1924 A Pair of Jacks
The year has started somewhat mediocre. The Shop has a few copper kettles to make that were ordered last year. Joe and James anticipate receiving some candy and ice cream kettles to repair and make as they always do in the beginning of a new year. That should help to increase their volume of work. Still, the brothers believe they need to reduce their crew again. The Shop has made it through the first few years of Prohibition via bootlegging then relying on what they saved from the bootlegging. That cannot go on much more. They must keep some cash in hand for emergencies. Both the Shop and the Kavanaghs. The brothers, Joe(57) and James(48) along with Joe’s sons, Leo(30) and Eddie(29) and Guy(20) each were able to sock away a stash of cash from their fore into whiskey making. The Shop also has some cash in hand but they must accept that they will not be able to increase their sales any time soon. Joe has managed to find several new venues for their coppersmithing work. With the loss of the distilling work, Joe found more customers to purchase the commercial cookers they make. He has found more boiler work which they have done for years. He has even brought in some Navy work from the Philadelphia shipyard. The reality is they have a few too many men. This Friday a meeting is held with the brothers and their sons. Joe opens things up by informing the younger fellows that they have no choice now but to lay off a few men. They will cut three coppersmiths and three helpers. Leo, Eddie and Guy are not surprised. They have each come to this conclusion on their own. Eddie, who is the General Secretary of Coppersmiths Local#80 and very active in the union, usually puts up resistance to any cuts. This time he briefly petitions his father, Joe to save one or two men, but accepts quickly that his father and Uncle James are decided. They are the owners and can make this call. The meeting is more to inform then to ask. The Kavanaghs have these meetings when necessary on Fridays. Even though Joe and James can make any decisions, they all work together. If there are concerns both brothers want to hear them. Besides, Joe likes to talk. Eddie will take care of the necessary paperwork with the union. The size of the crew is down to twenty including these fives Kavanaghs and a cousin, James Woods Jr. As always with the union, if they need extra workers they can bring them in quickly. Eddie hopes it is not long before that happens.
Joe reads a late edition of the Sunday newspaper. His worst fears having come true. Jack Hart has escaped from the Maryland Penitentiary. Just before midnight, he and William Tilson, a thief who was held nearby, make their way out of their cells. Tilson breaks the lock to his cell. Jack’s was opened with a key. They walked down a corridor. Down a flight of steps to the main floor. The number of guards was reduced at night. They were able to remain unseen. Hart and Tilson scale a wall to reach a window. Using a large piece of iron, they pry the bars open wide enough for one man to climb out. Once on the outside of the window. they begin climbing down the wall using the bars on the lower windows as a make shift ladder. They find themselves standing on Forrest Street. They disappear into the Baltimore night.
They remain undetected until after 7 a.m. Their cell doors are found unlocked. Dummy heads made from cloth are found on each pillow. The general alarm is sounded. The Baltimore City Police are quickly notified and soon alerts are sent to Washington, Philadelphia and New York. Jack Hart has escaped.
The guards begin a thorough search of the prison as the police arrive. Officers pan out over the neighborhood. They search and they question neighbors. Several who live on Forrest Street. On the opposite side of the penitentiary report vehicles heard on the street at the time. One specifically describes a truck with a piano playing very loudly. He took particular note due to the hour and the oddness of such a thing. As the police continue their investigation they theorize the piano was used to cover the noise of the bars in the window being bent. After examining the window, the police are not only impressed by it but also sure that doing such a thing would create a lot of noise. The police are sure that Jack and Tilson had some outside help to pull this off. Prison Guard William Carter is blamed by Warden Sweezey. He was on guard of Jack’s cell block at the time. Carter insists they must have escaped later during a change in guard. Sweezey believes all other evidence points to approximately midnight. Warden Sweezey is on the hot seat quickly. He was held accountable for Jack’s disappearance into a prison wall the prior year. He was gone for over 10 hours and sent the City into a panic. This escape will bring more accusations of lax security and poor oversight at the warden.
As the news spread of Jack’s escape, Kitty was contacted in New York where she has been living. She rented an apartment there. She was told of Jack’s breakout and was interviewed by a reporter. She says she has no knowledge of the escape but is happy Jack is free. Joe puts down the paper puffing on his pipe. He speaks to his wife, Johanna. Filling her in on the story. She is taken aback as much as he was. She tells him not to worry but that he should call James and then his sons. He expects the Shop to be raided tomorrow. Searched again as they have been through the last several years. They will all be questioned. They will keep to their story. They knew Jack by his real name, James Connelly. They knew him as Kitty’s husband but not much more. They will do their best to distance themselves from him as they have each time the police ask. Jack is out for real this time. They will come.
