1916 And Then There Were Two

January 3

The first Monday of the year is a cold one and it starts at 7:30 a. m. The work has continued into the new year. The crew does any torch work they can in the morning. It will heat the place up a bit. The Shop is full of confectionery kettles to be made and a variety of replacement parts for stills. Copper sheets are heated and curved to make the kettles. The bottoms and tops fabricated and attached. Drip pans, valves, fittings and assorted other parts are made for the distillery repair jobs that are scheduled for this month. The Kavanaghs talk about the holidays and the family. Gussie has stayed ill and they are all concerned. Of course, Frank most of all. He has had the doctor check his wife. He has diagnosed her with the flu, but she seems to be unable to shake it or fight it off.

January 25

Gussie does not recover. The flu weakens her and she dies this day. Frank is overwhelmed with grief. He has lost a son six years ago and now his wife. He has his smaller boy, Charles, but is inconsolable. The family pray for him and his boy. They rally to support him. Gussie is buried at Loudon Park Cemetery as she was not Catholic, but Lutheran.

Gussie Schneider Kavanagh’s death notice. January 25, 1916. Baltimore Sun

February 7

Frank returns to the Shop. He took some time to grieve and take care of his son. His boy will be cared for by Gussie’s sister, Sophia Hobner. The work is still strong and steady. Joe has widened his customer base while staying primarily local. They make forays into Virginia and Pennsylvania for distilling work, but no further. Joe contacts every brewery, eatery, distillery and anyone who could require coppersmithing services. He keeps a constant flow of jobs in and jobs out.

February 11

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs for the first time.

March 6

A circular fountain and a curved brass rail add to the work in the Shop. The crew works hard, but Joe and James are worried about Frank. He is still despondent due to Gussie’s passing and he is distracted in his work. His brothers understand, but they are concerned if he will be able to move past it. Also they are concerned for his safety as some of what they do can be dangerous. They will wait and give him time to deal with his sadness.

April 10

Frank approaches his brothers at the beginning of this week to talk. He tells them he is not sure he can do this anymore. He is overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the day to day. They are shocked and ask him what he wants to do. He answers that he needs a change. He needs to go somewhere else and try to move forward. He does not know what he will do about his son, Charles. He doesn’t think he can work at the Shop anymore. Joe and James encourage him to give this more thought. That he can not make such a decision rashly. He agrees and returns to work. Joe and James do not know what to think. He is their brother and they want the best for him. Still, they are very worried for him. Not to mention the implications for the Shop. Frank is their best smith and very experienced. Also, he is a partner. They do not want to even consider how they would work that out. They hope he changes his mind.

April 21

On this Monday, Frank tells Joe and James he is resigning. He has made arrangements for young Charles to stay with the Hobners. Frank believes he is better off with someone that can properly raise him. He also tells them that he can not work here anymore. It is too painful to stay and that includes working for the company. He will find work somewhere besides Baltimore. He knows he is a good smith and finding work will not be a problem. The brothers try again to dissuade him, but his mind is made up. Joe will have the paperwork drawn up. They will find a way to pay his share to him. He wants them to pay this money to his sister-in-law over time. To make payments that she can count on to support his son. In addition, Frank has several small lots of property in the City. He asks his brothers to buy them. He will give them a good deal. This too shall go to Charles. Frank does not know where he will go, but he is considering joining the military.

April 29

Frank officially withdraws from the partnership. He relinquishes all hold on the Shop and its name. Joe and James will continue on as partners still operating under the name, the Joseph Kavanagh Company. The family is still struggling to understand it, but they respect Frank’s wishes. The crew are equally confused by this. They will miss Frank. He was a kind and gentle man. A good co-worker and boss. They will keep working. Eddie moves up as the best smith in the Shop now. Even several older gents do not have his level of skill. Mr. Fairbanks and James Woods are both excellent. Eddie is the best after Frank leaves though.

Notice that the three brothers’ co-partnership was dissolved. April 29, 1916. Baltimore Sun.

June 12

The crew spends a long Monday working on the summer steamship work and the usual kettles, beer vats and assorted distilling parts. A repair job at Bauernschmidts’s Brewery will take several days. They have a very backed up schedule. Joe and James have lunch together to discuss what they should do. James wants to hire a few more men. Joe thinks they should hire a machinist. They make so many custom parts for different equipment especially the stills. A lathe run by a trained machinist will help them more than laborers. They eat while they talk and agree to hire three more men. An experienced machinist and two more helpers. That brings them to 12 true coppersmiths now including the Kavanaghs. They have an additional 14 helpers and now one machinist, Mr. Abe Saltzman. He is hired within several days. Joe knows many people and finding a qualified machinist with a good reputation isn’t hard for him.

