1903 The Train Crashes

January 12

A cold Monday to start a cold week. So far, the Shop is doing well. The usual winter swathe of candy and ice cream companies needing kettles repaired and replaced. Joe and his crew hammer and heat copper as they always do. January is a good month for torch work. The workers are a bit down as the City of Baltimore received some bad news. The Baltimore Orioles franchise has folded. At the end of last year, financial problems forced the league to assume control of the team. Subsequently, the American League decided to shut the team down. A new team will replace them. A team in a much bigger market. New York. The team will be called the Highlanders and eventually become the Yankees. The Kavanaghs and the rest of the crew were very much Orioles’ fans. Now, that comes to an end. No more baseball will mean a part of their summer is gone. It is just a game, but will be missed greatly by the Shop and its crew.

February 9

Today the main focus of the workers are some spiral coils. They are made from copper tube which was fabricated by the Shop. The tubes are then curved and spiraled. These are for a food service application. The customer is Crown, Cork & Seal. The Joseph Kavanagh Co. will do work for this company for the next 90 years. Also, Eugene has two gents with him at Brehm’s Brewery. A seam needs to be fixed in one of the large beer vessels. They must climb a ladder up and into the vat. Then go about soldering the damaged seam. An easy job, but for the challenge of not damaging the vessel while working inside it.

Entry from Uncle Joe’s last job book. Referencing coils made for Crown, Cork & Seal. 1903

March 30

Martin and James are in Pennsylvania. They are measuring the dimensions of a distillery. In order to properly bid a still, they need to know the size of the building and how high are the ceilings. These numbers are how they design the still to fit and maximize its efficiency. Each large still they make is custom to each distillery. The other fellows are producing some large jacket kettles for cooking. These are always in demand. A comfortable warm Spring day passes.

March 31

James is happy to be back to Baltimore because his first child is born today. Honorah gives birth to a son, John Guy Kavanagh. Another Kavanagh baby brings joy to the family.

May 2

The crew are working on their usual kettles and cookers on this Saturday. Eugene is in Connecticut taking measurements at the Warehouse Point Distilling Company’s building. He left Thursday and was due back last night. He hasn’t arrived at the Shop yet as the morning gets later. Around 11 am, Uncle Joe receives a telegram from A. J. Collins & Co. They are undertakers. There was a train wreck in South Norwalk, Conn. Eugene was killed at approximate 5:40 pm the day before. The Kavanaghs are stunned. They can not believe that this young man, father of five, is gone. Their brother. Uncle Joe’s nephew. The family is thrown into a deep shock of grief and disbelief. James Kavanagh calls the undertaker using the long distance line. They inform him that Eugene was identified by his uncle’s business card which was found in his pocket. Arrangements are made to return the body to Baltimore. Eugene’s funeral is at St. Elizabeth’s Church and he is buried at New Cathedral. He is the first Kavanagh employed at the Shop to die.

July 20

A rush steamship repair is finished today. Four ballast pump-chambers are built in three days. Quite a bit of work in a short time. The Shop has been making these for years so it’s just a question of working harder and longer to get the job done. Frank fixes a leaky valve at Melvale Distilling. Several months have passed since Eugene’s death. The shock has begun to wear off. The brothers were close and it was a blow to them. This tight knit unit missing one of its own. They have each other. Uncle Joe struggles a bit more. Not as a parent, but as close as you can get to one. He was close to Eugene in his own way because of the depth of their skills that they shared as smiths. Eugene was Joe’s prized pupil. A talented coppersmith who learned fast. Joe can only rest on his faith.

September 5

Joe and his boys are busy on this Saturday. James and Frank perforate some copper sheets for Monticello Distilling. Their oldest distillery customer. A straight forward repair. The perforated copper sheets are used as “drop sheets” in the still. Multiple layers of these sift the slop. Hastening the production of the vapors that essentially become the alcohol. Martin is in Atlanta. Another trip to measure a distillery building. The Younger Joe fields a call from a John Guenster. He is supplying cooking equipment for several businesses that are opening cafeterias on site. He orders six- 100 gallon jacket kettle cookers. Those are the biggest they make. The work is still there though not quite at the pace it was two years ago.

December 10

Sharp & Domme orders two percolators. One of several variations of jacket kettles. The Kavanaghs’ standard fare. A fountain project is begun. James and Frank heat and bend some thin copper into tubes. They bend the tubes into rings and drill holes. A careful process to make for a smooth curve. It is just as much their “standard fare”. Pure coppersmith work. Using a blow-pipe(torch) to heat the copper until it glows orange then slowly bending it as you can. The water is pumped through and sprays out of the holes. Pretty straight forward but, laborious. Joe taught them well. He taught them all well. Young Joe, alone, was not a coppersmith. He too learned from his uncle just not the smithing work. He quickly adapted to the business and its services. Knowing much more than what was just necessary for the job. For Martin, Eugene, James and Frank it was different. Uncle Joe spent particular time in each of their training. It was more than apprenticeship. It was tradition and the passing of skills and a way of life. Eugene was a talented smith. He was adept and knowledgeable in both the distilling and beer-brewing industries. He grew up around it all. Around the Shop. Around his uncle. Joe was always proud of all his nephews, but Eugene was his first student as an older man. The span of years between Martin and Eugene is 10 years. In that time, Joseph M. Kavanagh had truly become a master of his craft. The loss of Eugene was very tough for him. There is no doubt.




Teddy Roosevelt is the President of the United States. Orville Wright flies his airplane in Kitty Hawk, N.C. The U. S. gains exclusive rights to the Panama Canal Zone. The first Teddy Bear, the first model A Ford and the first box of Crayola Crayons are sold. Eliot Ness and John Dillinger are born.

There are still 45 states in the Union.

Uncle Joe’s last job book. 1903-1904. This book survives the Great Baltimore Fire because it was small and Joe kept it in his coat pocket.





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