1917 The Great War and Eddie Quits

January 5

The first week of the year for the Shop has been a good one, but less so for the Kavanaghs. The stream of work is quite good. They have the candy and ice cream customers for whom they are making kettles and some distillery and brewery repairs on the books. However, the family is saddened to hear that their matriarch, Katherine is moving to Philadelphia in the Spring. Joe and James’ mother has decided to live with her cousins in Philly. One is older and ill. Katherine will help care for her. The last few years, she has taken multiple trips there. It seems as though Frank leaving was the tipping point for her. Perhaps, she just wants to be closer to her family, the Lubres. In either case, she will go and the boys have promised to visit her. It is only a train ride away. Yet, it will be difficult to see their mother go.

January 13

Today the newspapers are full of a story about an explosion in what is now Lyndhurst, New Jersey. A munitions supply has been blow up and rumors are flying it was caused by German saboteurs. Joe reads the story in the paper at his desk on Saturday morning. The U. S. is clearly careening toward this conflict in Europe. It really is just a question of when now.

February 3

U. S. breaks diplomatic relations with Germany.

February 16

After a day spent fabricating some distilling parts, Eddie discusses the idea of a union with three fellow coppersmiths employed by the Shop, James Woods(Eddie’s cousin), Henry Blum and Henry Nieberding over a beer. Eddie tells them he is doing his best to get Joe to unionize. He is resisting, but Eddie wishes to know how they feel about it. They think it is a good idea. They want more money, but they are not ready to do something like strike or even speak up about it. They fear Joe will just fire them on the spot. Even James Woods who is Joe’s nephew is not keen on too much involvement. Eddie accepts their answers. He encourages them to consider this chat and not forget it as Eddie is not giving up on this one.

March 2

A long week of heating and hammering is nearly forgotten on this Friday. The newspaper prints the Zimmerman Telegram which was just released to the public. It is a telegram sent to Mexican officials from Germany and intercepted by England. The gist is that Germany has offered to return part of the SW of U. S. to Mexico if they attack the U. S. The Germans propose an alliance with Mexico to conquer Europe and America. The Southwest would be Mexico’s reward for their help. Joe interrupts the crew’s work to go over what has happened. He reads the story in the paper to them all. There will be no stopping now. War is coming.

March 3

A Saturday morning of work is followed by an afternoon of moving. Joe, Johanna and their son, Eddie and daughter, Anna, move from Bond Street to Collington Avenue. They move Northeast a bit, but still fairly close to the Shop. Eddie drives the Shop’s truck so it is not too hard. It does take the whole afternoon. While they move, they discuss the latest news. This time it is about Russia, France and England’s strongest ally in WW1. There has been a revolution and Tsar Nicholas the Second has abdicated. The implications for the war are that the Allies will lose a powerful partner. The implications for the world will be even greater in the future.

March 17

A big Saturday St. Paddy’s Day party at 4 N. Collington Avenue. It is also the first big gathering at Joe and Johanna’s new home. A fun affair full of music, food, drink and celebrating their heritage and family. Katherine is leaving for Philly on Monday. All the Kavanaghs are there to bid her farewell. Her grandchildren from Martin are there including Kitty, Regina and Mary. Kitty is just back from two weeks in Chicago to visit Martin. Joe and James inquire politely how he is doing. He is involved in some smith work and is happy with his new wife and her family. They do not press her for any details. She is accompanied by her new beau, James Connelly. He is from New York and has been seeing Kitty for about six months. He accompanied her to Chicago and met her father. He seems to fit in well with the Kavanagh gents though he is a bit rough around the edges. They are introduced to him as James, but in other circles he is known as Jack Hart.

April 2

The U. S. declares a state of war with Germany. The Kavanaghs start their week of work like most Americans. They do not know what to expect, but there is no belief that this will be a fast war.

May 24

The Shop is full of kettles to be made today while four men work on a brass railing. Eddie and three boys are at National Brewery for a repair. While the crew works, Joe and James talk. Joe tells James they have to consider this war. Alcohol is used in a lot of munitions and they should contact the Navy about it. Coppersmith work might be in great need for the Navy. James agrees. Joe sends a letter to the Department of the Navy. He is offering the Shop’s services to the military for anything they need. The Secretary of the Navy responds via letter and thanks him.

