1907 The Joseph Kavanagh Company

January 7

The winter so far has continued as last year went. The Shop is busy for several weeks than slow for the next couple. The same pattern of ups and downs. Today the crew work on the usual January confectionery kettles.

January 15

James and Honorah have another son, James. He is born this day and named for his father. The family rejoices. Another Kavanagh baby.

February 10

Another clandestine Sunday night dinner meeting at Joe’s house on Bond Street. They go over their plans again, but this time Joe suggest that they name the new business, the Joseph Kavanagh Co. To honor Joe and to also take advantage of his and the Shop’s good reputation. Joe thinks Martin is destroying this reputation. James wants to call it, the Kavanagh Brothers or something similar. Joe pushes for the Joseph Kavanagh Company. He believes they can use the name to catch on quicker with old customers. The reputation that Joe had carried a lot of weight. Frank agrees with Joe that this will help them stand out. Otherwise, they are just like any shop that might open up. The discussion is long, but they eventually agree to the Joseph Kavanagh Co. James is mostly persuaded when Frank mentions how much this will annoy and anger Martin. Perhaps, the fact that Johanna is putting up the money was a factor too. Joe updates them on his search for a building. No luck so far, but he has some leads.

March 29

It is Good Friday and Joe has found a place on Central Avenue. The 200 block. A small building which might be perfect for them to start. He pays for three months of rent in advance. The brothers have slowly taken some tools from the Shop. Not many, just some hammers, tongs and clamps. One blow-pipe. Joe will take last year’s ledger before they break with Martin. Just before it happens. He will not take the present book as Martin would surely notice. It has plenty of blank pages and it does have drawings, pricing and customer information. All things they will need. Each brother continues to memorize and write down customer names and addresses as they can.

April 15

Joe returns from work on this Monday. He tells his wife, Johanna, that they will leave a week from today. When Martin arrives, they will meet with him as a group and tell him. Then, they will leave and immediately head to Central Avenue and get to work. Joe tells her the new Shop will be open next Monday. She tells him that she is pregnant with their fourth child.

April 19

Joe takes last year’s ledger. Quietly slipping it into his satchel as he leaves on Friday. They have not been working Saturdays due to the irregular volume of work. The boys take their pay and head home for the weekend.

Job ledger from Martin’s Shop year 1905. Taken by Joe Kavanagh to be his first ledger for his Shop. April, 1907.

April 22

Martin arrives at the Shop at 9:00 a.m. Joe gets up from his desk and calls James and Frank into the office. Joe tells Martin the three of them are quitting as of today. Martin is stunned. They tell him it just is not working for them. They are not making enough money and they have to move on. Martin appeals to their sense of family. Their loyalty to Uncle Joe and the Kavanaghs. Joe answers that they are doing what they think is right for their families and for Uncle Joe’s legacy. He informs Martin that they are forming their own coppersmith Shop. Joe relinquishes all claims to Kavanagh-Brass. They are leaving today and are finished working for Martin. Martin begins to grow angry and starts asking each brother in turn why they are doing this. Joe is spokesman, but all three tell Martin that they are leaving. They can not work for him anymore. Finally, Joe tells Martin the new business will be called the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Martin becomes enraged and shouts that they can not do that. Joe says they certainly can. It is a different name than his Shop’s name. They can and are doing it. Besides, he is Joe Kavanagh. Martin screams at Joe that he is not Joe. You’re not even a coppersmith. If anything, Martin says he is Joe. Joe quickly replies that when customers and vendors call they talk to him. To Joe Kavanagh. When jobs are quoted and completed, they pass over his desk. Martin, again, says you are not Joe. You are not our uncle. Joe says neither are you and motions to James and Frank. They file out of 7th & Gough. Martin pursuing them red-faced and swearing. The brothers walk away from the Shop without looking back. The last thing they hear is Martin screaming, “YOU’RE NOT JOE!”

The boys walk quickly and do not speak for a few minutes. When they do talk, it is of what they have to do more than what has just happened. They know that they have their work cut out for them. They are resolute in their decision. They know there is no turning back now anyway. They arrive at 217 S. Central Avenue. The small Shop is approximately 25 foot by 50 foot. Not much room, but enough to work. Joe hands the first order they have to James. They are making some brass legs for a still. The price is $ 3.50. The customer is Lewis Elmer & Son. One of Joe’s better customers who he brought to the Shop. He is happy to start with folks that know him and are accustomed to working with him. James and Frank get to work and Joe calls the customer. He informs them that they have broken from Martin and are on their own. They are finishing his parts right now. They can be picked up this afternoon on Central Avenue. The brothers have done it.

The first job the Joseph Kavanagh Company receives on Central Avenue. April 22, 1907.

