1941 Infamy

January 13

As it has been for so many years, the confectionery customers have helped the Shop to start off well in 1941. The Kavanagh’s usually have distilling and brewing work to do each month. The copper candy and peanut kettles make them that much busier. The Shop has made kettles for the candy-making industry nearly since its inception. Leo and Eddie take phone calls, set their schedule for the week and sort out which workers will do what. The crew are heating and hammering, pounding copper sheet into kettles, pots and vats as they do nearly every day.

February 18

Boiler work fills the Shop on a sunny winter day. The workers have kettles and distilling pots to repair but most are working on two sets of boiler parts. Large copper liners are heated and curved while a variety of fittings and valves are made. The heat of torches is the small respite of working at a place like the Shop. You are holding some heat in your hands and, as long as you know what you are doing, that does warm the day.

March 28

Eddie has come to an arrangement with the local draft board that will keep his son, Ed Jr. from being assigned overseas. He will enlist in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps. They build camps and work on infrastructure at military bases in support of combat troops. He discusses it with his son who is twenty-one years old and keenly aware of his situation. Ed Jr. is very relieved that he will not be called into combat service if the US enters this war. He will go along and enlist next month.

April 6

Germany invades Yugoslavia and Greece simultaneously. The Axis seeks to maintain shipping access to the Mediterranean so they take these two nations though there is partisan fighting within both throughout the remainder of the war. Like most Americans, the Kavanagh’s follow the activity in Europe closely, concerned that the US will be there eventually. The Shop’s crew work hard on some brewery vats that need repairing. They are leaking bad enough to require hauling to Central Avenue for repairs. Along with more boiler parts and a brass railing, it keeps the workers busy throughout a breezy spring day.

April 14

Ed Jr. enlists in the US Army Quartermaster’s Corps 104th to avoid being drafted and to guarantee he will stay close to home and not be assigned overseas even if the US goes to war. He is based in Maryland and will be able to work his job when not on duty. The Quartermasters establish and build the infrastructure for military bases. They do the nuts and bolts of building and maintaining and encampment and this one is in support of the 64th Infantry. Ed reports for duty and he will have several months of orientation and training before assignment which will be local in Maryland. When he is off duty, he’ll be allowed to work at the Shop and visit his home. All and all, a very favorable deal for Young Ed and he is grateful.

The Army’s Quartermaster Corps Unit # 104 including Ed Kavanagh Jr. 1941.

April 28

The Shop receives some work from the Philadelphia Navy Shipyard. Eddie will pay them a visit next week to work out details. The Joseph Kavanagh Company will be contracted to make some ballast chambers and bend a variety of copper tubes for the internal ship systems. This job will be long term, spread over an open-ended time frame. The Navy can’t specify just yet how many ships they will be producing but they need to get started soon. Eddie plans to take a train to Philadelphia next week and while he’s gone Leo will have the crew focusing on some more distillery work for Baltimore Rye.

May 27

British ships sink the German battleship Bismark. This is a major victory for the Allies and the newspapers cover it all. Americans are swiftly swinging toward support for the Western Europeans though not quite in favor of direct involvement. The Kavanagh’s are in agreement with most Americans; they see the threat posed by Hitler and his partners in the Axis. They see an attack on freedom in Europe that could grow to endanger all, but their feelings are tempered by the fact that it is still far away. Today, the crew work on a brass railing for a church and a round fountain, standard fare for the Joseph Kavanagh Company, and the crew easily attend to both while they discuss the sudden dramatic victory of the British. The war becomes fodder for conversation across the country as each step is carefully reviewed and analyzed.

June 3

Yankee Great Lou Gehrig has died from ALS at age 37. Joe has stopped into the Shop to talk about it with his boys. Joe has been a huge fan of baseball all of his life and is stunned that such a young man whose career was shortened by this disorder should now lose his life to it. Leo and Eddie feel the same way and the Kavanagh’s think highly of Gehrig, not only due to his lofty statistics, which were lofty indeed, but rather because of his gentle nature toward his gifts, skills and the success he achieved on the baseball diamond. A terrible tragic loss for baseball, the US and most acutely the Gehrig family and the extended family that was his Yankee teammates.

June 9

Jack returns to the Shop for the second year of his apprenticeship under the tutelage of his father. In the fall, he will return to high school for the final time. Jack knows he will be tested this summer to learn as much as possible. His father is a tough teacher but also a skilled coppersmith. Eddie was tougher on his sons than his workers in many ways but if you want to learn how to work copper, Eddie was your man.