The police are waiting at the Shop at 7:00 a.m. Officers Dawson, Mayo, McNeill and Springate again. They repeat the search of last year. McNeill and Springate charge up the steps and search the Machine Shop. Dawson and Mayo check every corner on the first floor. They look over the Kavanaghs and crew. Comparing their faces to Jack Hart’s description. When McNeill and Springate return they descend a ladder into the basement finding it as empty as it was the prior year. Joe and James stand with their crew and wait.
Officer Dawson speaks up, “We are looking for Jack Hart. We are searching everywhere. Have any of you seen or heard from him?”
Joe replies, “No, we have not. He won’t come here. I tell you this over and over. And none of us have heard from him. He won’t come to us.”
“Would he go to Kitty?” Dawson asks looking down to Joe.
Joe rocks up on to his toes and stares back at Dawson replying, “I really can’t say. I wouldn’t know. She’s his wife. Maybe.”
Officer Dawson takes a step back and glances at the other officers. “The New York police will be talking to her. I am sure.” Dawson turns back to the Kavanaghs and crew who still stand gathered in a semicircle around Joe and the police. “If any of you are contacted by Hart, you get in touch with us immediately, right?”
Joe sighs and suppresses a glare but replies, “Yes, of course.”
Officer May steps to Dawson’s side and says, “You four are the Kavanaghs, correct?”
As a group they nod wordlessly. “Do any of you play the piano?” Glancing at each other Joe, James and Eddie raise their hands.
Leo alone speaks up. Saying “I play the mandolin.”
“I guess you’re innocent then.” Eddie quickly says sending the crew into laughter.
Dawson quickly step toward Eddie, “There is nothing funny about a prison escape. A murder!”
Joe moves between them and addresses Dawson, “We read the paper. So, we play the piano. Thousands do. We had nothing to do with Hart before and we sure had nothing to do with his escape. You’ve searched. You found nothing. We got nothing to hide and we had nothing to do with this.”
“There’s no reason to get smart with us. We are just doing our job.” Dawson answered staring at Eddie who looked back impassively.
“Well, this is just getting a little old now.” Joe said answering for his son who he watched carefully.
Mayo speaks again with another question for Joe. “What about Kitty? Does she play the piano?”
Joe nods that she does even though he assumes the police know that already. Kitty was interviewed many times by the police. At her house, they no doubt saw a piano. Also, she was interviewed by the press. She presented herself as someone wanting to study music and she certainly had a theatrical way about her. She sang as well as playing the piano.
Joe is quick to say, “Kitty lives in New York now. She’s been staying there. She’s even taken a job in New York. She could not have been involved and would not do such a thing anyway.”
“Fair enough.” May replies. “As Dawson said, the New York police will talk to Kitty. Thanks for your cooperation.”
The officers seem satisfied for now or at least out of questions. The police call the station and are told to leave. They also are told to inform Joe and the rest of the Kavanaghs that they may be back. If Jack contacts the family, they are to call the police immediately. After the police leave, Joe sets his crew to work. It takes a few minutes. There is quite a bit of chatter about Jack Hart’s escape. The arrival of the police has only highlighted it, but the story in and of itself was conversation enough. The crew are distracted as they begin heating some copper sheet. They curve it between three cylindrical rods. The sheet is passed through until it reaches the desired size. They solder seams and then set to work making tops and bottoms for the kettles.
After work, the Kavanaghs stay at the Shop to talk. They were all involved in the bootlegging with Jack Hart. All had contact with him, but James’ and especially Guy’s was limited. Jack is out and until he is recaptured they will have to deal with the police showing up. James is worried about Kitty. They all are. James is just the first to raise the subject. Joe is her godfather and he should use his influence to keep Kitty quiet. She is in New York, but she is already in the Baltimore Sun yesterday commenting how happy she is that Jack is free. In today’s paper is an excerpt of a letter from Kitty to Jack pronouncing her unending love and devotion to him. The letter was received yesterday at the MD Penitentiary. It had been mailed from Trenton New York Saturday night. Arriving special delivery. Joe agrees that Kitty could be a problem, but there is nothing he can do about it. He is happy that Kitty is in New York now. She is far away and couldn’t have been involved. This piano playing while they escaped is something the police may use to connect Kitty to it. Joe continues that they did the same thing during the Norris trial. They did their best to link Kitty to the crime, but she was not involved. Fortunately, she was far away when Jack broke out. The reports say that Jack is probably out of Baltimore. If the paper is right, then perhaps we won’t be bothered too much. It really depends how long Jack is out. James still wants Joe to call Kitty. To try and persuade her to not talk to reporters. Joe will call her though he doubts if it will make any difference. They will have to wait it out and do their jobs. If the police show up, we’ll deal with them and answer their questions. Eddie asks what will they do if Jack shows up? A pause is ended by Joe saying it is the same as before. If Jack visits the Shop, they will help him and then get him out of here as fast as we can. They do not want Jack to have any grudge against them. That evening after dinner on Collington Avenue, Joe calls Kitty in New York. There is no answer. He tries several times, but she is not there.
