1933 The End of Prohibition

January 13

The year has begun just as last year did. There’s no work in the Shop and they don’t bother opening the place. Joe has continued to lend money to the Shop to make payroll though he is no longer taking a salary for himself or his brother James. The only money they have coming in is from his son Eddie’s bootlegging. Eddie makes the whiskey and gin in his neighbor’s basement at 436 N. Lakewood Ave.; he bottles and delivers it all over the City per customers’ needs, still using the code word and guise of “Radio Repairs.” The Shop continues to pay Joe’s sons, Leo and Eddie and James’ son Guy as well as Mr. Funke and Mr. Stromm, their two long-time employees. Eddie splits the profits from the bootlegging with his father, who uses the money to make payroll at the Shop. The money from the illegal booze has kept them going so far but the Kavanagh’s worry about how much longer they can do this. That’s why Joe isn’t drawing a salary or paying James, who understands but isn’t thrilled about it. The Shop is closed nearly every day but Friday and that’s when the employees pick up their pay. James doesn’t bother coming in even on Fridays, but he and his brother speak on the phone to update each other.

January 29

Joe and his wife Johanna invite their boys and their families over for dinner. Johanna makes a large pot of lamb stew for them all and they gather at 1629 Thirty-third Street. After dinner, Johanna has pie for them all as usual. She does a great deal of baking these days and sells her half-pies in her neighborhood to help make ends meet and in order to be able to occasionally treat her grandchildren. They relax in the parlor with Joe and Eddie taking turns playing the piano and singing. Young Jack sits with Eddie and pounds out a few notes; he is taking lessons now and learning fast. They talk of the family but mostly stay away from the subject of the Shop until Joe mentions that he has heard the movement to repeal Prohibition is gaining steam. Roosevelt is much more interested in getting rid of the ban on alcohol than Hoover ever was. Mostly, FDR is trying to break the country out of the Depression. Joe and his sons briefly discuss the implications of a repeal. It would be a great boon to the Shop. It might take some time to get rolling but the volume of work could be tremendous. They would need to hire some workers quickly, but that’s a problem they would love to have. They all agree to keep a close watch on what goes on in DC and do whatever is necessary to grab that work if it returns.

February 20

Congress passes the Blaine Act to repeal Prohibition. In order to finish the repeal, a twenty-first amendment is prepared which a minimum of thirty-six states must ratify. This will certainly happen as the push for repeal is very strong. It will take months but the hope is that Prohibition is gone by the end of the year. The Kavanagh’s are pleased and Joe begins formulating a plan to prepare themselves for the inevitable rush of work that should come with the return of the distilling industry.

March 3

By executive order, President Roosevelt closes all US banks today calling it a “Bank Holiday.” The economic situation has gotten rockier and this is an effort at a reset. It has little effect on the Joseph Kavanagh Company as they are running entirely on cash at the moment and the building at Pratt and Central is closed. FDR is trying to shore up and support the financial institutions of the country while finding ways to help those who are out of work. What will be called the “New Deal” is being written. It is a combination of efforts to provide a safety net for citizens and a boost to the economy.

March 5

Leo and Eddie meet with their father and mother at their home on Thirty-third Street. They spend some time fiddling with Eddie’s old Indian motorcycle in the backyard. Eddie loves this bike and refuses to give it up; his brother is good with auto repairs and helps keep it running when necessary. Johanna brings them some iced tea and the discussion is about what to do in the buildup to Prohibition’s repeal and, for that matter, what to do after the repeal. The “Radio Repair” Bootlegging calls are going well, in fact, Eddie has some customers that don’t need to call. They have standing weekly orders and Eddie works hard to keep it all going. With the end of Prohibition, the brewery and distillery work will doubtlessly return. The question is how quickly will the Shop get that work. Joe will telephone his old friends in the industry to remind them that the Joseph Kavanagh Company is still open. Joe believes the calls for the repeal and all the steps that lead to it should increase sales for Eddie; as the enthusiasm increases so should interest in drinking. Eddie agrees and believes they should do their best to take advantage of this. They all agree they need to work together and help out wherever necessary. Joe, with Leo’s help, will keep his house full of ingredients, the rye and corn they need. Leo will transport the supplies to 436 N. Lakewood, the Kellner’s house where the still is busier than ever. Eddie will keep mixing the gin, distilling the rye and making all deliveries. He prefers multiple small deliveries on his bike but uses his car when necessary. Instead of worrying more about the police, which was rarely a concern anyway, the fellows worry even less about the law. The state was always a “wet” state but now Baltimore seems to anxiously await the return of alcohol.