May 27

A Sunday ham dinner at Collington Avenue. All of Joe and Johanna’s family are there. Their young daughter, Anna, of course and their oldest, Leo and his wife, Mayme, and their second son, Eddie and his girlfriend Anna Hartman. They enjoy a pleasant meal then the men sit and smoke while the ladies clean up after dinner. Eddie decides now is the time to talk union to Joe. Leo is a bit taken aback that his brother would mention it. Eddie tells Joe that unions are the way of the future. It will not just be good for the employees, but good for the Shop. Eventually, most work will require a union to get the job. Also, with a union if you are slow, you can request a smaller crew. You need not fire anyone as things go up and down. Safety and efficiency will be improved. Joe puffs on his pipe and gives a complete no. Joe will be damned if he will let anyone else dictate who he hires, who he fires and how much he pays them. Eddie’s answer is that those things are determined by the market already. Joe tells his youngest son that this is a ridiculous notion and there is no chance it will ever happen at the Shop. Joe moves to the piano and begins playing. It is his way of saying the subject is closed.

June 5

The U. S. begins conscription of 18- 30 year old males today. The draft will be used to augment the soldiers who have volunteered. The war will require many lives to fight and die. Johanna worries for her sons and asks Joe what can be done to protect them and keep them home. She is mostly worried for Eddie as he is single. The Shop has begun receiving some Navy work after his letter. He promises to make some phone calls on the boys’ behalf. Johanna makes it very clear that she does not want her boys going off to war.

June 10

Leo’s wife, Mayme gives birth to her first child. A boy named Leo Paul. The Kavanaghs are excited to welcome this new edition to the family. Joe and Johanna are first time grandparents.

July 14

A Saturday morning is spent prepping for a repair at Monticello Distilling next week. They also are making several ballast pump chambers for steamships. Four peanut kettles are built as well. When Joe gets home in the afternoon, he spends several hours at the piano with his daughter, Anna. He has promised Johanna that he will do so. Johanna has a meeting, but not with a church or social club. She is attending a meeting of the Just Government League. A local suffragist group that has been growing rapidly. Johanna read some of the writings of Edith Houghton Hooker. She founded the organization. Johanna became interested and this is her first meeting. Her son, Eddie, drives her and picks her up afterward. She is excited and energized after this meeting. So many women who want a say in government. They want to vote, but more than that they want their voices heard. After dinner, she tells Joe all about it. Joe is a bit confused as to why she would want to vote. Fortunately, he is smart enough not to ask her and get into a conversation he does not want to have. For Eddie’s part, he agrees with his mother. Besides, she gets a vote at home why not in government. As a matter of fact, Eddie always thought she got all the votes at home.

August 20

A busy week begins at the Shop. They are finishing up their summer ship work and making some stock fittings and valves. They use these all the time and have sold quite a few to the Navy. Since Joe sent his letter, they have received several naval jobs. Joe has promised them fast deliveries. Whatever they need. He has also mentioned his concerns about his sons being drafted. Through a few phone calls, he now has a contact at the draft board. He may have found a way to keep his boys out of this war. During the ride home, Eddie brings up the subject of a coppersmiths union again. Joe is not interested in discussing it. Eddie pushes him a bit. If the Shop does not go union, they will regret it later. Their customers will unionize and we will be banned from working there. Also, when the Shop gets slow, we can tell the union we need less men for a few days. We won’t have to fire or lay off anyone. Eddie implores Joe to consider that maybe the union is good for both the business and employees. Joe is adamantly opposed. Eddie finally tells his father that he may not be able to continue working at the Shop. He is not sure. Joe is surprised, but does not believe for a second that Eddie would leave. He instructs his son to wait, pay his dues and eventually he will make more money

September 7

Eddie has made up his mind. He tells his girlfriend, Anna, that he will resign from the Shop. He will go to Philadelphia where his grandmother and her family live. He has been in touch with some cousins and they can find him a job at the Philly shipyard. He will return for her. He promises, but he has to do this. He hopes that Joe will change his mind, but he has his doubts. This is his only option to get paid appropriately. Anna will wait. She is not sure how long though. At the end of the day, Eddie tells his father that he is quitting. Joe can’t believe it. Eddie lets him know his plans about moving to Philadelphia. He will live with his grandmother Katherine’s family and work at the Shipyard. Joe is upset and feels betrayed by his son and tells him just that. Eddie answers that it is just business. Not personal. Joe pauses as that is something he would say. He accepts it and they drive home in silence. Both wondering how Johanna will react.

September 9

After Sunday mass, Eddie says goodbye to his parents, his sister and Anna. Johanna is both heartbroken and angry. Angry at both her husband and son that they can not work this out. She is convinced this will just be temporary. Eddie takes off on his motorcycle and heads to Philadelphia.