The Sun reports that the police are searching New York and Brooklyn for Kitty Kavanagh. New evidence has appeared that Kitty was in Baltimore Saturday night within hours of Jack Hart and William Tilson’s escape. The Sun itself presents the evidence. A photographer Mr. Meltor? formerly employed by the Sun, has revealed to the newspaper that he encountered Kitty on Eutaw St. at 7 pm Saturday evening. She stopped him on the street to discuss a picture he had taken of her during Jack’s trial. She wanted the photo. She was dressed in a dark dress with a heavy veil. She confided to him that she was trying to conceal her identity. She did not want the police knowing she was in Baltimore. They had been giving her a terrible time since the trial. Even worse since Jack tried to escape last year. She asks that he not tell anyone he has seen her as she hands him an envelope with her address on it. She removed a letter from Hart from the envelope.This was the only paper she had. She asks Meltor? to send her the picture in this envelope. There is some suspicion that Kitty may have assisted in the escape now. Kitty has not been seen since she gave an interview to a New York reporter on Sunday. Joe sighs as he puts down the paper in his office. He hands it over to James and thinks while his brother reads the story. Joe has not been able to reach Kitty. He tried calling her again this morning. Still no answer.
The Kavanaghs meet again in the Shop office after hours. They discuss this latest news about Kitty. They are convinced she was here in Baltimore. They go over it all but can’t come to any conclusion as to whether or not she was involved in the escape. Joe insists she would not but even he has his doubts. The big questions is. Where is Kitty?
Joe receives a phone call at the Shop from Kitty. He is relieved. No one has heard from her in weeks. She acts as if there was nothing to fuss about. She was moving about New York. Staying with friends and looking for permanent work. She downplays the police’s search for her. Again, stating that she was around. She just wasn’t checking in with the authorities since she did not think this was necessary. She knows nothing of Jack’s whereabouts. She hopes he is safe. They were treating him awful in the Maryland Penitentiary. She hopes he is never found. She misses him but is glad he’s free now. Joe listens and does not say much. He is just happy to have heard that she is safe and sound. Finally, he asks her about the report she was in Baltimore on the night of the escape. She vehemently denies it. She tells Joe that the photographer has his weeks confused. She was in town the previous Saturday. That was her scheduled day to visit Jack. She visits twice monthly. Taking the train from New York now that she lives there. She acts unconcerned. Joe bids her goodbye. After hours, he passes it all on to the rest of the Kavanaghs. None of them know what to think. Whether to take Kitty’s word for it or not. Joe still does not believe Kitty would assist in an escape. He does believe that Kitty has seen Jack. He can only assume that her absence for this period of time means she was with Jack. The rest of the family concurs.
Florence Regina Harris is born to Harry Harris and Regina Kavanagh Harris, Kitty’s younger sister. A “Sweetheart Baby” as she was called because of being born on Valentine’s Day. The third child born to Regina. The family is thrilled for some good news after the last two months. They welcome another member of the next generation.
Two Baltimore Police Detectives visit Shop. They interview all the Kavanaghs. Again. This is a repeat of the prior interviews before Jack Hart’s trial. They sit with them individually in the Shop’s office. They ask each one if they have seen or heard from Jack or Tilson. How much does Kitty know? The family all stick to the same line. They tell them they have not seen Jack. They knew him as James Connelly, Kitty’s husband. They socialized, but not much more. They, of course, do not mention their bootlegging with Jack. They avoid any details they know about Hart. None of them know anything about Tilson. After questioning the Kavanaghs, the detectives roam around the Shop a bit. Looking around, but not seeming to know what they were looking for.
The Shop’s crew work through a cool spring day. A brass railing is fabricated and curved for a bar. Sleeves and fittings for a boiler are made. There is more talk among the Kavanaghs about Jack Hart. There are rumors reported in the paper that Jack has been in New York. Then moved on to Canada to join in the whiskey trade between that country and ours. Rejoining his bootlegging partners. The Sun says. Joe rolls his eyes at this claim. There was a report that he was spotted in Hagerstown, MD. The police run all these leads down but can’t find him. Joe believes that Kitty has seen Jack. He assumes the police believe the same thing. The common theory seems to be that they met in New York soon after the escape while Kitty was missing. She claimed to be looking for work throughout the boroughs. Joe thinks otherwise. He does not know if she is still in touch with Jack or not. The New York police had been keeping her under surveillance for a time but have given up on that. Joe hopes that Jack has indeed moved on to Canada. Never to return.