March 13

US Banks re-open after Roosevelt’s extended “Bank Holiday.” The Shop remains closed for now but Eddie keeps bringing in cash. They gather at Pratt and Central on Fridays to receive their pay despite no hours worked.

May 12

The Kavanagh’s hold a meeting and decide to hire some more men. James is very much opposed but Joe is insistent. They will need a good group of smiths and they need to start assembling that crew. The signs are that a great deal of work will come once Prohibition is legally gone. Joe wants to be prepared for it and have a good crew of talented workers on hand. Eddie will find the best men available in Local #80 and begin hiring as soon as they can. As General Secretary of the union, Eddie is in a good position to pick and choose the best of those coppersmiths available. His brothers in the union are as excited as he is at the prospect of work from the alcohol industry. Much of this work is coppersmith work which will be a big boost to the struggling rank and file of Local # 80.

June 10

The Shop hires several helpers, a man named Harvey and a young fellow named Leo Giannetti who both join the union and are qualified to work. They also hire another coppersmith from Local # 80, Tony Bagaur who Eddie knows personally. The company has begun receiving several orders from breweries and distilleries to do some maintenance. It isn’t much to start but it is work. In addition, some jacket kettle cookers have been ordered. The Shop works its first full week in two years, and combined with Eddie’s whiskey runs it makes for a busy week. They decide to bring Funke in on the bootlegging on Lakewood Avenue now that they have work in the Shop. He is someone they trust and he will assist Eddie in handling the uptick in demand for illegal booze. Leo, Stromm and Bagaur will do the coppersmith work at the Shop assisted by Harvey and Leo Giannetti. Eddie and Funke spend an hour or so each morning at the Shop but the bulk of their day is spent making and delivering whiskey and gin. They use the Shop’s truck and are able to group many deliveries into one trip through town. Eddie works many hours, some legitimate but most spent on alcohol production and sales. Joe is pleased but anxious and his brother is in a sullen mood. James is still against hiring new men and still upset he is not getting paid. The pay part is entirely Joe’s call as he is the one who’s been putting up the cash for the last several years. For now, Joe and his brother must wait to get paid. James accepts Joe’s decision but is not happy about it. As he did when they were open in the past, James reviews some of Leo’s drawings but these days it is almost unnecessary. Leo is an experienced and talented draftsman so James’ days are mostly full of waiting, reading the paper and counting the hours. Joe notices it and encourages his brother to speak to customers if they call but James has no interest in that. He remains quiet and detached and Joe assumes it will be so until some money comes his way.

July 6

On a Thursday afternoon, the first Major League Baseball All Star Game is played at Chicago’s Comiskey Park. The best players from each league will square off for an exhibition ballgame. Eddie, taking a break from his whiskey rounds, and sons Ed Jr. and Jack listen on the radio as the American League wins 5-3. Babe Ruth does not disappoint, hitting the first home run in All-Star history. Frankie Frisch, “The Fordham Flash” homers for the National League in a losing cause. The game draws an impressive 49,000 fans to Comiskey Park. Baseball’s owners take note of this and the game becomes an annual event. The Kavanagh’s listen to their first radio baseball game and they enjoy every moment. Father and sons quickly discuss the game between innings and hang on every pitch.

August 5

James does not come to the Shop at all this week. Joe doesn’t call him nor does he hear from him all week. Joe is not happy and doesn’t know what to do. He will call next week if James does not show up. It’s not the first time James has taken some time off but at this point, Joe wants everyone on hand. Even though it seems like there is little for James to do, Joe feels they need him. He’s 56 but still could do some work in a pinch. He notes James’ absence in the payroll ledger by scribbling “not at Shop” next to his initials in the payroll ledger as he closes the Shop for the day.

Shop Payroll Ledger. August 5, 1933.

August 8

Joe calls James and they have a heated discussion. James wants to be paid and insists he won’t work anymore without it. Joe retorts that James is an owner and owners get paid last and still must show up. Joe is putting the money up to keep the place open and prepare for a glut of work he’s confident will arrive soon. They’re working full weeks now and it will only get better. James is uninterested and hangs up on Joe saying he will let his brother know what he decides to do. Guy is privy to part of this chat as he walks into the office in mid-conversation. Joe glances at him then returns to his paperwork making no comment as Guy is James’ son. Both get back to work in silence and the office is quiet for the rest of the day.

