1940 The Unknown Joe

January 15

Another good start to a year at the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Brewing vats, cooking kettles and distilling pots are made from copper sheet, heated and turned to the desired diameter. The associated apparatus and parts are taken from stock or custom fabricated. Leo and Eddie sit in the Shop office, fielding calls and doing the necessary prep work for upcoming jobs. Their father, Joe is not visiting today so it’s a bit more peaceful for the brothers and their crew.

February 20

It is a frigid snowy day in Baltimore, and the Kavanagh’s deal with it like everyone else. A few inches of snow is shoveled away, and they will have to stop working occasionally to shovel more, in order to stay ahead of it. The Shop is still busy, certainly for February, though today a repair at Gunther’s is canceled due to the snow. Joe has only been by the Shop twice this year; the cold seems to encourage him to stay home, and that is a good thing. It does give his sons time to adjust and make the job their own. Running a business like the Joseph Kavanagh Company is complicated, and each person who is involved in it has his own approach to it. When Joe is around, besides distracting Leo and Eddie, it makes it more difficult for his sons to find their style, to find their method that works best. Joe is making an effort, at his wife’s request, to give the boys some space, though he plans to stop by periodically, at least when it gets warm.

March 22

Spring brings sun, warmth and Joe visiting the Shop with a mounted deer’s head in tow to hang on the wall of his office. His sons are puzzled because Joe does not hunt, and they have no idea where he could have gotten such a thing. It turns out that the deer head merely caught his eye in a neighborhood store, and he bought it on a whim. Joe thinks it looks great and will fit nicely in his upstairs office. When Eddie asks why he didn’t hang it up at home, Joe tells him that his wife, Johanna, won’t let him. Both sons are amused but agree to hang it in the office. Eddie nails it up for this father because wielding a hammer is not a skill Joe ever had to develop. This visit by Joe is a pleasant one, he talks to his sons, then spends an hour upstairs admiring the deer’s head and typing a couple of letters to friends. Before leaving, he spends a few minutes with the crew during their 2:00 pm coffee break. He’s on the way home by 2:30 pm and this is more like what the boys expected from Joe’s retirement, brief social visits from their father, then they are left to their work.

April 1

Joe stops in the Shop today about lunch time to chat with his boys. He doesn’t linger but he asks how things are going. His sons tell him things are good and they are working on a large brass railing today in addition to making some distillery drip pans. The crew is busy on a breezy Spring day so Joe doesn’t linger. He stays long enough to make some jokes about the 16th US Census being due today and it’s April Fool’s Day.

April 13

Germany has invaded Denmark and Norway, the former falling in a matter of hours, and the latter taking two months. Hitler’s Nazis take these two nations to ensure access to the North Atlantic but quickly turn their attention to the rest of Western Europe. America carefully watches Europe right now, noting each step being taken by Nazi Germany and praying that a peaceful solution will arise and keep the US from becoming involved.

May 10

Neville Chamberlain has stepped down as Prime Minister of England and Winston Churchill has been given the position. On the same day, Germany launches its long-awaited attack against France. To avoid the well defended Maginot Line, the Nazi army attacks Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. They roll through these small neutral nations and plunge into France. French troops and their British allies are no match for the German Armored Divisions and they are forced to fall back, losing a great deal of their equipment. The Kavanagh’s read about it in the papers as they attend to their duties at the Shop. Leo is going over the accounts today before their bookkeeper visits and Eddie is making a list of stock materials they will need in the next several months. The crew finishes fabricating a fountain today and make more commercial cooking vessels.

June 3

Ed Jr. is finished with college and back at the Shop and he is joined by Jack Kavanagh who begins his apprenticeship this summer before returning to high school in the Fall. He is called Jack, a nickname for John as his name is John Joseph, but a mistake on his birth certificate has it backwards. He is really Joseph John but no one will know this until he retires and applies for Social Security. He will work at the Joseph Kavanagh Company for over forty years and not know that he is Joseph Kavanagh. He is the Unknown Joe, but for now he is simply the new guy at the Shop, and despite being a Kavanagh, he will take some hazing and teasing. It is part of the Shop’s tradition and is relatively harmless. Eddie handles Jack’s training himself as he did with Ed Jr. He teaches Jack how to use a hammer to start. Well, how to hold it properly is taught first before even how to swing it properly. Eddie teaches his son as he had been taught by his Uncle Frank, who was the last man taught by Old Uncle Joe: the basics of copper work, the particulars of hammering, and eventually, the skills of annealing. It is an adjustment for the sixteen year old Jack but he works hard to learn all he can.