June 20

Leo Kavanagh weds Mayme Smith. Joe and Johanna’s oldest son gets married on a Tuesday evening. The family are thrilled for the couple. The Kavanaghs assemble at St. Leo’s that night. James, Honora and their kids, Joe and Johanna and their daughter, Eddie and his girlfriend, Anna and Frank and his boy, Charles. Also, several of Martin’s daughters are there. Kitty, Regina and Mary Kavanagh. They pray for Leo and Mayme and wish them the best in their married life.

July 7

Eddie drives Joe, James Woods and a helper to Brehm’s Brewery on Belair Road. Eddie loves this truck, but he is dreading talking to his father at the end of the day. He is going to ask for a raise. He is clearly the best smith now. He is senior to everyone but his Uncle James, his cousin James Woods and Mr. Fairbanks. Fairbanks is a good smith, but more of a brazier than a coppersmith. Eddie knows he has more skill than Mr. Fairbanks and his uncle and his cousin. His brother Leo is a fine smith, but engineering and drafting are more his area of expertise. They arrive and Joe does his thing. He chats up the supervisor and the foreman. He does this charming Joe thing he does. He is conversational and tosses in witty repartee. He has that entertainer’s way about him. His old vaudeville days. While Joe talks, Eddie and the boys get to work. They solder some seams and replace a few valves. A quick job that is finished by lunchtime. Joe presses the brewery for more work while he is there. Making sure that Brehm’s will call at the smallest problem. Any issue that comes up they will rush in their truck to take care of it. They head back to the Shop. When they arrive at Central Avenue, Eddie parks out front and they return to the Shop for lunch. The afternoon is a hot one. Eddie works on some brass bearings for a boiler job. All the while, mulling over in his mind what to say to Joe. He calls his father Joe. Everyone does. Joe didn’t stand on ceremony much or perhaps father and eventually grandfather made him feel old. His sons and his daughter and his grandchildren all called him Joe. Just like everyone else. It was always his preference. His way. On the ride home after work, Eddie pleads his case for more money. He is a skilled coppersmith. One of the best he thinks. He works hard and is on time every day. He always does what he is told. Joe listens than says no. He tells Eddie that he must pay his dues. Joe and James are still in debt for the building. Though, that debt is to Joe’s wife, Johanna. Eddie must wait. They are building the business and it will be good for all if they do that. Especially for the Kavanaghs. Joe makes sure to mention. Joe is adamant. Eddie speaks up that a tradesman should be properly paid based on his skills. He tells Joe that not only himself, but most of the crew need to be paid more. If the Shop needs to charge more, they should. Joe cuts him off there and says that pricing and salaries are his domain. Not Eddie’s. He flatly refuses to discuss it further as they pull up at 619 S. Bond Street.

August 17

The dog days of the Shop are here. August is quite often the cruelest month for a smith. Using fire in the heat and the humidity. There is no escape from it. It is draining, but part of the job. The Kavanaghs and workers are fabricating a storage tank for Hannis Distilling. They have multiple kettles, pans and pots being made, but 12 men work on this tank. It will take nearly two weeks to complete. Another week to install. During lunch, they talk baseball. Babe Ruth has been pitching up a storm according to Eddie. Ruth is off to a hot start on the mound with a record of 16-9 so far this year. Eddie mentions that Ruth just out dueled Walter Johnson in a 1-0 win. The Babe pitched a 13 inning complete game shutout. Even Joe is impressed and has to give credit to Ruth. He is turning into a top notch pitcher.

August 19

The crew spends a Saturday prepping for a still replacement at Horsey Distilling. They work most of the day. Knocking off at 2. They try to be out of there by lunch on Saturdays, but the work has demanded otherwise. Or at least Joe has. Joe tells Eddie 2 p.m. is still better then 4 or 5. Before a night out with Anna, Eddie visits his brother Leo at his home on McElderry Street. He discusses their wages. Leo also is unhappy with his pay. He is less inclined to fight with Joe about it than Eddie. Eddie tells Leo they should have a union in there. Besides the better pay, as their customers go union it will be tougher to do work for them as a non-union shop. Leo is not convinced. They have plenty of work. Eddie agrees but thinks that could change. He mostly believes they deserve more money. Joe could charge more and everyone would make more money. Leo will think about it.