April 29

Martin places an ad in the Baltimore Sun that states that Joe, Frank and James Kavanagh are no longer associated with his business. He is still mad and has taken their departure as a disloyal betrayal. He is sure they will regret it and come back to him. He is searching for work. He has some small still parts in the Shop. They are primarily running extra whiskey. Martin has a buyer for this cheap “hooch” and he needs the cash. He sells it to “wholesalers” and to bars/pubs who dabble in cheap unlabeled booze.

Ad purchased by Martin Kavanagh after his brothers resign. Baltimore Sun. April 29, 1907.

May 20

The new Shop has survived nearly a month. Joe works the phones to get work. They have a little, but not much. Today they are repairing a copper coil. Again, for Lewis Elmer & Sons. Joe is thankful for them. He is running into a few customers who will not deal with him. Martin has called and said the three brothers abandoned him and went rogue. Joe denies the first part, but accepts the second part. He makes his pitches to folks that he has the best engineer and the best smith that Martin had. They are at this Shop. He will keep at it to get any work they can. Martin has hired another smith and two helpers. Even with diminished work, he needs the help. It is not as easy as he thought to replace his brothers.

June 1

Joe receives a call from Gibbs Candy. One of their confectionery customers. They have a kettle to repair. This work is primarily done in the winter, but they always did get the occasional repair through the year. He quotes the job and they will receive an order in one week.

July 31

The new Shop receives its largest order yet. Martin Wagner, a small distillery needs a 150 gallon storage tank. Joe is excited to get something more substantial. The material is purchased and the tank is fabricated in a few days. Joe is getting a little more confident that the new Shop will succeed. The volume of work is heading in the right direction.

August 22

Joe quoting more and work is picking up. Martin’s shop is in a slow lull. He has a six man crew now and he has to pay these men, but he is having trouble keeping regular work in the shop. He sells whiskey, more and more, but seems to make less money on each batch. He is passing word on to his customers not to be fooled by his brother, Joe. Martin is Uncle Joe’s successor and the true Joe. He tells this to his friends and anyone he can at any opportunity.

October 10

The Joseph Kavanagh Company receives their first big still job since the split. Carroll Spring Distillery needs a new 100 gallon still and all the associated parts. This is a good chunk of work that will keep James and Frank busy for several weeks. In that time, Joe hopes the smaller work comes in to give them a backlog and a cushion of jobs.

October 12

The Chicago Cubs defeat the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. They win four out of five with one game ending in a tie after 12 innings. The Tigers are led by breakout star, Ty Cobb. Cobb leads the A. L. in hits and batting average at .350. The Cubs pitching is dominant though limiting the Tigers to just three runs in the five games.

November 30

Johanna gives birth to Anna, her fourth child. Joe and Jo are happy to bring their second daughter into the family. Another baby adding to this always growing brood. Jo and Johanna now have Leo (15), Eddie (14), Alice (10) and the new baby, Anna. The older kids have all followed the Kavanagh tradition of music. Leo plays the mandolin. Eddie and Alice play the piano like their father, Joe. Joe discusses his boys working for the Shop with Johanna. She answers that they need to be in school and will stay in school. However, they could work there in the summer as the older Kavanaghs have done. Joe agrees. They can start their apprenticeship next summer.

December 24

After a cold Tuesday at work, the three Kavanagh brothers and their families gather on the Lombard Street bridge. Joe leads his brothers in his traditional singing of “O Holy Night”. They were close, but what they have done this year has made them even closer. As a sign of solidarity or just family, James and Frank decide to join Joe. Both are musicians as are many Kavanaghs. James plays the piano and Frank the violin. Martin is not there. He has had a very troublesome year. The work from his Shop has dropped in quality. Despite selling his whiskey, he is not making much money. His crew is inexperienced and not particularly reliable. Joe’s Shop has had a slow start, but they have persuaded a few customers to send work to them. Martin is the more established business. Joe is doing his best to change that. The break between the brothers causes a huge crack in the family. Sides are drawn up and cousins suddenly do not speak. It has a ripple effect over the Kavanaghs. Martin can not forgive his brothers for what they have done. They are positive they have done the right thing. Martin was leading the Shop down a dangerous path. They have decided to take their own road. The war for the Shop and the legacy of Uncle Joe has begun.




Teddy Roosevelt is the President of the United States. He appoints General George Washington Goethals as chief engineer of the Panama Canal. Hersheypark opens in PA. UPS is founded. This is the biggest year ever for immigration at Ellis Island. 1.1 million immigrants pass through its doors. An economic panic is averted when a group of affluent financiers including J. P. Morgan bail out the New York Stock Exchange for 25 million dollars. This leads to the formation of the Federal Reserve System. An electronic ball falls for the first time in Times Square on New Years. Cesar Romero and Burgess Meredith, Batman’s Joker and Penguin, are born.

The Oklahoma Territory is combined with Indian lands and is admitted to the Union. Oklahoma becomes the 46th state.

Ad for Martin Kavanagh’s Shop. Polk’s City Directory. 1907.



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