1929 The Crash and the Escape

January 2

A snowy start to the year finds the Shop very active working on jacket kettles and the assorted cooking apparatus that goes with them. The annual parade of confectionery work along with some boiler work has Pratt and Central very busy. Joe sits in the small office with his brother James and nephew Guy scheduling jobs and preparing quotations. His mind is also on his daughter Anna. She is due to take her final vows as a Visitation nun next month and he and his wife have mixed feelings. They are resigned to her joining the convent permanently but torn by the separation of the cloistered life. He knows his daughter wants the life of service and he will support her. Joe empties his pipe into the ashtray then returns to his notes.

January 13

On a Saturday afternoon, Joe’s niece, Kitty Connelly, visits Joe and Johanna on Collington Avenue. Joe was surprised to receive a call from her this week informing him that she was moving back to Baltimore. Kitty told her uncle she was not well and couldn’t work anymore. She has moved in with her sister Regina for the time being. Johanna makes them all a cup of tea. Kitty is very upset with the Maryland Penitentiary. They have locked her husband, Jack Hart, in solitary. He had refused to work because they won’t let them kiss when she visits. Kitty is very distraught but finds the strength to continue:

Not even a kiss. We can only talk through bars now. They can’t stop Jimmy and I from loving each other, Uncle Joe.”

Of course they can’t,” Joe answers her while looking at his wife. “They aren’t trying to do that, but it’s prison. They have rules.”

I don’t care about the rules. They have it in for Jimmy. They keep accusing him of having saws and keys in his cell. It’s not true. They plant things there to make him look guilty.” Kitty says as Jo rolls her eyes ever so subtly to her husband.

There’s nothing that can be done about it, Kitty.” Joe pats her shoulder. “You are home in Baltimore with your family. That’s for the best. You spend some time at Regina’s and you’ll feel better soon.”

I’ll do that, and I will be closer to Jack too. That’s the best part.” Kitty offers a soft smile.

Yes, that’s also nice.” says Johanna as she gathers the tea cups and walks to the kitchen. Joe again assures Kitty that it will all be fine and offers her a ride to her sister’s home. Johanna gives Kitty a good-bye hug and Joe ushers his niece out the front door while his wife mouths the word “trouble” to him.

February 11

Anna Kavanagh takes her final vows and becomes a Visitation nun, Sister Mary Agnes. The ceremony is held in the chapel at the Visitation convent on Roland Avenue. Both of Anna’s parents attend, Joe taking the afternoon off from work. The Visitation sisters take vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Joe and Johanna congratulate their daughter, keeping their reservations to themselves. They are very strong in the Catholic faith but the cloistered life is one of separation from family, a big adjustment for any family as close as the Kavanagh’s, a life of service and devotion to the Lord, with family communication and visits taking a back seat. Anna’s parents enjoy the service and stay for a small gathering afterwards then Jo drives them home. Johanna sticks to her guns and still refuses to get in a car with her husband driving.

Sister Mary Agnes - Visitation1
Sr. Mary Agnes(Anna Kavanagh) at the Visitation Convent. February 11, 1929.

March 16

On a cool Saturday night just before midnight, Jack Hart escapes from the Maryland Penitentiary again, this time accompanied and assisted by another inmate, George Bailey. Jack sawed through three locks to get out of his solitary cell and then released Bailey from his. They climbed carefully onto the top of the cell block. Using a can opener, the two escapees cut a hole in a ventilation shaft. Next, Hart and Bailey climbed onto the roof of the prison and dropped a makeshift rope(made from bedding and fabric) down to the Eager Street side of the building. Jack went down first and then the rope snapped or was cut. The police couldn’t determine which it was. George Bailey finds himself stranded on the roof, where he’s discovered the next day. Without looking back, Jack hastens along Eager and quickly turns down a side street. Jack is out. Jack is free.

March 17

On this St. Patrick’s Day Sunday, the Kavanagh’s read of Jack Hart’s escape. Joe calls his sons and his brother and they meet at Joe’s house to discuss. A corned beef and cabbage dinner is quickly organized and prepared by Johanna. Joe tells them all to be ready for the obligatory police visits and searches. They will stick to their story that they only knew Jack as James Connelly. They knew him as Kitty’s husband and that’s it. Of course, there will be no mention of the bootlegging he did with the Kavanagh’s. After the rest of the family leaves, Joe calls Regina’s house to speak to Kitty. Regina answers and tells Joe that Kitty is resting. She has already received a visit from the police and they questioned Kitty immediately. She told them she doesn’t know anything about it and is as surprised as they are that Jack has escaped. Joe is concerned for Kitty but Regina says she handled it well but is very tired. She tires easily now. Regina is very happy Kitty has moved in so she can be cared for more closely.

