1942 World War Two

January 12

Eddie and Leo have decided to hire two more coppersmiths. They may need more helpers too, but they definitely need more smiths. The Navy work from the Philadelphia Shipyard and their winter candy-making work has them falling behind on their jobs. The Shop has some of their steady distillery and brewery repairs to do as well. In addition, they have received some orders for ship parts from the local Bethlehem Shipyard. The Kavanagh’s welcome the work but it has all hit at the same time, mixed with the fears that come with a war. Eddie will find two good men from Coppersmiths Local#80 and hire them immediately.

January 26

The first American troops arrive in Europe, landing in Northern Ireland. The US is now mobilizing its forces to coordinate with their Allies before any invasion or assault plans are made. The Shop remains busy working on ship parts for the Philly Navy Shipyard as well as the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, the usual candy kettles and alcohol industry work. Plus, today they are fabricating a copper fountain to be placed in front of a hotel downtown. Perforated sheet is rolled into a tube, then the tube is curved into a circle. All seams are soldered and this “sprayer tube” controls and releases the water in and out of the fountain. The crew are working five days and a half-day on Saturday each week, and that is very unusual for the winter and bodes well for the rest of the year.

February 2

FDR signs an executive order to intern Japanese Americans and seize their property. Japanese-Americans are removed from their homes and forcibly housed in internment camps throughout the West. The Kavanagh’s are hardly aware of it, as the focus of the news is the fighting around the world and, like many Americans, they assume the President’s actions are necessary. Most likely, they do not think of it through the eyes of these citizens who have been incarcerated entirely due to their ethnicity. In times of emergency people try to think of the greater good and sometimes, the greater good isn’t good for everyone.

February 16

The latest news about the war is that the Japanese have defeated the British in Singapore, taking control of the colony. The surrender and occupation of Singapore is called the “worst defeat” in British history by Winston Churchill. The Japanese begin a program of ethnic cleansing of the local Chinese population, which results in over 25,000 Chinese deaths. In Baltimore, Leo and Eddie are busy in their small corner office, planning their week. They speak of the war and wonder when the US will get directly involved. It is only a matter of time, and Eddie is very concerned for his son Jack who turns 18 in May. Jack will graduate high school and could soon be a prime candidate for the draft.

March 20

A large shipment of copper block and sheet arrives at the Shop from Baltimore Copper Smelting on this Friday. It is the largest order they have placed in years, but Leo and Eddie have decided they need to stock up for the future. Demand may get high for all metals, prices may rise and limitations may be applied as the war progresses. The sale of new cars has already been banned to save the nation’s steel supplies for military vehicles. The Kavanagh’s want to be sure to have the materials they need especially with this great deal of Navy work that is promised.

April 9

The Shop is busy with a variety of coppersmith work today, the crew hammering away to shape and turn copper sheet. Leo and Eddie lead their men as fire is thrown around, clamps and dies used to bend copper into the desired shapes. It is the 76th Anniversary to the day of the original Joseph Michael Kavanagh opening the Shop for business. They were Kavanagh and Smith then, as Old Uncle Joe had a partner, George Smith. The partnership lasted about ten years when Joe set out on his own. His business passed to his nephews and over time, at last, to the second Joseph Kavanagh, then finally to his sons, Leo and Eddie. This day is not celebrated or recognized at the Shop. By 1942, this date is lost to history. The Kavanagh’s don’t celebrate it, recognize it or even realize it. Only by searching old tax records in 2018 was this date discovered and verified.

May 14

The Shop remains buried with work as the country gears up for war. Eddie looks forward to his second son returning to the Shop to work for the Summer. Young Ed’s training is going well and the Shop could use the help. Today Jack is playing a baseball game for Mount St. Joseph’s baseball team. He’s catching and managing this year because he always loved the strategic end of the game just as much as he loved playing. The idea of managing appealed to him from the start. Jack is excited today because his cousin Leo Paul Kavanagh is watching the game. Leo is a minor league baseball pitcher and an alumnus of Mt. St. Joseph’s. He was the school’s ace pitcher when he was a student athlete. Jack and he are close despite Leo being seven years older and often being on the road with his teammates. Jack loves the notion that even in the minor leagues, Leo is getting paid to play ball professionally.