June 14

Eddie and Leo sit in the Shop’s office on a Saturday morning discussing more baseball news: Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak. The Yankees’ DiMaggio has managed at least one hit in nearly thirty games. They both believe he has a chance to get to thirty and beyond. That would be an amazing accomplishment. Baseball is a sport steeped in failure. You are considered great if you can hit one out of three times at bat. The odds are rarely in a hitter’s favor, and to successfully hit in thirty or more games takes great talent, hard work and even a little luck. The crew is working a half-day finishing a brass railing and making some of their stock fittings.

June 22

Germany, aided by Italy and several of the other Axis powers, invades the Soviet Union. Hitler claims the Soviets were plotting against Germany with the British. A large scale invasion drives the Red Army back quickly and it is now a two front war in Europe. The Soviets are hit hard and lose men, arms and territory quickly. The story is another shocking turn to the events going on in Europe. The Germans deliberately choosing to engage the large nation to their East seems foolish but they mean to knock the Soviet Union back enough to keep them from entering the war full scale. It will take some time but this strategy will turn into one of Adolph Hitler’s biggest blunders.

June 29

Eddie and his son, Jack spend a Sunday at Bugle Field watching three baseball games. The E-Lite Giants host the Homestead Grays for two games, and a pair of barnstorming teams square off for game three. The Giants rally to defeat the Grays in game one led by catcher, Roy Campanella. The young Campanella has grown into a great hitter who will finish with a .345 batting average this year. Jack has watched him play for three seasons and has witnessed his growth as a player. Jack also is a catcher, on the Mt. St. Joe high school baseball team, so he has a natural affinity for catchers. The second game they see on this day is an exhibition but the biggest draw of the three games. Satchel Paige, the most well known and most talented pitcher in the Negro Leagues has been loaned (for cash) to the Grays for several road games. Everyone in the crowd is anxious to see Paige pitch even in an exhibition. He does not disappoint, striking out seven in four innings of shutout ball. Jack and his father love these days at the ballpark, watching games, comparing players and reliving the games of old. They ride home still conversing and reviewing each game, enjoying some father and son time. Jack was thrilled to see the famous Satchel Paige pitch and has become a bigger fan of Roy Campanella with each season. He has no idea that both will be in the Baseball Hall of Fame some day.

July 4

Joe and Johanna hold an Independence Day Party and cook out at Thirty-third Street for their sons and their grandchildren. Joe and his sons speak first about DiMaggio’s ongoing hitting streak which stands at 45. He is tied with Wee Willie Keeler, the former Baltimore Oriole for the longest streak in history. It is an astonishing accomplishment and all three men heap praise on Joe DiMaggio, and they are all confident that a new record will be set at the Yankees’ next ballgame. They love baseball and enjoy talking about the game but soon the conversation turns to the Shop and Eddie and Leo fill Joe in on what’s going on with the Navy Shipyard work. Joe offers his services. The brothers have already considered bringing their father back before he suggests it. He is good at sales and could help out with phone calls. Leo and Eddie are both very busy and with little time to attend to the telephone but they are hesitant to put their father back on the payroll. The brothers decide to approach the Navy about it. If they can get some compensation from the Navy to bring Joe back as a consultant, they will do it. As they eat and watch fireworks exploding over the hills of Patterson Park, they give thought to whether the Navy will pay to bring Joe back. He can help the Shop and his boys, and all the signs say they will need the assistance. They wait to hire Joe back and proceed with the day-to-day of running the Shop. America celebrates the nation’s birthday as this family does, and this day always brings to mind thoughts of freedom and independence. With the world at war, a quiet concern for the future fills the country with uncertainty. No one knows what to expect but they know enough to be afraid of it.

July 18

Eddie and Leo start the morning talking about Joe DiMaggio’s hitting streak which ended at fifty-six the day before. DiMaggio is a special ballplayer both brothers agree and they are mostly impressed with his consistency. Hitting successfully in fifty-six games is one of the most incredible achievements ever in the sport and the brothers shake their heads in near disbelief. Today in the Shop, Eddie begins teaching his son, Jack how to anneal. His first task is how to safely light the torch. It seems simple but like anything else, the hard part is doing it right, every time. Jack learns the subtlety of movement necessary to thorough even annealing of copper. It is all in the control of the heat. If the torch in your hand moves at the same pace throughout the process, the heat is controlled and the annealing is more even. It takes time to become proficient at using a torch and even longer to get comfortable with one. That comfort is the goal, but never while sacrificing attention and due diligence.