March 18

The Kavanagh’s arrive at 201 S. Central Avenue at 7:00 a.m. and the police are there waiting for them. Officers Dawson, Mayo, Springate and McNeil search the Shop top to bottom again. They find nothing and are quick to explain that they are only doing their jobs. They question Joe and the crew about Jack, if they have heard from him. Joe answers for all of them and gives an unequivocal no. He has not and does not expect to see Hart or hear from him. The four officers have searched the place five times over the last few years. They know the Kavanagh’s by now and accept their answer. They do not linger this time as the common belief is that Hart has left the City. The police depart after requesting that if anyone hears of or from Jack Hart, they must notify the authorities immediately. After the police leave, Joe gets his crew back to work but at lunch the Kavanagh’s have a brief chat while eating corned beef sandwiches. They all agree that it went well. The police seem to understand they don’t know where Jack is. If and when the police return, they will just let them search and handle it the same way. Later in the day, Eddie sees his father exit the Shop and step over to the corner of Pratt and Central. Joe would do this often and smoke his pipe while watching the traffic go by. Eddie puts his hammer down and joins Joe. Eddie lights a cigarette and asks his father about his call to Regina’s house. Joe recounts the brief conversation while they smoke Finally, Eddie has a question.

“Joe? Do you think Jack went to see Kitty?” Eddie asks to his father’s surprise.

“I don’t know and I don’t want to know.” Joe answers then takes a slow draw on his pipe. “And neither do you.”

“Do you think Regina would know if they saw each other?” Eddie spits a bit of tobacco out after his second question.

“Nope. Kitty’s too smart to let anyone know.” Joe answers.

“You mean Jack’s too smart.” replies Eddie with an eyebrow raised.

Joe’s eyes widen and he says, “Kitty’s too smart.” He pauses then tells Eddie, “Break is over. Time to get back in there.” He heads to the door and enters followed by his son. Joe turns left into the office while Eddie turns right into the Shop proper. He tosses his cigarette and replaces it with a stick of Double Mint gum then grabs his hammer.

April 24

Over a month has passed and Jack is still missing. The Shop is busy, flush with copper cooking vessels, brass bearings for a boiler and some replacement fittings for Globe Brewery. The crew labors distracted by the cool breeze of a spring day. The sun shines as Joe takes his daily walk onto the corner of Pratt and Central watching cars whiz by. He looks up at the blue sky, lights his pipe and wonders where did Jack get to anyway.

June 17

It is a busy summer Monday. Steamship repairs, boiler work, cooking kettles and ornamental rails fill the Shop. The men begin working a half day every Saturday. This year hasn’t started as well as last but the men have work and they go with the extra hours for now. Joe is always looking for potential jobs and so he follows business dealings in Baltimore and Maryland. He has heard that an aircraft company, Glenn L. Martin has opened a factory in Middle River and wonders if there is any work for them in aircraft parts. He can only hope. Joe is constantly on the lookout for new customers.

August 10

Eddie attends a meeting of Coppersmiths Local #80 on a hot and humid Saturday night. He reports to his union brothers that the Joseph Kavanagh Company is doing well and presently has quite a bit of coppersmith work. They are working at least a half day every Saturday and some times all day. The rank and file are pleased to hear this and hope it continues. Any union shop that is busy is good news for the union. After the meeting, Eddie drives home on his Indian Motorcycle cruising through the streets of Baltimore. He brings along several letters to answer from other Locals tucked in his briefcase that is strapped to the bike.

October 15

The talk of the Shop on this Tuesday is the World Series. Connie Mack’s Philadelphia Athletics defeated the Chicago Cubs four games to one; Joe has known Mack for years and has always rooted for his team. The series was highlighted by two incredible comebacks by the Athletics. In game four, Philadelphia scores ten runs in the seventh inning to win 10-8, a wild inning that included a misplayed three run inside-the-park home run. The last inside-the-park homer in a World Series game until 2015. Once again, in game five the Athletics rally from behind to win the game and the series. Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the ninth, they score three and win the championship. Joe goes over that last inning with delight. Mule Haas tying it with a 2-run home run then several batters latter Al Simmons racing home to win it all on a Bing Miller double. Joe is very happy for his old acquaintance. They’ve seen each other a few times over the years and Joe loves to go up to Philly for a ballgame, though his obligations at the Shop limit his opportunities to do so. Joe’s son Eddie was also pulling for the Athletics. He was always an American League guy, though his true loyalty was with Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees. More of a fan of Ruth than the team, still he rooted for them just to hear more about the Babe. Ruth has a good season, hitting a crisp .345 while mashing 46 home runs. The Yanks finish a distant second to the Athletics: 18 games back.