June 1

Jack Kavanagh has graduated from high school and he is back at the Shop to begin the third year of his apprenticeship. This year he will need to grow more comfortable with a torch, to be more precise with his hammer hits and most of all, he must learn discernment. He must learn to know when you are finished, when the piece is correct, when it is “good enough.” Jack will have to pass the pitcher test this year. It is the final test for a coppersmith at the Shop: to be able to take a flat copper sheet and work it into a pitcher on his own. Jack will also have to register for the draft in the coming weeks, and the family is concerned, but Eddie has some friends on the draft board. Those friends assure Eddie that the first batch of draftees is passed and it’s unlikely that Jack will be called this year. Maybe the war will be over in a year and it will be a moot point but at the least, Eddie is able to console his wife that Jack isn’t going anywhere this year. Annie is very worried for her sons and the threat of war. Her brothers served in the first World War, and she doesn’t want this for her boys. Their oldest boy, Eddie, is serving in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps and will be able to serve here in Maryland and not sent off to war. Jack is the one they are particularly concerned for because if he is drafted, he will certainly go overseas.

June 8

The Battle of Midway began on June 4th as the Japanese planned to hit the US base there hard and push the Americans out of the Pacific Front. This time American cryptographers have decoded the Japanese radio messages and the US is prepared for the attack. The battle takes four days, but by June 7, the US has soundly defeated the attacking Japanese. The US loses one aircraft carrier but sinks four of the Japanese carriers. Over 300 Americans die compared to over 3000 Japanese. Eddie reads the story aloud to his brother as Leo finishes a sketch of a still they’re scheduled to make the following week. Both brothers are heartened by this victory and hope that the war can be brought to an end quickly.

July 4

On a hot summer Saturday, a Baltimore crab feast is held for Independence Day by Joe and Johanna Kavanagh on Thirty-third Street. Their sons bring their families over for the celebration; Leo with his wife, Maymie, his son, Leo Paul and daughter, Mary, and Eddie with his wife Annie and sons, Ed and Jack. As they enter the house, the strong smell of steaming blue crabs fills their nostrils. It is a mix of black pepper, rock salt and a seasoning blend that recently came on the market. Produced locally by a company that opened in 1939, it is called Old Bay Seasoning. It’s perfect for seafood and becomes a fixture in steaming the local Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. Johanna keeps an eye on the crabs steaming away in a very large pot, made by Eddie at the Shop years ago. Her sons and their wives cover the large dining room table with newspaper which is used to keep the assorted crab shells and fallen spices from marring the table. Crab mallets and knives are placed on the table and the family waits, the heightened expectation of something delicious to most Marylanders. The fragrance of pepper and Old Bay is enough to make your eyes water if you pull the lid off the pot but the Kavanagh’s know the result will be perfect. The crabs are pulled out with tongs, then piled high on the table and all the family gather around. Beer is distributed to some and iced tea to the rest and soon the room is filled with the sound of mallets hitting crabs and shells splintering. A Maryland crab feast is very much a social meal with much discussion between mallet hits and bites of the sweet crab meat. The Kavanagh’s talk baseball and the Shop and listen to music and the occasional news break on the radio. They speak of the War in Europe and the latest news but feel a small respite in their worry as all signs indicate that Jack will be safe from the draft for at least this year. After everyone has had their fill, the remaining crabs are “picked” for crab cakes tomorrow. The adults remain around the table while the younger folks sit outside in the backyard awaiting fireworks. One by one the remaining crabs are pulled open and the lump crab meat is removed and placed in a bowl. Crab claws are cracked and yanked open and the meat placed in the same bowl, all to be used the next day. The family continues to chat as they set about their task to get to as much crab meat as possible. Once the crab “picking” is finished, the whole family gathers outside as the rockets begin to explode and light up the night in many different colors. It is Independence Day and despite being at War, it’s a day of celebration.