On this Tuesday, John Joseph Kavanagh is born to Eddie and Anna Kavanagh. The family is very excited. Eddie and Anna lost a girl just over a year ago. She died at 3 months. This boy is welcomed with much love. He is named after John Guy Kavanagh who goes by Guy, Eddie’s cousin and the baby’s godfather. Unbeknownst to the family, the birth certificate is filled out incorrectly. His name is actually Joseph John Kavanagh. He is a Joe, but this is not discovered until he applied for Social Security after retiring in 1986. He was a Joe but was not aware of it. He is the Unknown Joe. His parents believed his name was John, but they decided to call him Jack.
Jack Kavanagh will someday be the finest leader the Shop has ever had. He was trained as a coppersmith but adapted the business as it was needed. He was skilled as a smith and in business. He knew about metal and how to work it. He was both smart, hard-working and very compassionate toward others. He was a man who was able to solve problems and care about people at the same time. He was my father.
A hot Monday begins the week at the Shop. They have some ship work from local steamers to do. Several pump ballast chambers are made along with some brass stacks, gauges and fittings. A very active start to the summer. The police pay a visit to the Shop again. Joe and James are getting pretty mad about it now. The Kavanaghs are interviewed again. They ask the same questions basically. It’s more for show then to find anything out. The police do not want it to appear as if they have given up on finding Jack. It is a brief interruption to the day. They leave when they realize the Kavanaghs know nothing more. Joe receives a call from Regina. They have all received another round of interviews from the police. Mary Rachel, Regina and Mary’s homes have all had police visits in the last couple of days. Joe and James have had enough. They don’t know what they want the most. Jack to never be seen again or captured for good.
The monthly Saturday evening meeting of Coppersmiths Local# 80 is held. As General Secretary, Eddie attends. There is the usual discussion of wages for different locals around the country. The Locals compare their situations. It’s helpful in negotiations and it assists the brothers if they decide to relocate. They know what the pay is in different parts of the nation. Another of Eddie’s duties is to answer any inquiries from other locals and passes along questions from the members of #80. The meeting is a brief one and the members return home on a particularly sticky humid evening.
October 13 Monday Game Friday
The Washington Senators have beaten the New York Giants to win the World Series in seven games. The final game requiring 12 innings to decide. Senators’ great, Walter Johnson, at last reached the Series. He spent his career with perennial non-contending Washington. He started two games and lost them both but he gets the win in game 7 as a reliever. Along with many fans, the Kavanaghs were pulling for the Senators. To see a gentleman and talented pitcher such as Johnson win a championship was rewarding. Both Joe and Eddie held the Dutchman in high regard. They agreed on the Series, but the Cobb/Ruth debate raged on. Joe’s favorite player being Ty Cobb and Eddie’s being Babe Ruth. Cobb settles for a .338 batting average. Ruth has another monster year. He wins the batting title which Eddie never let Joe forget with a crisp .378 average. Also walloping 47 home runs. Cobb is aging and Ruth is in his prime. Joe’s and Eddie’s argument about these two players is beginning to be clearly one-sided.
Calvin Coolidge defeats Democrat John Davis and Progressive Robert Pollette Sr. to retain the presidency. Davis needs 103 ballots to secure the Democratic nomination. The Democratic field was wide open throughout the election. Even MD’s Governor Ritchie campaigned for the nomination. Progressive Pollette had served as the Senator representing Wisconsin and also as its governor. The Kavanaghs were no fans of Coolidge. They wanted a change. A change back. They wanted Prohibition repealed despite that being out of the president’s scope of power. They voted for Davis.
Frank Kavanagh dies of malaria at the Panama Canal. He had contracted it several weeks prior. Joe receives a telegram at the Shop. James and Joe are very upset. Their youngest brother is dead. They stand for a moment in stunned silence. They pass the news on to their sons and the rest of the crew, some who knew Frank. Eddie takes it hard. He was trained by Frank and close to him. Joe soon ushers the men back to work. He and James return to the small corner office. Situated at the very corner of Pratt and Central. Three desks and a small safe crammed into a 10’ x 15’ room. They speak of Frank for a few minutes until the phone on Joe’s desk rings. He answers with the customary, “Joseph Kavanagh Company.” And the day goes on.
