This blog is about a family and a business. The business or Shop as we call it was started in 1866. Through five generations, we have persevered and survived. The Shop has made it through the Black Friday Flood and other smaller floods, the Great Baltimore Fire and other smaller fires, Prohibition which took away 40% of their work, the Great Depression and other smaller depressions, two World Wars and several smaller wars, injuries both serious and not so serious and deaths both sudden and not so sudden. We have worked on many projects in Baltimore and around the country. Starting with the Statue of Liberty and including the Smithsonian, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the Columbus Center and the Hippodrome in Baltimore and many more. Usually it is just some small part or parts. Something that no one else can bend so they send it to us. We know a lot about bending metal.

I am writing this story to preserve what we have done. To pass it on and keep our past alive. In the modern world, it is very difficult to run a small business. Even tougher in the metals industry. We are at a point in our history where our future is in doubt. We have survived tough times before, but I am not so sure now. The biggest challenge, if we can make it that far, is how to pass it on to the next generation. I can’t do it by saddling my nephews with a lot of debt. I can’t. I won’t. If it is our time to go and the Shop comes to an end, I do not really know what I will do. It will be a heavy blow. It will be my great failure. After all, I am Joseph Kavanagh. If I write this well enough and people read it and we are remembered. That would be some solace for me. To have the Shop go out of business will be very difficult. If we are forgotten, that would be worse. If, however, we are remembered at least in Baltimore. That will help. That would make it all seem worthwhile. All the years, the problems, the victories and the defeats would all be worth it if people remember. To be forgotten, is to have never been at all.

I am named for our founder. I am the first Joseph Michael since the original. We share more than a name in common. He worked at the Shop for 38 years before his death. I have worked here for 38 years. His nephews worked for him. My nephews work for me. Perhaps, this is how it is supposed to end. Book ended by Joseph Michael Kavanagh’s. Or maybe, this is a reset and it is supposed to pass to my nephews as it passed to his. I am quite certain it is one or the other.

I’ve started writing this very long and occasionally interesting story. It has been quite a journey so far. Researching and documenting what we have done. Visiting archives and historical societies. Recalling my father’s and my grandfather’s stories. Pouring over old job records and the notes I have from conversations with my Dad. I even have video and audio of him talking about so much of what the Shop and our family has done. I compare. I confirm. Then, I write. I will keep doing so until I reach the present day. Something tells me that when I reach that end, I will know whether we shall continue or disappear. When I complete this journey, I will have my answer.

That is what this is all about.

Thanks for reading,

Joseph Michael Kavanagh (The fourth Joe at the Shop and hopefully not the last)

“Bend to Live. Live to Bend”

Old stamp or label used by the Joseph Kavanagh Co. to mark brewery and distilling equipment. Early 1900s.