July 11

Another trip is made to Bugle Field for baseball, but this time Eddie and Jack have company. Eddie’s brother Leo and his son, Leo Paul make the trip with them for a long Saturday night of ballgames. Jack is excited to have Leo Paul along to get a player’s perspective. There are three baseball games scheduled today, the Baltimore E-lite Giants are hosting the Newark Eagles. And that game will be followed by a pair of barnstorming teams who will face off. And finally two local club teams will play. The four Kavanagh’s have a great time and the games go late into the next morning. The final out is recorded just before 2:00 am. Eddie’s wife, Annie, is not thrilled when they arrive home at such a late hour but she knows it’s baseball and she knows how much her husband and son love it. The four Kavanagh men had a lot of fun especially Jack and it was worth pressing Annie’s patience a bit.

August 10

It is a scorcher today in Baltimore, and the Shop at Pratt and Central is a hot box. Young Jack is the low man on the totem pole and his father assigns him the job of annealing some small copper tubes in the annealing oven. The tubes will be bent into a variety of 90 degree and 45 degree elbows. They will be used for several distilling jobs and the rest placed in stock to be used for a variety of applications. It’ s a bad day to be standing in front of the oven the copper bakes. Jack must keep an eye on the parts inside to assure they don’t melt, then quickly pull them at the right time and replace them with a few more, using a shovel to handle them. Ten can be fit in the oven at a time and it is a hot spot to be working on any day but on a hot and humid August day, it’s the worst possible scenario. His father’s only advice is “Don’t get drowsy” and Jack proceeds through the day, sweat sliding down his back even at 9 AM. As the day gets longer, the heat wears harder and harder on him but he does his job. He thinks to himself, maybe some day I’ll make my own son do this sizzling hot crappy job on a summer’s day and get some retribution.

The Shop’s old annealing oven. 2019. Out of service for 30 years bu it still exists.

August 28

Ed Jr. is still in the Army’s Quartermaster Corps but works about every other week for a few days. He still teases and even pushes his younger brother around but he has always done so and Jack has grown accustomed to it. This summer Jack passes the pitcher test. He makes his first pitcher on his own and is a fully-trained coppersmith now. What was once copper sheet is a functional, well-crafted pitcher with a good strong handle. He has gained all the skills necessary, and rather quickly. Both his father Eddie and his Uncle Leo are impressed with Jack’s speedy and successful progression. He seems to be a “Natural” smith if there is such a thing.

The first pitcher made by Jack Kavanagh Sr. to pass his apprenticeship in 1942. Given to his son, Joe on his wedding day. Picture taken 2019.

September 7

Jack begins attending the Maryland Institute College of Art to study drafting. Jack loves it and throws himself into learning all he can. He works at the Shop when he is not in class. Even days when he has a class, he takes a bus to get to work afterward, working five days plus Saturday mornings and going to school for two.

October 6

The St. Louis Cardinals lose the first game of the World Series to the New York Yankees, but then win four in a row to capture the championship. The Cardinals roster consists almost entirely of homegrown talent from their own farm system including the first World Series appearance of a young outfielder, Stan Musial. The Kavanagh’s and crew discuss the Series game by game as they work. This time Eddie has his son Jack at work with him and a large part of the day is spent talking about baseball. The Cardinals did win 106 games this year but still, most picked the Yankees to win the World Series, but it did not work out that way. The young star of the Red Sox who batted .406 last year, Ted Williams, follows that up by winning the Triple Crown in the American League this year, leading all players in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. Williams is again denied the MVP award, edged out this time by Yankee second basemen, Joe Gordon. Gordon’s stellar defense, a cool .322 batting average and the fact his team won the pennant, bring the award to him.

