1901 The Last Best Year

January 28

The year has begun as last year left off. A lot of jobs and lots to do. Uncle Joe receives his usual work from the confectioners in January. Also, they have their stills and beer vessels to make. A cold Monday is the start of a laborious week. A great deal of their work is very redundant. The same thing sometimes day after day. It is broken up by the occasional odd item. A railing or a fountain, but most of what they do is very similar day to day. The Shop has a good crew led by a wise man. He has done all the things his workers do. He has heated and hammered just as they do. Perhaps, that gives him a more fair perspective of his employees’ jobs than other owners. I do know it gives him an understanding of the challenges his men deal with every day. That’s a good thing and it serves the Shop well.

March 17

A Sunday is spent celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. A large gathering of Kavanaghs on Albemarle Street for a party. Food, drink and music is enjoyed by all. Young Joe sings and coaxes the rest of his family to do the same. The music gene has passed from him to his sons. Leo(8) is learning to play the mandolin while Eddie(7) is being taught the piano by his father. Uncle Joe enjoys the party. He speaks quite a bit with his brother Patrick and Patrick’s wife, Katherine. They talk of the family and how it has grown. Also, how Baltimore has grown and changed. The brothers have lived in the City for 50 years now. The changes have come quick enough to surprise you, but slow enough to watch them happening. They have come so far from New Ross, County Wexford, Ireland. They are Americans now. Though on this day, they do feel particularly Irish.

April 26

This Friday brings back baseball and the Orioles. The newly formed American League Orioles play their first game. They beat the Boston Americans 10-6. John McGraw has returned as player/manager. Unfortunately, several of their better players have been poached by other teams. The fans are excited though. For sure, the crew of the Joseph Kavanagh Company are. They discuss this new league and how well McGraw and the boys will do this year. As far as jobs go, most of the crew are working on several large beer vats. These are for George Gunther’s Brewery and the Spring Garden Brewing Co. The rest are spread over smaller jobs. Pans and jacket kettles. Joe, himself, is working on three copper pitchers for a fellow St. Vincent’s parishioner. Joe has taken to attending to these smaller items. Usually brought in by an individual not a business. These are the things that Joe was doing when he started the Shop. It reminds him of his youth and simpler times. He is 65 years old now, but still a coppersmith.

June 22

A very hot Saturday finishes the week. Martin is in Connecticut to take the necessary measurements for a potential still job. Eugene is in Virginia with 3 boys working on an alcohol storage tank. James and Frank are at Orient Distilling making some drawings for an installation next week. The rest of the boys labor through a very hot day on Lombard Street. What they don’t know is that a historic heat wave has started. The longest hottest heat wave in the U. S. to date. It will last until the end of July.

July 6

Uncle Joe receives a letter from a Mr. M. H. Rosenberger in Hayfield, VA. Another possible small still repair/replacement. Joe replies to him that the unit should be shipped to the Shop. Better to ascertain what can be done. The still is too small for Uncle Joe to send one of his men. This would just be a “personal use” still. Alas, Mr. Rosenberger does not reply. Uncle Joe’s letter in response is at the bottom of this post.

July 15

Monday starts another sweltering hot week at the Shop. The heat and humidity are oppressive, but the work won’t do itself. Young Joe advises his uncle to have everyone start an hour earlier and knock off an hour earlier. You can get more done in the morning. By the afternoon, the heat wipes you out and the level of production goes down. Uncle Joe thinks it’s a good idea and that’s what they do. It’s not fun to wake up an hour earlier. It is a little cooler, but not much. Still, at the end of the day when you are heading home an hour earlier, that is a good feeling. They adjust the work schedule until things cool off. Most of this week is spent on steamship repairs. They have a flurry of them and must keep to a tight schedule. The pump-chambers, stacks and miscellaneous must be finished boat by boat as promised. As one is ready, it is delivered in the Kavanagh cart. Then, another boat’s needs are assessed. Each steamship taken care of one at a time.

August 1

The new month brings a much needed break in the heat. Finally, the temperature will allow the Shop to return to its standard hours. Young Joe is relieved. He hates the heat. He sings through the building as is his wont at times. Martin is in Alabama taking a look at a distillery that could be another customer. Eugene has a crew at Brehm’s Brewery fixing some leaking beer vats. Those left in the Shop are building another 40 gallon still and a complicated fountain. The fountain is irregularly shaped. Most are circular, but this one is more ovular. It takes more time, but it’s certainly within their abilities.

September 6

President McKinley is shot in Buffalo, NY by Leon Czolgosz. A self-proclaimed anarchist. The news hits the Shop late in the day. Joe and his crew are stunned. McKinley survives, but is gravely wounded. The Kavanaghs, like most Americans, pray for the life of the president and for justice against his attacker.

September 14

President William McKinley dies on this Saturday. Theodore Roosevelt succeeds him as President. The Kavanaghs are saddened. Uncle Joe sends his crew home. A national mourning begins.

October 7

The Shop’s crew are all over the place today. Martin, James and 3 others are in NY installing a still. Eugene and 6 men are in Richmond, VA repairing a storage tank. Frank and 2 of the older workers are at Wiessner’s Brewery in Highlandtown doing some repairs. The remaining fellows are fabricating some drip pans and smaller distilling items. The work keeps piling up and there seems to be no end in sight. The Kavanaghs are disappointed this year as the Orioles settle for a 5th place finish in their first American League season. The Chicago White Sox win the AL pennant. The Pittsburgh Pirates the NL pennant. A planned championship series between the two leagues is canceled. The two leagues are in dispute about player contracts and money. There is no world champion of baseball this year.

November 23

James Kavanagh marries Honorah Divine. A wedding is always a cause for celebration. The family are happy to welcome her into the fold.

November 28

The Kavanaghs celebrate Thanksgiving. Like most Americans, a grand feast and a gathering of family. They meet at Patrick and Katherine’s home on Albemarle Street. A day devoted to expressing gratitude for the gifts and good fortune they have received. Uncle Joe is happy to be with his family at his brother’s house. He certainly has a great deal to be thankful for. The Shop has again had its best year. The company is continuing to expand its area of customers. They range from Georgia to Connecticut now. Joe knows this will not last forever, but he is very sure that the business is strong enough now to withstand any economic depression or bad luck. They are more than established. They are one of the standards to which distillery work is held. And copper work in general. They are riding a great wave of success and will try to do so as long as it lasts. The Golden Age of the Shop.




Teddy Roosevelt becomes the 26th President after McKinley’s assassination. U. S. Steel is incorporated by J. P. Morgan. Several months later, 14,000 of their workers strike. Oil is discovered in Beaumont, Texas. Force, the world’s first breakfast cereal, is invented. Annie Taylor rides over Niagara Falls in a barrel and survives. McKinley’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz is executed by electric chair. Louis Armstrong, Ed Sullivan and Walt Disney are born.

There remain 45 states in the Union.

Response to inquiry about still job July 9, 1901

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