1908 Shop Vs. Shop

January 6

The Joseph Kavanagh Company’s Shop is starting its first full year. They have some work, but not a lot. Joe is scrambling, making calls to get some of their confectionery work into the building. Martin’s Shop has more of that work right now. Martin’s crew seems to be fluctuating a great deal. He hires men then loses or fires them in quick order. Joe is running into issues with his Shop’s experience. Martin has made it known that his brothers have a new Shop and it is not established and reliable like his. Joe is doing his best to fend off any concerns about their lack of experience by making promises of their quality. Today James and Frank make some small boiler parts for Fressdorf & Brown Co. It was a bit of a rush so they needed to start on Sunday the fifth. The rush status means they can charge a bit more money.

March 2

Joe is making more cold calls to customers of the old Shop. He is hearing more about Martin criticizing he and the other brothers. They were not loyal and they do not have the experience to succeed. Martin has harsh words for all three of the brothers, but the strongest are for Joe. Martin plays up that Joe is not a coppersmith and questions how good could they be with a non-smith running the Shop. Joe deals with it as best he can. Deflecting and making assurances of their quality. He emphasizes Frank and James skills and experience to any potential customers. It is a daily battle for Joe, but he has managed to find them work to get them off to a good start to the year. Today the brothers make some cooking kettles and pans. No big jobs, but plenty to do.

April 27

Baltimore Distilling calls Joe. They have a fairly extensive repair job to be done. Joe knows that they have called Martin, as well. Fortunately, Joe is very familiar with Martin’s pricing system. Joe bids below that and wins the contract. This will keep them busy for several weeks along with the small jobs they have been receiving. Joe gives thought to hiring some new help. He discusses it with James and Frank. They decide to wait and see how things go in the summer. Joe’s two boys will start their apprenticeship after school lets out. They will decide after they see how the Summer goes.

April 30

Joe’s Shop fabricates a brass railing for James O’Neill at 116 W. Barre St. A rather fancy rail for a residence, but the Kavanaghs are happy to do it. They curve the brass to the desired radius and shape. They polish it using their own “metal polish” from Uncle Joe’s recipe. Joe is pleased to receive any job from a new customer though Mr. O’Neill will likely be just a one-off. You never know. Perhaps, James O’Neill will return at some point. Joe is still struggling to fight off Martin’s disclaimers about the new Shop. He is getting more and more perturbed with Martin. They have not spoken in over a year.

The Shop’s recipe for “metal polish”. 1908.

May 1

American Mirror Co. hires the new Shop to repair some of their equipment. Another small job, but those add up. Some standard copper boxes and fittings. Very straightforward for them. Another new customer and that is certainly a good thing.

June 1

Leo and Eddie Kavanagh begin working at the Shop for the summer. Joe is pleased to have his boys working for him. His brothers are happy to have the help. They start like most apprentices at the Shop. A broom is handed to them on Day One. Assuming you master that in a day or two, then a more purposeful tool replaces it. Joe asks both James and Frank to be involved in the young boys training. They both agree. It is vital that they have helpers, but just as vital that they be trained smiths. The sooner the better.

June 9

Carroll Spring Distillery gives Joe a phone call. They need a bottling machine built. The Shop gets right on it. This is some good old school coppersmith work. A good start for Leo and Eddie. They both watch closely as James makes the drawings for the machine. James was always a talented draftsman. As the project moves forward, Frank moves to front and center. He heats and hammers. Shaping the copper sheet into panels, boxes and curves for the bottling apparatus. Fittings and tubes are fabricated and attached. All the while, Joe’s sons, taking note and helping where they can. They are taking their first steps on the path of the copper trade. It is a long process, but the boys both learn fairly quickly.

July 15

The Shop quotes a job to Mullan and Harrison. They are a marble company that has been contracted to make a baptismal fount. Joe gives them a price for the copper work associated with it. In two weeks, they receive an order. The summer so far has moved along busily. They are not swamped, but considering the size of their crew, they are doing well.

Ledger entry for the copper parts of a baptismal fount made for Mullan & Harrison. July 15, 1908.

August 27

Joe hears from Gwynnbrook Distillery. The same Gwynnbrook Distillery that Martin and Co. built just two years ago. Joe listens as the gentleman explains that the 7 ft. Dia. still that was installed needs some repairs. There are some leaks. It also need a new man-hole cover. It is nothing serious, but they need the work done. They have called Martin several times to no avail. There is either no answer or a promise of a call-back which never happens. They want someone to visit them, take appropriate measurements and quote the repair. Joe dispatches James and Leo immediately. James makes some quick sketches aided by Leo. They quote the price and the next day they are awarded the job. Frank and Eddie head to the distillery and take care of the necessary repairs. Frank doing the bulk of the work while Eddie assists him. Joe is glad that both his boys have the opportunity to work on-site at a distillery before the summer ends.