October 23

The Battle of El Alamein is fought starting with a heavy bombardment by the British. The war is heating up in North Africa and the Allies are having some success pushing the Axis forces back toward the Mediterranean. The Kavanagh’s keep track of it all via the radio and the newspaper. The Shop remains very busy and they are still working five days plus a half-day Saturday. Today, Jack is working with Mr. Funke, the Shop’s oldest non-Kavanagh employee, on a copper liner for a boiler repair. This liner is a tricky one as there is very little tolerance in the diameter and it must be held very tight to the diameter of the boiler’s tank. Funke and Jack hammer it gently and continually measure it to hold the standard they need. Leo and Eddie are watching them working and Jack hears his father say that this is a job for Old Uncle Joe. He knew how to get something exact if that’s what you needed. Leo nods in agreement as they both smile. Jack has heard about Old Uncle Joe’s skills for years. By now and into the future, the original Joe has become a nearly mythical figure in the Shop. His talent with a hammer is legendary and the man is held on high to the Kavanagh’s. In their eyes, he is the greatest coppersmith of all time. Eventually, Mr. Funke and Jack finish the liner, the diameter is just about perfect and it looks great. The rest of the crew are busy making ship parts, stock fittings and fabricating a replacement beer vat. A cool Fall day passes quickly due to the amount of work they push through today.

November 17

General Dwight D. Eisenhower and American troops land in North Africa and, combining with British troops, they begin closing in on German units. This seems to be the first ground offensive movement by the US and it is covered in the newspaper where the Kavanagh’s read and follow closely. Again, they pray that this is a sign of a fast ending to the war around the world.

December 3

The US begins rationing gasoline and the war’s impact at home gets more acute. Drivers are given rationing tickets as the military’s need for fuel outweighs the citizenry; sacrifices must be made. The Shop keeps going strong with no end in site. Leo and Eddie lead their crew as they prep today for a distillery installation the following week. Eddie is recounting to his brother a conversation he had with their parents about the gas rationing.

“Joe says that gas rationing will hurt the economy. This is the guy who hated cars when they first came out,” Eddie adds as Leo smirks, “he then says that regular folks like him won’t be able to travel about and spend money. They won’t be able to put money into the economy.”

“Imagine how many less accidents there will be with Joe not driving,” Leo retorts grinning from ear to ear.

“That’s the funny part.” Eddie answered,” Mother chimed in right away that the cost to the economy might be worth the boost in public safety with Joe not driving.” Both fell into laughter as their father Joe was a notoriously awful driver and had been involved in more than his share of automobile accidents.

After a good chuckle, Leo asked, “What did Joe say to Mother?”

“He laughed too.” said Eddie smiling back at this brother. “He could never disagree with Mother. Besides, this time,” he paused and lit a cigarette quickly then shook the match out, “he knows she’s right.” They share another laugh then get back to their work as they recall the days of working for their father, Joe. He was a taskmaster to work for but almost always entertaining.

December 24

The Joseph Kavanagh Company’s Christmas Party is held as it is every year. Joe and Johanna are there with their sons and their sons’ families and Joe is very proud of the job his boys have done. The Shop is busy and even thriving with work scheduled for the first month of the new year, a luxury that Joe rarely had and an assurance of a good start to 1943. Like all Americans, the family worries about the war and what will happen in Europe. They pray for the Americans already there and, yes, they hope and pray that the war is over fast for their own selfish reasons. An eighteen year old boy is a prime target for the draft and none of them want Jack to go to war. The party starts off slowly but soon the usual parade of customers and vendors pass through the doors and the Pratt and Central building is filled with songs and yuletide celebration. The Kavanagh’s and friends enjoy a festive party with good food and good company. At the end, as always, Joe leads them in a joyful version of “Oh Holy Night” and the party comes to a close. Customers and employees depart and the Kavanagh’s disperse for several days. The annual party at the Shop is the family’s big gathering for the holiday. On Christmas Day proper, Eddie and his family are at the Hartmann’s house, Annie’s family, while Leo and his family are with his wife’s folks as well. The Shop is the home of the Kavanagh’s in so many ways, it only seems right to celebrate there. They have their houses and they live their lives in them but the Shop is home. It has been for generations and will be for generations more.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States of America. Daylight Savings Time is instituted on February 9 of this year. The films “Bambi” and “Casablanca” are released. The first nuclear reactor in America is built by Enrico Fermi as part of the Manhattan Project. Muhammad Ali, Aretha Franklin, Lou Reed, John Irving and Jimi Hendrix are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Jack Kavanagh. Mt. Saint Joseph’s Graduation picture. 1942. Age 18.

To read earlier years, click on the Table of Contents link below:

Table of Contents

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