Ed's Wedding2

June 10

Italy declares war on France and attacks from the South. They also declare war on England and fully enter the war on the side of their ally, Germany. France is faced with two invading armies now, and even with British support they can’t match the odds. President Roosevelt condemns the move of Italy, and the US remains neutral, but is supporting the Western European Allies as much as they can.

June 14

Paris falls to Hitler’s German forces and soon will enter into talks to surrender. Americans can’t believe it, but the German Blitzkrieg strategy worked exceptionally well. Paris being taken is shocking to the Kavanagh’s. They couldn’t imagine that the Germans would be able to move so fast. It is still far away and they focus on the Shop which is busy and full of work. A brass railing is being bent today. After the brass is annealed, it is slowly pulled around several wheels of different diameters. This way they are able to achieve larger curves or smaller ones in the same piece. They match a wooden template etched with pencil to show them the customer’s desired bend. Eddie watches as Funke and the younger Kavanagh’s, Ed and Jack, carefully pull the rail inch by inch to match the design. Jack has managed well for his first week, the men are a little tough on the young guy at times and the work is hard, but he is fitting in well so far. He thought he would work more with his father but that has not been the case. Eddie has taken the lead on Jack’s training but otherwise his role is more supervisory. The lessons in handling a hammer and eventually any torch training will be done by Eddie but as far as day to day labor on jobs, Jack is assisting his brother or most likely Mr. Funke, who has worked at the Shop for many years.

June 22

France signs an armistice agreement with Germany as thousand of Allied troops are evacuated to Britain. Germany rules or has within its influence the vast majority of the mainland of Europe. It has happened so fast that most people can hardly believe it, including the Kavanagh’s. Leo and Eddie have been discussing the war every day at the Shop. They never envisioned a German victory at this point, if this counts as a victory, as the British remain unconquered. Still, it is a whole new world in Europe now and it has changed very fast.

July 7

Eddie and Jack head to Bugle Field on Edison Highway to watch some baseball games. Today, there are three scheduled, two Negro League games and one semi-pro game. The first is an official Negro National League game with the E-Lite Giants defeating the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Young Roy Campanella has started to come into his own. He walloped two homers in a road game in May and has continued to stay hot. Jack can’t help but particularly pull for this young man as he is only two years older than Jack himself. The second game played is another barnstorming match up between two travel teams while the final game is between local teams representing neighborhoods. They drink a soda and eat peanuts all day as they enjoy their favorite sport. A day at the ballpark is always a good day according to both Eddie and Jack. They talk about work on the ride home and what Jack can expect to do on Monday. Jack has nearly completed his first summer at the Shop. It’s been tough work and hot but he feels comfortable there. The work is interesting and he’s a Kavanagh so it’s right for him. As Eddie details a fountain they must make tomorrow, Jack almost feels as if he has inside information on his co-workers. It’s a good feeling for a son when his father entrusts him with Shop plans for tomorrow and beyond. At a place like the Shop, this trust pulls you in and makes you belong.

July 11

The Battle of Britain begins with the Germans launching bombing attacks on shipping points and harbors. The Nazi Luftwaffe, despite superiority in numbers are unable to outright defeat England’s RAF, but the damage is great and the fear the attacks spread is powerful. The Kavanagh’s can not believe that England would ever fall. It is shocking to see the United Kingdom besieged by an aggressor from mainland Europe but that is what is happening. The news gives more details each day and Americans read the blow-by-blow on this War in Europe.

