1921 Rye Running and the Dodge

January 8

A cold Saturday finds the Kavanaghs at the Shop meeting with Jack Hart. Jack is also picking up some whiskey and bringing them some money. The usual cycle, but they are discussing increasing their volume of production and sales. Jack wants to move to at least 3 barrels per week. Joe, speaking for the Shop tells Jack they will need to make a bigger still. It can be done. The family has discussed this over the holidays. They have agreed to make a new still. In fact, James and Leo have started designing it. Joe wants some assurance that if they step up their output that it won’t just be left at the Shop. This is something they do not want. Jack is very clear. He is planning on moving some of this whiskey out of state. He begins to explain his plan, but Joe cuts him off. He tells Jack that they don’t need to know his plan nor do they want to know it. As long as he can keep selling the rye quick, they will build a bigger still and proceed. Jack will continue to pick up every Saturday. He will take 3 or 4 barrels per week if they can make it. As before, Jack lets them know that he is taking all the risk. He will not bring trouble to the family if he runs into any. They shake hands and Jack leaves after Leo and Eddie load the whiskey onto his truck. The Kavanaghs prepare to leave for the day after agreeing to get to work on the still as early as they can next week.

January 14

The Shop has started the year rather slow. The usual confectionery work has arrived, but not nearly as much as they are accustomed to getting. It has been mostly repairs and no new kettles. The economy has slowed around the country. It is a cause for concern for Joe and James. They must always worry about work and the Shop. It is a part of the job. They can look on the positive side though and that is this may make increasing the whiskey produced easier. Leo has finished the drawings for the new 100 gallon still for Pratt and Central. They have the copper sheet and block ready. If there is nothing else to do, they will focus completely on making the still. At the very least, it is something to keep the crew busy.

February 26

The new still is finished. Jack visits for his usual exchange of cash for whiskey. They show him the new unit and he is impressed. Using a copper “whiskey thief”(a small tube with holes on each end), they draw out some of the rye and give Jack a taste. He approves. They will be able to step up to 3 barrels in several weeks. The Shop is still slow. Due to this, they have managed to make this new still and have started using it in a short time. Jack brings several fellows with him this time for assistance. They load the truck while the Kavanaghs and Jack confer. Before leaving, the Kavanaghs check some mash that is fermenting and plan their schedule for next week.

“Whiskey thief” Made and used by the Joseph Kavanagh Co. for checking whiskey’s or beer’s quality. Also called a “barrel thief”.

March 19

It’s a Saturday evening St. Paddy’s Day party at Joe’s house on Collington Avenue. Two days after the actual day, but the Kavanaghs are celebrating. Johanna makes corned beef and cabbage. Joe’s brother James’ family is there. Joe and Johanna’s boys, Leo and Eddie are both there with their families. And Jack and Kitty are there. They take turns on the piano and they sing. They eat and drink and celebrate their heritage. Jack and Kitty make an announcement. They are moving to Washington D. C. They will still be close and will visit regularly. They simply wanted a change and a move to a bigger home. The family toasts them and wishes them luck. Earlier in the day, Jack and his boys had picked up 3 barrels. The Kavanaghs were paid. Now, they party, but there is no discussion of what they are doing. As far as the Kavanagh men’s wives, they all know what is going on. Johanna is not happy, but she does trust Joe to do this safely. She knows there is one thing he is particularly good at and it is running the Shop. James’ wife Honora is of a similar mind. She trusts James. Leo’s wife, Maymie and Eddie’s wife, Anna are a bit more worried about it. They both are concerned that this could lead to trouble. They accept it as it seems the only way they can make money. Anna, of all the wives is the least happy. She is someone who is pro-temperance. She does not like being on the other side of this. She passes on her worries to Eddie, but supports him. If he thinks this is the only option, then they must do it.

April 20

The Shop is still focused on whiskey at the moment. They are making mash and passing rye through the still every day. There is little real work in the Shop. They are fabricating a long ornamental brass railing. They are also making a copper liner for a boiler. They are all busy, but without the whiskey work, they would be doing a lot of standing around.