August 28

James “Red” Kelly is arrested in Chicago for shooting three men during a card game. He shoots two brothers, John and Joseph Donbrowski, and another man, John Brennnan. All three are seriously wounded but survive. James “Red” Kelly is described as intoxicated in the police report and is taken to the prison in Cicero just outside of Chicago.

September 7

Joe reads the newspaper and is shocked to read that Jack Hart has been caught. He has been confirmed as a man arrested several days ago in Chicago claiming to be one James “Red” Kelly. Jack shot three men in a card game and was arrested. This time they figured out it was Jack and they have him. Joe reads the article quickly and wonders how it happened. It seems that Jack finally screwed up. He was drunk and got crazy mad in a card game. Joe calls his sons into the Shop’s small office to talk about it. The consensus is they hope Jack Hart is caught for good this time and this should be the end of the associated nonsense. The Kavanagh’s assume there will be a lot of media coverage and discussion when Jack is sent back to the Maryland Penitentiary, but that should be the end of it.

October 7

Despite a request for extradition by Maryland, James Connelly/ Jack Hart is convicted of the three shootings in Illinois and must serve time there. He is sentenced to 1- 14 years in the Cicero prison. It’s over and he won’t be coming back to Baltimore, the best possible scenario for Joe and the Kavanagh’s. They hope this puts an end to it but they can’t help but wonder if the Cicero prison can hold him. Jack is wily and smart and so far he has managed to escape each time he has been incarcerated. Still, he is getting older now and perhaps he will stay put.

October 8

The New York Giants beat the Washington Senators four games to one to win the 1933 World Series. “The Meal Ticket,” lefty Carl Hubbel wins two games, leading the Giants to the championship. The Kavanagh’s follow the series as they always do, including young Jack who rushes home from St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary Elementary School to catch any of the games he can on the radio. Every night he talks to his father about each game and the series in general. Eddie is delighted that his youngest son is developing such a passion for the game he loves. Jack is a huge Babe Ruth fan just as Eddie is, but despite homering in the All-Star game, Babe Ruth begins showing his age, his batting average dipping to .301 and home runs dropping to 34. He is still the big star of baseball but teammate Lou Gehrig and Boston’s “Double XX” Jimmie Foxx begin to steal some of Ruth’s limelight. Jack knows that Ruth is getting older but still considers him the best.

Jack even asks his father straight out, “Is Babe Ruth the best player of all time?”

Eddie grins and says, “No, Ty Cobb is the best baseball player of all time. Ruth is second though, but don’t ever tell your grandfather that I said that.” Eddie’s face widens into a grin with his son beaming back at him.

Shop Payroll Ledger October 14, 1933.

October 18

Maryland votes to ratify the 21st amendment repealing Prohibition. The Kavanagh’s knew that Maryland would vote in favor as soon as they could. Maryland was one of the “wettest” states all through the years of Prohibition. The citizens of this great state have spoken and what they want is a drink

October 27

Guy tells Joe that he is looking for another job. He feels very conflicted but can no longer work here with his father’s status in doubt. Joe agrees to continue paying him for a few weeks while he looks for another position. James is still adamant that he be paid or he won’t return to work He and Joe do not talk much and Joe is losing his patience. Eddie and Funke continue to make money with whiskey and gin as the demand increases. There were many parties to celebrate the state ratifying the 21st amendment. The Shop itself is busy with small bits of distillery and brewery work coming back in expectation of the repeal. Joe continues loaning money for payroll and sundries. They buy some pulleys and steel stock and copper for future work. Joe, more than anything, wants to be prepared for these jobs when they hit. He speaks to his sons and decides to hire two more coppersmiths and two more helpers to be prepared. Eddie finds the right men from the union and they are brought in to work at the Shop.

November 17

Joe gives James an ultimatum to return to work by the end of the year or he will be considered to have resigned his position. James answers that he does not want to work for his nephews. He feels like that is the direction Joe is taking the company with Leo and Eddie taking such prominent roles. Joe is surprised by this but answers that they are the most experienced smiths and they are Kavanagh’s. James merely repeats that he does not want to work for his nephews and ends the call. Joe knows he and James are still partners but begins to realize he may have to find some way to buy him out. While continuing to crank out whiskey and gin to make money, Joe begins to hold back some of those monies for just this purpose.