July 26

Joe stops in to see his sons and grandsons at Pratt and Central. He is his usual boisterous self as he questions them on the jobs they have in house and what they are working on today. Most of the crew are working on two beer vats for Cumberland Brewing and the rest are scattered on some smaller work. Joe is happy to see the backlog of work the Shop has and even the large stacks of copper block and sheet they have in stock. He jokes with his grandsons and the crew for a few minutes, then he takes his leave of everyone and drives home. Leo and Eddie are much happier this year than last as far as Joe goes. He has taken a more concerted step back and is slowly adjusting to not working at the Joseph Kavanagh Company.

“Whiskey thief” Made and used by the Joseph Kavanagh Co. for checking whiskey’s or beer’s quality. Also called a “barrel thief”.

August 12

Leo works at the drawing table today making some sketches for a doubler for Baltimore Pure Rye. A doubler is a still system that is used primarily to increase whiskey’s proof or potency. Eddie is in and out of the office as he supervises the assembly of a copper tank in the Shop. The tank must be built, then disassembled for delivery. Both brothers also field phone calls throughout the day. Eddie keeps an eye on his youngest son, who is assisting moving the pieces of the tank around. Jack has learned a bit about how to use a hammer and what it is to work hard. Eddie is proud of Jack, as he is proud of Ed Jr., his eldest son. Ed is a full coppersmith now; he is a bit meticulous for Eddie’s taste but he will learn speed with experience. Jack has done well, listening and learning in his first foray into smithing.

September 5

Jack is finished with his first summer at the Shop and returns to Mount St. Joseph’s High School to continue his studies. He welcomes the return to school, though having money in your pocket as a teen is also a good thing. He enjoyed learning from his father and he took the kidding in stride as there was plenty of it especially from his brother who has always teased Jack. It was mostly in good fun and Jack was none the worse for it, learning and trying to fit in with a crew of adult working men.

September 9

The Germans have begun what is called the Blitz, night time bombing attacks on London and other cities. Eddie reads the story in the Sun at his desk out loud while his brother listens intently. They can’t believe it has come to this as Hitler’s Germany seems more and more bent on control of all of Europe. The are shocked at these attacks on cities full of civilians as opposed to battles between armies. Of course, the Germans have attacked and killed civilians before, but the Blitz truly brings it home to Americans. Beyond the bombings themselves, there is a pervasive terror spreading through London every night in anticipation of an attack.

September 16

The first peace time draft is enacted by the United States. President Roosevelt signs it into law and young men around the nation prepare to be called. This includes Ed Kavanagh Jr.; he is required to register and does so. Ed is still learning, though he is a full coppersmith. He’s gaining experience more from the elder smiths now than from his father. Eddie encourages young Ed to find ways to work faster; his son’s work is great but everything does not have to be perfect, and expediency does matter.

October 8

The Cincinnati Reds defeat the Detroit Tigers in seven games to win the World Series. It is a back and forth affair the whole way with each team alternating winning until the final game, which is a nail biter. The Reds win that one 2-1, the winning run manufactured with a bunt and a sacrifice fly. The Kavanagh’s pay close attention because it is October and that means one thing to them, the World Series. Going over the series at the Shop helps to pass the day as it has for decades. They were pulling for the Tigers due to Ty Cobb formerly playing there, but they applaud the Reds for their victory.

November 5

FDR wins re-election over Republican challenger Wendell Willkie and becomes the first and only three term president. The Kavanagh’s vote for Roosevelt as they trust him after guiding the nation out of the Great Depression. The War in Europe is on everyone’s mind, of course, but the Kavanagh’s believe FDR will keep this country out of the conflict if anyone can.

November 28

After Thanksgiving dinner at Joe and Johanna’s house on Thirty-third Street, Eddie, Annie and their boys return to Lakewood Avenue. The boys spread out in front of the radio and flip through stations to find something to listen to. Annie calls Eddie into the kitchen where she has made a pot of tea. Eddie sits at the table and his wife hands him a cup.

“Eddie?” Annie starts, “We need to talk about our boys and this draft that Ed has registered for. I don’t want my boys going overseas to fight in a war.”