September 20

The Shop is still loaded with work, but Joe has a problem. Firstly, James thinks they need to replace Eddie or get him back. They have a good sized crew, but they are missing their best smith. The best man to send out for repairs and get them done quickly is not here. That’s Eddie. Joe is not ready to replace him. Joe still hopes he will return. They have a lot of work and in the ten days since Eddie quit they have fallen farther and farther behind their schedule. Joe does not know what to do. He is able to make calls and put some customers deliveries off. He can work his magic a bit, but eventually people want their jobs finished.

October 10

The Bolshevik Revolution has begun in Russia. A group of revolutionaries led by V. I. Lenin are moving against the provisional government that was set up after the Tsar abdicated. This fight will get bloody and violent and lead to the Russians exit from WW1. In Baltimore, Joe has his own revolution going on. His son has left the Shop because he wants to unionize. His wife wants to vote and wants all women to have a say in our country. In addition, pressure at home to get Eddie back has intensified. Johanna has made it clear that this is Joe’s fault. She wants her boy back. She wants him to be married like his older brother. She does not care how Joe does it, but she wants this fixed. She reminds him that she loaned them money to start the new Shop. She did this to give her sons a successful future. She lets Joe know that she is finished waiting. Joe has no choice. He will get Eddie back. At lunch today, he talks it over with James. James wants Eddie back too. James is less against a union than Joe anticipated. Of course, James is a coppersmith so he can actually join the union. Joe had not considered that. They agree to give the union a try if Eddie will come back.

October 13

On Saturday, Eddie Kavanagh enjoys the best day of his life. His father, Joe, has taken a train up to Philadelphia to see him and he wants him back. Joe spells it all out. The Shop needs him. They will pay him what he wants. Once the details of this union are worked out, Joe promises to give it a try. He lets Eddie know that James is in agreement on this. Joe tells Eddie that his mother wants him home. Now. Eddie is happy. He will return to the Shop. Eddie is smart enough not to go too far with his father. Instead, he thanks Joe for coming up to talk to him and bringing him home. They have a dinner with Joe’s mother, Katherine and her family. Joe will take the train home on Sunday. Eddie has to speak to the folks at the shipyard on Monday then he will head home on his bike.

October 15

Eddie Kavanagh returns to Baltimore on his “Flying Merkel”. I know he felt a great sense of victory. He feels in an odd family-related way what most worker/union activists feel. Satisfaction and justice. He has given it all great thought on the ride home. He will have to show Joe how this will work well for the Shop. He knows Joe will be watching and listening very carefully. He arrives at the Shop at lunch time. He is welcomed back enthusiastically by the crew. Even his father is happy to see him. They break into baseball talk immediately. Both Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth have had stellar seasons. Cobb wins the batting title at .383 while also leading the American League with 24 triples and 44 doubles. Ruth bats .325 with a 24-13 record while posting a 2.01 ERA and throwing 35 complete games. The debate and comparison is cordial between Joe and Eddie. Their favorite players both did well and despite their personalities, both father and son are glad to be working together again. Later that night they hear that the Chicago White Sox have won this year’s World Series. They defeat the NY Giants 4 games to 2. The White Sox pitching dominates as Eddie Cicotte and Red Farber pitch 50 of the 52 innings in this series leading them to victory. Johanna is very pleased to see her husband and son back to their old ways. Talking baseball and working at the Shop. Together. That’s just what she wanted.

December 6

The USS Jacob Jones is sunk by the Germans. The first American military casualties attributed to the war. There will be many more. It is a time of change for America, the world and certainly the Kavanaghs. The Shop has another good year financially despite the upheaval about Eddie and the union. Eddie is making arrangements and plans to form a coppersmith’s local in Baltimore. The Shop’s crew including some of the Kavanaghs will be members. Joe is still not sure about this, but his brother and his sons, Leo included, have given it their stamp of approval. Perhaps, it will work out for the best. In addition, his wife Johanna, has taken up with this suffragette group. She attends meetings and reads all she can about their goals. In several years, women will receive the right to vote and Jo has done a good job of convincing Joe that this is the right thing. Still, it is a lot of change for this 19th century man. His son a union organizer and his wife a suffragette. What is his world coming to?



Woodrow Wilson is the President. U. S. troops withdraw from Mexico and end the search for Pancho Villa. The Great Atlanta Fire destroys 70 blocks of the city. The first Pulitzer Prizes are awarded. New York state grants women the right to vote. Most railroads are placed under government control due to the war. Ernest Borgnine, Marvin Miller, John F. Kennedy, Dean Martin and Dizzy Gillespie are born. Buffalo Bill Cody and Scott Joplin die.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Letter from Secretary of the Navy to the Shop. May 25, 1917.


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