Arrangements are made to bring Frank’s body back to Baltimore. The funeral will be at St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary Church on Baltimore Street. The family parish. Only three of Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh’s nine children remain. Joe is the oldest than Sally (Sarah) and the youngest is now James. Frank was the ninth of nine. He was the baby.
Jack Hart is captured in Chicago after an attempted silk robbery. Jack and an accomplice are spotted in a car by a policeman. He is suspicious and searches the vehicle. He finds over $30,000 in silk in the car. They are arrested for robbery immediately. Jack quickly admits to be wanted in MD. Baltimore authorities are notified as fast as possible. The news is met with excitement in Baltimore. Particularly, at Pratt and Central Avenue. The Kavanaghs are happy to hear of Jack’s re-capture. This should put an end to visits from the police.
The B & O Railroad donates the use of a special car to ship Jack Hart back to Baltimore. He waives his right to an extradition trial. Anxious to get on with it. He jokes with police officers and detectives Smoking cigars and cigarettes with them as he travels back east. Hart displays a friendly demeanor at all times. Upon arrival in Baltimore, he is jovial and jokes with reporters he recognizes. He is happy to be out of Chicago. Warden Sweezey once again vows that Jack will never get out again. He will spend the rest of his days in the Maryland Penitentiary. As Joe reads this in the paper, he hopes Sweezey is right. He sure hopes this is the end of the craziness of the last few years.
Today is Frances (Frank) Aloysius Kavanagh’s funeral. He is buried on a Saturday. The family gathers, prays and grieves for him. They find support in each other and their faith. Frank was a very skilled coppersmith. The last coppersmith trained by Old Uncle Joe. He played the violin and enjoyed playing music with his brothers and nephews and nieces. He was married to Gussie who pre-deceased him as did one of his sons, Christian. He is buried at Loudon Park Cemetery on Wilkens Avenue with them. Frank was survived by son Charles who lives with his mother’s sister. They soon relocate to Philadelphia to be closer to her family. Eddie Kavanagh was an apprentice to Frank. They were close. Eddie regarded Frank as the nicest and kindest of the Kavanagh brothers including his father.
The annual Christmas Eve party is held at the Shop. As always, customers, workers and Kavanaghs mingle together to celebrate. They have made it through another year, but their hearts are heavy for Frank. Joe and James were his older brothers. Much older especially Joe. Joe was 17 years older than Frank. Frank was still a young man. Yet, there is another generation being born. Babies, Jack and Florence, Leo’s boy is 8 years old and his daughter Mary is 1. These children remind the family of the future. They bring a sense of hope and wonder at what they might do. Meanwhile, Jack Hart is back in jail after ten months on the lam. The mystery of the piano playing on the truck is never solved. The police searches, questions and the newspaper reports are all finished though. The family is relieved. They can focus again on doing their jobs. The Shop’s crew is a little smaller. Twenty men from over thirty before Prohibition. They will continue to try to find other work if possible. So far, they are making it work without the whiskey distilling industry. The Shop is adapting and surviving. The Kavanaghs right with it.
Calvin Coolidge is the President of the United States. In Nevada, the gas chamber is first used for an execution. IBM and MGM are founded. J. Edgar Hoover becomes leader of the FBI. The Leopold and Loeb murder occurs in Chicago. The Indian Citizenship Act gives citizenship to Native Americans. The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is held. Marlon Brando, Carrol O’Connor, Truman Capote, Shirley Chisholm and Rod Serling, are born.
There are 48 states in the Union.
6 thoughts on “1924 A Pair of Jacks”
Hit the road, Jack! Brings piano playing to a whole new level!
Kavanagh ‘s Story just keeps getting better with each era of history…….
I bet there was a big sigh of relief when Jack was caught…..AGAIN
❤️ Washington Senators
Walter “ Perry” Johnson winning only World Series ( Actually met one of his catchers in 1987 ….. Only remember his 1st name Mr Earl n he was in his 90’s then) Poor Frank ….. You never get over losing a sibling …….. Can’t wait for your dad’s era to get going….. Bet it won’t be to long he’ll be hanging out at Pratt n Central 😉. Keep em coming Mr Joe….Thank you so much for sharing ❤️
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Thanks for reading! Your support & interest means a lot. Thanks my friend.
You’ve really got amazing and detailed history there. I’ve really enjoyed the couple of posts I’ve gotten through since finding your blog. 🙂
Thanks for sharing, bank robberies and prison escapes are high on my priority list of crimes. Your characters are very much historical sounding and the pictures are great.
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Thanks! They are historical but mostly they are real. I just try to do them & the story justice.