“It’s not our war yet, Annie. I don’t know that it will be, but things are getting worse. This is why Roosevelt started the draft. They have to be prepared and Hitler doesn’t seem to want to stop anywhere. We just can’t worry about it right now,” Eddie answers her sipping his tea.

“Well, I am worried about it. I saw two of my brothers go off to World War I and they were never the same. They were sick from mustard gas and god knows what else. It has been very tough for them and I don’t want this for our boys, no matter what the cause is. I agree Hitler is dangerous but I don’t want my sons in this thing. I don’t want them to go far away to die in some foreign country.”

“I don’t want that either, Annie.” Eddie places his left hand on her right, “It will be okay. I think. We’ll have to trust that nothing bad happens. He had to register. It’s the law now.”

Annie says, “I know it’s the law but there must be some way to keep him here. And Jack too, in a couple of years. Eddie? You need to think of something. You know people. Use your union contacts or your business contacts. Use something to keep them safe and home. Think of something.”

Eddie looks into his wife’s eyes and says, “I am not sure if any of that will help. I can try. I will make some calls, Annie. I will. On Monday, I’ll call the draft board and see if I can get something worked out to keep Ed home. I will.”

“Good. And keep Jack in mind too. I don’t want either of them going to war. You fix this, okay?” She asks as she stands and heads to the living room to join the boys.

“I will. I said I will,” Eddie sighs and replies as she heads through the door. He lights a cigarette and sits in thought, considering what he can try to do.

December 17

President Roosevelt has ordered an expansion of the US Navy. He initiates a Lend-Lease deal with England whereby America trades battleships for naval bases in the North Atlantic. It is a safe way for the US to assist England without direct involvement. The effect on the Shop is that the Philadelphia Navy Yard calls them and puts in a large inquiry for copper ship parts and ballast pump chambers. Eddie is excited to receive this quote, as it is a terrific job for them, but he is also uneasy because this adds to the seriousness of America’s situation with its allies. Eddie fears more each day the US will be in this war. He has made contact with the local draft board and they may be able to work something out that keeps Ed Jr. stationed at home. If America enters this war, that might complicate things for both of his boys. Eddie prepares the quote and wonders if the Shop working for the Navy will help him influence the draft board. He factors into the quote that he, himself, would have to spend some time in Philly to properly expedite and handle the job. He mails off the official quote and then waits to hear back.

December 24

The Shop’s Christmas party is held on this Tuesday and for a day the troubles of the world are put out of their minds. Kavanagh’s and friends gather to celebrate the Yule as they have for years. Joe is there and works the room, moving from one group to another with a smile and a chuckle for all. He has started to adapt to not working, still coming in but not nearly as much and definitely not interfering with business. He will lead them in song as per tradition today with his sons and grandchildren in attendance. The transition of generations is going well; Leo and Eddie are doing great running the place and Ed Jr. is full time and Jack has started his apprenticeship. Another generation in charge and another generation learning as has happened before. The year has been good but the War in Europe is a concern. There are those who think US involvement is only a matter of time now. Americans are wary of another war so far away; it is not always a question of doing what’s right. It’s often fear of the cost of doing what’s right. The Kavanagh’s are most assuredly against the US going to war for selfish reasons: Eddie and Annie’s sons, Ed and Jack. Ed is of age and Jack will be soon. Like many Americans, the cost is too much. The thought of the cost is even too much. They pray along with the rest of the world that some miracle solves what’s going on in Europe. Winter is coming. The Kavanagh’s hope for the best.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is re-elected to the Presidency. Tom and Jerry and Elmer Fudd debut. Carbon-14 is discovered. Booker T. Washington becomes the first African-American depicted on a US postage stamp. The radio program, Truth or Consequences, premieres. The First McDonald’s opens. The First Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is held. Smokey Robinson, Willie Stargell, Nancy Pelosi, John Lewis and Frank Zappa and are born. F. Scott Fitzgerald dies.

There are 48 states in the Union.


Eddie Kav
Eddie Kavanagh Sr. Circa 1920.

