game. He will swipe 78 this season. A young upstart name Willie Keeler hits a robust .371 and in 600 at bats he only strikes out 6 times. The team is stacked. The Kavanagh boys are ready to root this team on to a championship. The days do go by faster when a distraction such as baseball comes into conversation. The men talk about the players and the games. The work gets done. It seems almost effortless when you have other things to think about.

September 22

Eugene and Mary Ann welcome a daughter, Dorothy. Another baby in the family. That makes two this year. The Kavanaghs are happy, as always, to see their clan grow larger. Many back slaps and congratulatory handshakes are given to Eugene by his fellow workers. The Shop boys are not all Kavanaghs. They are all pretty close though. The older chaps enjoy seeing Eugene grow up and into fatherhood.

October 17

There is no joy in the Shop for the Orioles have lost the Temple Cup. The New York Giants are declared champions after sweeping the Birds 4 games to none. It does not matter that the Orioles won more games in the regular season. The Shop crew is not a happy crew. It’s only a game though and they muddle through it all. The employees spend most of the day working on a beer vat for Globe Brewing, the associated fixtures and valves, the usual commercial cookers and a brass decorative hotel handrail.

November 5

Joe and his workers enjoy a comfortable Indian summer day at the Shop. Cool, but not cold yet. They heat and hammer as they do every day. Today’s challenge is a large copper fountain. Two circles concentric to each other. In addition, the everyday jacket kettles and pots are made. The Shop’s work has leveled off. They are a bit busier than the start of the year. Who knows what the winter will bring, but the worst seems to be behind them now.

December 24

Joe’s Primrose Quartet sings on the Lombard Street Bridge. He encourages his friends to sing with him and they are happy to join in his tradition. They sing “O Holy Night” and several other Christmas songs. A small crowd of family and friends enjoys the performance. The chill air broken by their melodic voices and the tolling of church bells makes the holiday evening more festive. Johanna holds her sons’ hands as her husband sings. She loves to hear him sing, but his touring may be taking things to a tipping point between them. Regardless, a Merry Christmas is had by all.




Grover Cleveland is the President of the United States. Labor unrest due to the depression leads to Coxey’s Army marching on Washington in the first large scale American protest march. Also, there are May Day riots and the Pullman Strike. For the first time, Coca-Cola is sold in bottles. Norman Rockwell, Jack Benny and e e cummings are born.

There are still 44 states in the Union

1894 ad in Baltimore City Directory

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