August 12

Eddie makes a three day trip to Philly to confer with the shipbuilders at the Shipyard. Firstly, they refuse to pay any consultant fee to Joe who they deem too old because he is in his 70s. Eddie knows his father will not be happy to hear that, but he accepts it. It was worth a shot to try to get some money for Joe’s help. As is, they will try to make it work without Joe but will call him if necessary. Eddie goes over drawings with the Navy men and clarifies what the Shop can do for them, the company’s capabilities and tolerances. Eddie is able to get a good sense of the scope of the work the Navy will need, and he knows the Shop will be busy for sometime due to the Shipyard and also due to the war.

August 18

The Shop begins prep work for the copper chambers and tanks they need to make for the Navy. Jack learns the use of a torch quickly, schooled by his father. First, he learns how to safely light a torch then how to handle it. Safety is not just first but paramount when dealing with fire and gas. The next step for Jack is to learn to control the fire and make it work for you. Next, he will learn different processes and approaches to annealing different metals. Copper is definitely simpler to work with than brass, for instance. The last thing any smith learns, especially in regard to using heat, is discernment. Is it hot enough? Is it completely softened by the heat? A coppersmith can anneal when he knows these things with surety. The crew still tease young Jack as they did last summer but he takes it well and laughs along with them. This garnishes a certain respect from the workers and cuts down on the razzing, because if Jack laughs along with it, what’s the point of teasing. Jack’s brother, Ed, is at the Shop part-time this summer, spending most of these months on duty with the Quartermasters Corps.

Ed Kavanagh Jr. with Army’s Quartermaster Corps Unit # 104. 1941.

September 8

Jack returns to Mount Saint Joseph’s High School for his senior year having learned a great deal in two summers. Eddie is proud of Jack’s work and his approach to work. He took any razzing and kidding in stride and focused on learning and working hard. Eddie is proud of both his boys, and begins envisioning a future with both at the Shop, both being part of the team, the crew.

September 22

Eddie spends another four day trip in Philly as Leo runs the Shop alone. They are busy and doing well with several brewing and distilling repair jobs scheduled through October. The younger Ed is still serving locally in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps. He is able to work part-time as he does have some days when he is off duty. Ed Jr. is advancing, though his father still bemoans his over attention to detail. Ed is meticulous and it slows the work down too much for his father. That being said, Eddie is mostly happy that his son is home and in no danger of deployment overseas. The Shop is humming along and they are working six days every week now.

October 6

The New York Yankees win the World Series defeating the Brooklyn Dodgers four games to one. The media dub this match-up the “Subway Series” with both teams playing in New York. The Yanks are again led by Joe DiMaggio who has an incredible season including the 56 game hitting streak. The Kavanagh’s marvel at this feat. Fifty-six consecutive games of hitting safely is astonishing. DiMaggio hits over .400 during the streak and drives in 55 runs. Remarkably, after this streak ends, on the very next day, DiMaggio starts another hitting streak of sixteen games. The 56 game hitting streak is another record deemed unbreakable by most baseball fans and as of 2019, they are correct. In this same amazing season, a young Boston Red Sox outfielder, Ted Williams eclipses the .400 mark for batting average. Hitting .39955 going into the final day of the season, he does not rest but plays both ends of a doubleheader, going 6 for 8 and boosting his average to .406. Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams will be forever connected because of this astounding season and the shared era in which they played. Despite Williams cracking the nearly impossible barrier of the .400 batting average, DiMaggio wins the Most Valuable Player Award.

November 29

The family visits Aunt Anna, Sister Mary Agnes, at the Visitation Convent on Roland Avenue. The Kavanagh’s try to see her at least once a month and always near each holiday. They talk about the family and the Shop with her and she is happy to hear it all. They discuss the problems in Europe and Sister Mary Agnes is praying for peace for all involved.

December 7

Eddie, Anna and their sons return from St. Elizabeth’s Church after celebrating Mass and prepare for a lazy Sunday at home. They enjoy a light lunch of sandwiches and listen to the radio. A Sunday roast will be made by Annie tonight with all the assorted fixings of roast potatoes, carrots and onions. As Annie prepares dinner, the music on the radio is interrupted by a news report. A US Naval base has been attacked in Hawaii. The Japanese have launched a surprise air assault on Pearl Harbor. It is a shocking first strike and the US fleet is badly damaged. Over 2000 Americans die and over 1100 more are wounded. With hardly a word, Annie has called her husband and son into the room and they all stand aghast listening to the report. The United States has been attacked and taken terrible losses. The nation is going to war.

USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Memorial. Courtesy of US Navy
USS Arizona Pearl Harbor Memorial. Hawaii. Courtesy of US Navy.

December 8

President Roosevelt delivers his “Day that will live in Infamy” speech as America listens on the radio. Americans rally around our nation like rarely before. There is something deeply personal about your nation’s autonomy being attacked. The morality of war can be complicated from an outsider’s viewpoint. All the questions of whether the US should intervene in favor of its allies and make war against the Axis powers are moot now for not only is there justification for war, there is desire for it. Justice must be served and war is what it will take. There is a somberness to the nation’s mood, but also clarity. FDR has made it clear what needs to be done and what will be done. The attack on Hawaii was an affront to all citizens and the public is not only in favor of American involvement, they demand it. The world demands it.

December 14

After church at St. Elizabeth’s of Hungary Church at the corner of Lakewood Avenue and Baltimore Street, Eddie is fooling about on the piano with his son Jack. They take turns playing melodies and chords; both love the piano like Eddie’s father Joe. Jack is a third generation ivory tickler in this family. He has been taking lessons for nine years and is still learning but has become an accomplished player. Eddie leaves Jack to continue playing and steps into the kitchen where Annie sits quietly sipping some tea.

He joins her at the table, lights a cigarette and asks her, “What’s wrong Annie? I know you are worried. What is it?”

Her eyes rise from her tea cup and she answers, “They are going to take our Jack and send him to war, Eddie. I know it.” Tears fill her eyes and she looks away from her husband.

“We don’t know that yet, Annie. We don’t. Things are bad and we are at war but we don’t know how long this will last. We were able to keep Ed out of it but I don’t think we’ll have the same luck with Jack. We can just hope and pray this war ends fast and maybe he’ll be okay.” Eddie tries to re-assure her though the same concerns weigh on him.

“It won’t end fast enough. Jack will graduate from school in the spring and be eighteen. He will have to register and they will make him go.” Annie says in a very matter-of-fact way.

“We will get Jack into some kind of college program, hon. That might help. I spoke to him about attending the Maryland Institute in the fall. He can study drafting and how to read drawings. It will help him at the Shop and in his future. Maybe it will help him get a deferment.” Eddie says, though not in a very convincing tone.

“That won’t work. They will take him. You know it and I know it. I am so scared for him, Eddie.” She begins to weep and Eddie jumps up from his chair, moves to her side and wraps his arms around her.

“We’ll see what happens, Annie. It will be okay. I promise.” he whispers into her ear. He hopes he is right and faces the real fear that his son could go to war. And he might not come back.

December 24

The Shop holds its Christmas party as a good year ends but with a great deal of uncertainty and concern for the future. The US is at war with Japan, Germany, Italy and the lesser Axis powers and everything else takes a backseat to that in importance. The Shop has had a fine year financially and it has been greatly augmented by the Navy work but if all things were equal they would trade that work away for peace. Things don’t work that way and Europe was propelled toward war by Germany’s and its allies’ actions. The moves that lead to the conflict on the continent also were stepping stones to US involvement. The country did its best to stay out of the conflict but Japan played a hand and now war has spread around the globe. A US territory was attacked and in short order the US will move troops and munitions into play. The war that started in Europe is now a true world war with battles in North Africa and the Pacific. The Russians have rallied against the Germans but the battle for the Eastern Front looks to be a long drawn out affair. The Western Front will have to wait for the Allies to find a way to invade the German occupied continent. On the Pacific Front, the US has taken a mighty hit but plans for a swift response in kind. Americans are afraid but they are buoyed by a consistent feeling that they are on the right side of history. Germany and Italy have invaded countries at will in Europe, and Japan attacked Hawaii and that is American territory. It was an attack on our nation, and Americans, including the Kavanagh’s, know now that involvement in this war is necessary. They have brought the war to us and we must protect ourselves and fight back. This year ends full of doubt and concern for the Shop, the Kavanagh’s, their country and the world.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States. The USO is created. The first issues of Captain America Comics and Wonder Woman Comics are published. The National Gallery of Art opens. The films, Dumbo and Citizen Kane are released. The sculpting portion of Mount Rushmore is completed. Bob Dylan, Emmett Till, Joan Baez, Otis Redding, and Pete Rose are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Jack, Ed and Billy Hartmann
Jack Kavanagh, Ed Kavanagh Jr. in his Army uniform and their cousin Billy Hartmann ( left to right). 1941.

To read past years’ posts, click the Table of Contents link below:

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