August 26

Eddie attends a meeting of the Amalgamated Sheet Metal Workers International Alliance. He accompanies several members that he is acquainted with in the trades. Eddie listens intently as they discuss proper wages, worker safety and even death benefits. He is even more convinced that the Shop needs to find a way to go union. To pay its workers better. Eddie envies the brotherhood these metalsmiths seem to share. They have strength in their numbers. Eddie is conflicted as the business belongs to his family. However, he meets several men from small shops in the same situation. They make it work. They are owners and union. Eddie learns there are several Coppersmith Unions around the county that are associated with this group. One is Local #53 in NY. Eddie gets their address and decides to send them a letter.

September 11

The work weeks begin with a visit to the Shop by Frank. He informs his brothers that he is enlisting in the Army as a coppersmith. He has been classified as such and will be sent to the Panama Canal. They have need of hard working men of many trades. Coppersmith being one. Frank is sure this is what is right for him. His brothers do not try to persuade him. His son will live with the Hobners as arranged. Frank will send what money he can back home while Joe and James send money for the sale of his part of the Shop. They wish Frank well and encourage him to visit when he can. When he leaves, Joe and James agree they hope this will work for their brother. In the Shop, they are bending some decorative brass moldings into an ovular rail. It is tricky. They have a wooden template to match. Eddie and four men are at Globe Brewery to install some new vats. Eddie has heard back from Local # 53. They welcomed his interest. They advised him to try to sway his father and uncle to unionize. The size of the Shop’s crew would be more than enough to start a local in Baltimore. If he can not convince them, they recommend he organize with coppersmiths from a few rival businesses. Eddie is not sure what to do. He is considering.

October 12

The Red Sox beat the Brooklyn Robins 4 game to one to win the World Series. Babe Ruth wins game two. He gives up one run in the first then duplicates his game from August. 13 innings of shut out ball and the Sox win 2-1. For the season, he bats .272, but pitches to a 1.75 ERA and compiles an impressive 23-12 record. Cobb hits .371, but does not win the batting title. Tris Speaker of the Cleveland Indians wins the title with a .386 average. Joe and Eddie go through their comparisons of Cobb and Ruth, as always. Joe admits that Ruth is an excellent hurler, but Cobb will always be the best player due to his hitting.

November 7

Woodrow Wilson defeats Charles Hughes narrowly to win re-election to the Presidency. The Kavanaghs vote for Wilson. They have shifted now toward the Democrats. This started when the Republicans chose Taft over Teddy Roosevelt in 1912. They loved Teddy and voted for him when he ran in that election as the Progressive Party Candidate. That combined with the successful state of the economy for the Shop lead them to vote for Wilson. Joe is convinced now that the election is over the U. S. will enter the war. It is discussed in the Shop over the next few days. Joe is of the mind that Wilson was walking a tight rope to win re-election. He did not want to lose votes by committing too early to war, but did not want to alienate those in favor of it. He talked tough to Germany, but stayed neutral for now.

November 19

Frank sets sail for the Panama Canal. His family bids him farewell. He assures them he shall return by 1918 if not before. His mother, Katherine, is particularly saddened. She has been their quiet matriarch since her husband, Patrick’s death. She watched as things went up and down for her boys with the Shop. She has seen Martin’s problems and then watched him leave Baltimore. Now Frank is leaving too. Joe, James and their sister Sarah Woods comfort her. They are still the Kavanaghs in Baltimore and they are sure Frank will be back.

December 24

The Christmas party. Joe’s and James’ mother, Katherine visits the Shop for the first time. She has never felt the need to see their place of business. They press her to come for this party and most of the family are there. They celebrate with their customers and vendors. There is music and food and drink for all. They act as if it is any other year, but it is not. They miss Frank. They feel for his loss of Gussie. Frank was the younger brother who Joe and James looked out for. He trusted them and they trusted him. They saw him grow up from boy to apprentice to master smith. This brotherhood of three has changed. The two elder brothers are left now. A partnership of two. They were blindsided by this turn of events. Surely, they had considered what will happen in the future. How, some day, one or more of them might leave the Shop. They were not anticipating it happening any time soon, but it has. They celebrate Christmas. It just isn’t the same.



Woodrow Wilson is the President of the United States. Revolution in Mexico leads to an invasion of New Mexico by Pancho Villa. U. S. troops chase them back and follow them into Mexico taking and occupying Santa Domingo. The U. S. also begins occupation of the Dominican Republic. Norman Rockwell’s first Saturday Evening Post cover is published. The National Park Service and the Piggly Wiggly are founded. Jeanette Rankin of Montana becomes the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Jackie Gleason, Gregory Peck, Olivia De Havilland, Walter Cronkite and Kirk Douglass are born.

There remain 48 states in the Union.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s