Job ledger entry for repair to Gwynnbrook 7 ft. Dia. Redoubling still. August 27, 1908.

September 3

Martin calls Joe at the new Shop about Gwynnbrook. Martin is very upset, but Joe stays very calm. Joe tells Martin they called him and not vice versa. You either couldn’t be bothered to answer the phone or to call them back. Martin answers back that he is just very busy. He is doing great. He rattles on how much better his Shop is doing. Joe and the other brothers will regret leaving him. He then threatens to make as much trouble as he can for Joe. He will continue telling customers how disloyal the brothers are. Joe is unconcerned. He tells Martin you’ve been doing that all along and we are still here. We are doing what we want and will do any work we can get. Martin hangs up in a huff. Joe discusses this call with James and Frank over lunch. They all agree that they can not let Martin deter them. What Martin failed to tell him is that he has been borrowing from the Second National Bank to pay his bills. To keep a larger crew and to pay his rent. The brothers know nothing of this. They speak of hiring some men. Joe’s sons are back at school and they still have enough work to warrant helpers. It is a tricky decision with the winter on its way. They all agree they need to hire now. They hope to be able to ride out the winter, but working with just the three of them is impractical. They hire two young helpers, a Mr. Carey and a Mr. Aumen.


The Chicago Cubs beat the Tigers for a second year in a row in the World Series. The Cubs are able to hold down the Tigers’ mighty offense. Ty Cobb has a better World Series than last, but cannot do enough to make the difference. The Cubs win again, but for the last time in a very long time.

November 3

Republican Howard Taft defeats Democrat William Jennings Bryant to win the presidency. Bryant loses a presidential election for the third time. The Kavanaghs voted for Taft. They were Republicans at the time and very much supportive of outgoing president, Teddy Roosevelt. Taft rides Teddy’s coat-tails to an easy victory.

November 21

Joe is receiving more resistance due to Martin’s claims of their inefficiency and lack of skill. He is a good salesman, but he knows he could do better if Martin would back off. That is not going to happen. Joe grows angrier with his older brother. He orders copper sheet and block from Baltimore Copper Smelting. As he finishes the call, the man on the other end of the line confirms they are on Central Avenue not Gough Street. Joe says that is correct. The gentleman asks about the bill. Joe pauses then advises him to send the bill to Gough and 7th Streets. Attention of Martin J. Kavanagh. Joe thanks him then puffs on his pipe and smiles.

November 26

Martin receives the bill for Joe’s copper and goes ballistic. He rages in his Shop which is not nearly as busy as he has inferred to his brother. He promptly takes an ad in the Baltimore Sun proclaiming that he will not pay anyone’s debts, but his own.

Martin takes an ad in the Baltimore Sun. November 26, 1908.

December 5

On this Saturday, Joe visits Baltimore Copper Smelting to pay his bill. He always intended to pay it. He sent the bill to Martin out of spite and for his own personal satisfaction. No doubt it did also buy him a little more time, but the main reason was clearly revenge against Martin.

December 24

The three youngest Kavanagh brothers sing “O Holy Night” on the Lombard Street Bridge as they did the previous year. They then gather at Bond Street for the holiday. A night of yuletide fun and music is held. Joe, James and Frank and their families eat, sing and celebrate. They play music together. Piano, mandolin and violin are combined with all of their voices. The Kavanaghs enjoy this time together. Martin is not invited, but his oldest daughter, Kitty, is. She has always been close to Joe and she accepts. My guess is that Martin did not know. The Kavanaghs brothers have made it this far on their own. Martin’s company seems to be fine, but his debts are beginning to pile up. Joe is still unsure how much success they will achieve. They will work together as hard as they worked for Uncle Joe. The next several months will be a test of the viability of their new Shop. As always, so much depends on how they do over the coming winter.



Teddy Roosevelt is the President. Mother’s Day is observed for the first time. The first automobile race around the world is run. Henry Ford sells his first Model T at $850.00. The upright vacuum cleaner is invented. The FBI and General Motors are founded.

Bette Davis, Jimmy Stewart, Louis L’Amour, Mel Blanc, and Milton Berle are born.

There are 46 states in the Union.

An ad for both Shops. Martin’s by far the larger. Polk’s City Directory. 1908.



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