May 21

Jack shows up with his boys and loads his truck quickly. He and Kitty are moving today to their new home in D. C. He has moved more rye and it’s working well. The Kavanghs are able to replenish their petty cash. They have enough money to cover their expenses for several months including payroll.

June 11

Eddie attends an evening meeting of Local # 80. There are a lot of coppersmiths out of work at the moment. The slow down in the economy has effected most businesses. Some of the brothers ask Eddie about the Shop. It seems to be the only place that is unaffected. They have maintained their crew of 14 coppersmiths through the last several years. They wonder if Eddie can find some work there for his brothers. They ask how they are staying busy. Eddie deflects a little bit. He says they are doing a lot of stock work. Making fittings and valves. Waiting for the work to pick back up, but they are not in a position to hire any one else. His fellow members accept that and congratulate him on having enough work and faith to do that.

June 13

Eddie asks Joe to call a meeting. Joe, James, Leo, Eddie and Guy drink coffee in the Shop’s office. Eddie fills them in on what happened at the meeting. They all agree he handled it well. Eddie tells them that the union may not be the only group wondering how they are staying busy. It is bound to be a question that comes up with other businesses. How can they explain the money they are making without revealing the bootlegging they are doing? James suggests they could just say they are doing some side work. The crew could be anyway. Eddie nixes that right away. We can’t be doing side work. We belong to the Coppersmiths Union. We have our wages set and our hours monitored. James nods in agreement and casts an eye to Joe. He says to Joe you’re not in the Union. Joe puffs on his cigar and replies are you saying I should get a job. Eddie speaks up and says that may be the only option. Not a job, but something that can help explain how we are keeping our crew intact. We trust the crew. They will back us up, but we better find a way to explain the money. Especially, if we keep making more whiskey. Leo chimes in that it has to be you, Joe. We can’t do it. Joe answers them all. You aren’t talking about me getting a job so much as me making up a job. Joe breaks into a small chuckle. You mean a dodge. I can come up with a dodge. He grins and tells them he will think of something. Something believable that will infer another income for him. He even offers to lower his salary on the Shop’s books. That will show that I was willing to take less money to keep our crew paid. Everyone will think I am magnanimous laughs Joe. Eddie quickly says that no one will believe that. The rest all break out into laughter including Joe. They return to work and Joe begins thinking of his dodge.

June 16

The League of Women Voters of Maryland is formed. Johanna Kavanagh is quick to join. She worked long and hard to help get the right to vote. She is pleased to join a group that supports like-minded women.

June 29

Joe announces to his sons and brother that he is now the manager of Marine Hardware and Supply. He is selling hardware and running the place out of his home he says with a twinkle in his eye. Leo chuckles and asks if they can work there too. No, of course not. You fellows are union he answers. Joe begins making some handwritten receipts for his salary from the non-existent Marine Hardware and Supply. He even takes an ad in the Polk’s City Directory for next year stating his involvement with this company. Joe loves this kind of thing. He was a former vaudevillian and a chance for some chicanery certainly appealed to him. It was a chance to act for him. A dodge indeed.

1922 Polk’s Baltimore City Directory. Listing for Joseph A. Kavanagh working at the fictitious Marine Hardware and Supply.

July 16

Another Saturday brings Jack and several of his friends to the Shop. He has made another run of whiskey and he has their money. His boys load his truck with 4 barrels of rye. The Kavanaghs put some more money aside for their expenses and their crew. Still, they have cash to split. Each man leaves with $ 200.00. A big windfall at that time.

July 28

The Shop is busy making whiskey. Some of the crew are actually working on several kettles, but most are either cooking up mash or running the stills. They have both in operation now. Staggering their output so that they can optimize their time. As they work, the Kavanghs are chatting about the so-called Black Sox. The White Sox team that lost the World Series to the Reds in 1919. They are on trial for fraud after allegations of fixing the Series have come to light. Several players have confessed their involvement. The men debate and discuss. What will happen if they are found guilty? Will they go to jail? Most of the crew doubt that will ever happen.

August 3

The talk of the day is that the Black Sox players have been exonerated. During the trial, some of the evidence disappeared from the Cook County prosecutors office. The evidence included confessions by pitcher Eddie Cicotte and outfielder Joe Jackson. The Kavanaghs are not surprised. They couldn’t believe that any court would convict ball players. They are still shocked that a player would throw the Series, but they felt sure they would not be convicted of a thing.