December 2

Guy finds another job and leaves the Shop for good. He will be missed by uncle and cousins. He worked hard in the office, kept the books and assisted Joe in many ways. He did his best to stay out of the situation between his father and his uncle, it was inevitable that Guy would leave. Joe hires a new bookkeeper, a Mr. McQuade, the following week. McQuade comes in on Friday, goes over the books and hands out the payroll. He came recommended to Joe by a friend and is only in the Shop once a week and that suits the situation well, considering the bootleg cash being used.

December 5

The 21st amendment is ratified by the necessary 36 states and Prohibition is repealed. Across the nation, there are celebrations and more than a few hangovers.

December 22

Joe and James argue over the phone about James’ refusal to return to work at the Shop. He tells Joe he will find another way and is considering starting his own business. He won’t return to work at the Shop and an angry Joe takes James’ name off the books. Joe decides to pay himself now, drawing four weeks back pay. He will need cash in his name now as he assumes James will have to be bought out. Joe feels sure that is what will have to be done.

Shop Payroll Ledger. December 23, 1933.

December 23

The Shop’s Christmas Party at Pratt and Central is held on this Saturday. In the early afternoon, the traditional last minute cleaning and decorating is done including a Christmas tree, and the Shop is ready for the holiday. It is a joyous and boisterous affair with the Kavanaghs, some customers and their now ten employees. Finally, they truly believe the future looks bright. They have hired the best men available and are ready for a rush of work. Eddie continues to generate cash for the Shop and they are confident that they are headed toward better days. Jack Hart is far from Baltimore and behind bars again, so that is hopefully the end of police questions, searches and the whole mess. Joe’s brother James is absent but they celebrate as they haven’t in years. The singing is louder and the smiles are brighter as three generations party. Joe sees his sons and his grandchildren gathered about him and thinks of his brothers. He is proud of his boys and thinks of a future for their families at the Shop but can’t help but wonder what will happen with James. He wanders away from the party and steps outside into the cold winter sun on the corner. Gazing up Pratt Street, he recalls the other brothers who worked at the Shop: Martin, who died in Chicago in an industrial accident after his publicized arrest for shooting a bartender on Christmas Eve 1910 and Frank, who died of malaria at the Panama Canal in 1924. His brother Eugene was killed in 1903 in a train wreck returning from a distillery in Connecticut. Eugene had taken the necessary measurements for an estimate the Shop was preparing to build and install. He was killed on the return trip. Joe and James are the last brothers who worked for Uncle Joe. Joe is shaken from his thoughts when Eddie approaches, placing a glowing match stick to the end of a cigarette.

“You should get back in there. It’s almost time for “O Holy Night.” Eddie says to his father as his first puff of smoke is blown away into the wind.

“I was just heading back in,” replies Joe, his gaze still fixed in the direction of downtown.

“What are you going to do?” Eddie asks looking at Joe.

Joe looks back at Eddie and answers, “About James? I’ll see what he wants. I don’t know what he’s thinking. Once I know that, I’ll figure it out.”

“It will be kind of strange without him and Guy around the place. I’m sure we’ll get used to it but I’ll miss them.” Eddie says, looking again at his father who seems not to have heard him.

Eddie takes another draw on his cigarette and asks,”Is there any chance James comes back?”

“No.” Joe answers, looking directly at his son before taking one last curious glance up Pratt Street, then gesturing that they should return to the party. As they open the door, they are met with the sound of Leo’s mandolin and a Christmas party like the old days. Food, drink and song, and hope in the air, in the Shop. Joe and Eddie join in the festivities as the room fills with laughter and holiday cheer. The focus is on family and friends celebrating Christmas together. As 1933 ends, the Shop is suddenly in a very good position to bounce back and quickly.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is sworn in as the President of the United States. Work on the Golden Gate Bridge begins in San Francisco Bay. The Lone Ranger premiers on radio. The singing telegram is invented. Giuseppe Zangara attempts to assassinate FDR in Miami, Florida but fatally wounds Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak instead. Mount Rushmore is dedicated. Frances Perkins, as Secretary of Labor, becomes the first female member of a presidential cabinet. The U.S. gets off the gold standard. The first drive-in theater and the first Krispy Kreme open. Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Carol Burnett, Willie Nelson, James Brown and Johnny Unitas are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Eddie Kavanagh 1920s

To read prior years, click the link below.

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