October 29

The New York Stock Market crashes and this day becomes known as Black Tuesday. The market drops a whopping 70 points in two days. That amounts to a 25% drop in stock prices. There is a rebound but not much of one. Stocks had been on a bull run through the 20s but the market couldn’t bear it any longer. A correction wouldn’t do the trick and panic spreads, causing widespread sell-offs of stock. The U.S. economy had been showing signs of slowing for several months. Steel sales and automobile sales were down but no one expected this. The market fell primarily due to over speculation. The economy was on a tear through the 1920s with many people jumping into the stock market. A large portion of these investors were buying stock with borrowed money and banks were loaning up to 2/3 of the purchase price of stock to investors. When stocks took a tumble first in March and then September, it was a warning of the instability of the market. By October, when stocks fell, chaos reigned, with some stocks being sold so quickly the ticker tapes couldn’t keep up, and banks calling in loans from investors holding worthless stock. The market remains unstable and will continue to fall over the next several years.

November 8

Very quickly, the work slows down. Joe notices within days of the Crash that the phone isn’t ringing much. The Shop has some work on the books but the Kavanagh’s worry about the future, especially with the winter coming on. They work on fabricating a brass railing and some boiler parts today. Joe and James will brace for a rough winter but they have no idea how bad it will get and for how long.

November 30

The Saturday after Thanksgiving Joe and Johanna visit Anna (Sr. Mary Agnes) at the Visitation convent in Roland Park. She tells them that she’s very happy with the life she has chosen and has adapted well. They discuss her brothers’ children, the Shop and the neighborhood. She inquires about Kitty and her mother tells her that Kitty isn’t well. She seems weaker and is having more trouble walking and moving about. Joe and Jo are concerned and have advised Kitty to see a doctor. They touch briefly on Jack Hart’s escape, with Joe doing his best to brush over it quickly. Sister Mary Agnes tells her parents that Jimmy Connelly is a lost soul who needs guidance. She promises to pray for both Kitty and Jack.

The Visitation Convent. 5712 Roland Avenue. Baltimore, MD. 1929.

December 15

Kitty’s condition has worsened and she’s admitted to the Volunteers of America Hospital. Joe drives her there accompanied by her sister Regina. Kitty is diagnosed with spinal trouble and essentially is bedridden. Her sister Regina has done everything she could to care for Kitty and Joe comforts her as best he can, but both are worried for Kitty. This is clearly serious and they can only hope and pray for a recovery.

December 24

The yearly Christmas Party is held. The Shop is quickly cleaned and decorated for the holiday affair. Young Leo, Ed, Mary and Jack play in the Shop, excited at the prospect of Christmas. Three generations of Kavanagh’s welcome the holiday with cheer but there is much concern for next year with the economy so erratic. They’ve already felt the effects and have stopped working Saturdays; their backlog of scheduled work has gotten a lot shorter. Nonetheless, they celebrate, sharing food and drink and song. They hope for the best next year as they have so many times in the past. The family is also concerned about Kitty who remains in the hospital. She grows weaker very quickly when visited and seems to have little strength. As far as her husband goes, there’s no sign of Jack Hart. During his previous escape, there were always rumors or false reports of him but this time he’s gone. Jack is a ghost.



Herbert Hoover is the President of the United States. The Baltimore Museum of Art opens. Seven of Al Capone’s enemies are shot to death on February 14 in what is called the St. Valentine’s Massacre. The First Academy Awards are held. “Wings” wins the Best Picture. The Wickersham Commission begins an investigation into illegal whiskey production. Amos and Andy premieres on radio. JC Penney becomes the first retailer with stores in all 48 states. Foster Grant mass produces sunglasses for the first time. Admiral Byrd flies over the South Pole. Martin Luther King, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Grace Kelly, and Dick Clark are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Joseph A. “Crazy Joe” Kavanagh. Late 1920s.


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