August 4

First thing in the morning the Shop’s crew are talking about the latest turn in the Black Sox story. Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landas has banned all eight of the accused players from baseball for life. He made a statement that regardless of the court outcome any player with any level of involvement in fixing games will never play major league baseball. The integrity of the game is to be maintained and respected. Some players appeal over the coming years, but none of those eight ever play in a Major League Baseball game again.

September 12

They are finally pressed for hours now as the work has begun to come back. They have some kettles to make and E. J. Codd has brought in a good-sized boiler job. They have copper liners, copper tubes, valves and fittings to make. On top of this, the whiskey production has been upped further. Jack is moving their rye faster and faster. More money comes their way. They decide to save some of their cash. They want to be prepared for a slow start to next year. That is what happened this year so they best be ready for it. Nonetheless, they all receive 200 dollars again. Eddie buys his family a car to his wife’s delight. Anna loved riding with Eddie on his motorcycle when they were dating. Now that they are married and have a child, she is a lot less enamored with his bike.

October 14

This Friday includes the annual recap and discussion of the World Series. It is an all New York affair this year and every game is played at the Polo Grounds. The Giants defeat the Yankees 5 games to 3. Babe Ruth hits his first World Series home run in this Series, but he injures his elbow in game 2 on a slide while stealing third. He is hampered for the rest of the games. The Giants take the championship. For the season, Ruth has a monstrous year. He hits 59 home runs breaking his own record again. He sports a .376 average as well. Eddie, the Ruth fan is very pleased. Joe’s favorite player, Ty Cobb does pretty well too. He rebounds from a poor 1920 season by hitting .388. Joe is quick to remind Eddie that batting average is the best barometer of a player’s abilities. Eddie brings up the home runs, but Joe just shakes him off. It is hits that make an offensive player. Not how far the hit goes. The debate continues as it has for years.

November 8

It is election day in Maryland. No presidential election but local races abound. Joe and Jo head to the polls. This time Johanna insists that their son, Eddie drive them. She has already determined that driving in a car with Joe is a dangerous move. She will learn to drive, but for now Eddie delivers them to the polls. Johanna is particularly happy to vote for Mary E. W. Risteau. She is running for the House of Delegates. She wins and becomes the first woman to serve there. Johanna loves it and she doesn’t hesitate to tell her husband that this is what government needs. More women to have their voices heard. More women to hold public office. Joe agrees with her because he knows better not to.

December 24

The Christmas Eve Party is on a Saturday this year. They do no distilling today. Rather, they move their barrels and mash into the basement. They hide any buckets or pots they they have been using. The place is cleaned up. A tree is stood and decorated. The Shop looks like Christmas. The usual mix of customers, employees and family gather in the late afternoon. Jack and Kitty drive up from D. C. in their Hudson. The building is filled with the sound of carols and rejoicing. Joe sings his seasonal favorite, “Oh Holy Night” in his booming baritone. They eat, drink and sing. The Kavanaghs are happy. They have had a good year. The Shop’s work has picked up and the whiskey business is treating them well. They have made money this year and there seems to be no end in sight to it. The Shop has a stash of cash to fall back on and so do all of the Kavanaghs. The good times are here as the Roaring Twenties begin. What could possibly go wrong?




Warren G. Harding is the President of the United States. Charlie Chaplin’s motion picture, “The Kid” is released. Howard Taft is sworn in as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court becoming the first and only person ever to hold this position and the presidency. The first radio broadcast of a baseball game occurs in Pittsburgh as the Pirates host the Phillies at Forbes Field. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is diagnosed with polio. The first Miss America pageant is held in Atlantic City. The First White Castle restaurant opens. The Tomb of the Unknowns is dedicated by President Harding. Betty Friedhan, Nancy Reagan, John Glenn, Gene Roddenberry and Steve Allen are born.

There remain 48 states in the Union.

James (Hart) & Patrick Connelly
James Connelly (Jack Hart) and his brother Patrick. Left to right. Photo courtesy of Christine Mouser.


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