To read prior posts, click the Table of Contents link below:

Table of Contents

1939 Joe’s Curtain Call

January 6

The Shop is full of work to begin this year. Several distillery repairs and brewery jobs are scheduled and there are copper jacket kettles to make and some boiler parts. The first week has been very cold but quite busy. On this Friday, Joe reads the newspaper and sees a story about the missing pilot, Amelia Earhart. She’s been missing for several years and little hope was held out for her. Yesterday, she was officially declared dead and Joe considers this another air flight tragedy. He never has put much stock in flying of any kind and, in his mind, this is why. He also reads about the newly elected governor of Maryland, Herbert O’Conor being sworn in next week. O’Conor gained local fame for prosecuting Jack Hart and his gang seventeen years ago. Joe shakes his head to think of all that happened after the Norris murder, the manhunt for Hart, the searches of the Shop, the trial and the escapes. To think that O’Conor is now the governor carries a strange irony for Joe. He sighs and thinks of his niece Kitty, Jack Hart’s wife. He misses her and recalls the public fiasco that was her funeral with police, reporters and three hundred curious citizens showing up. What a mess it was for all of them. Fortunately, they made it through all that and better times are here. Joe has been giving some thought to the date of his retirement. He hasn’t decided on when but it will be this year probably in the Spring.

February 13

The E. J. Codd Company has received a very large boiler repair job with emergency status. It’s cold and heat is needed in a municipal building downtown. The Shop’s part of this job includes several copper liners to fabricate, many fittings and valves and a few steel flanges to make. The order is a rush and extra money is charged to cover the hours. Joe loves this kind of thing and the excitement of such a rush job is one of those things he knows he will miss.

March 16

The radio and newspapers are full of the news that Germany has invaded Czechoslovakia. Despite Hitler’s assurances that he would not do so, his troops and tanks roll into Czechoslovakia and take control of the country. Joe and his sons discuss this news and all agree that England and France will soon take a stand against Germany. They wonder what will happen next but it seems eerily similar to what happened in Europe in 1914.

March 25

At a Saturday night Coppersmiths Local #80 Union meeting, the news is good as more work is available and thus more jobs. Eddie is told by one of his union brothers that he has heard of some trouble for James Kavanagh at Baltimore Pure Rye Distilling. The still James designed and made is not working properly. They are unable to achieve the desired proof whiskey. Baltimore Pure Rye is not happy and James and the crew of the J. D. Kavanagh Company are doing their best to fix it with no luck so far. Eddie takes note of it and calls his father, Joe, to tell him about it. Joe is surprised as James was always a good engineer and understood the distilling process well. He thanks his son and they agree to keep track of the situation and see what happens.

April 18

A Mr. William Kricker, the General Manager of Baltimore Pure Rye, calls the Shop and speaks to Joe. James’ still is not working properly and they are unable to achieve a high enough proof whiskey. Joe sends Eddie out to take a look and evaluate the situation. Eddie realizes right away that there are mistakes in the still’s design. He lets them know that the Shop can fix it and guarantee the proof they desire. He passes on that the Shop will quote them a price to make the necessary repairs and changes.

May 2

Yankee great Lou Gehrig retires due to illness. He has developed amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or ALS. It is a disorder of the muscles and very little is known about it in 1939. Gehrig delivers an address to the public at Yankee Stadium announcing his retirement. Fans are shocked and saddened, rallying support for the “Iron Horse” as Gehrig was called. The Kavanagh’s are as upset as most baseball fans are. Gehrig was a true gentleman of the game by all accounts. Joe and his boys agree this is a tragedy and they pray that he will recover. Gehrig was second on the career home run list to Babe Ruth at this time and he held the incredible consecutive games played record of 2130. Joe, Leo and Eddie along with most fans feel that this record of durability will never be broken. The record will hold for over fifty years until a Fall night right here in Baltimore.

Lou Gehrig. Yankee Stadium. May 2, 1939. Photo courtesy of LouGehrig.com.

May 4

The Joseph Kavanagh Company was awarded the job to repair the still at Baltimore Pure Rye last week and took care of it immediately. Mr. Kricker and the owners are pleased with the work and agree to send all repair and replacement work for Baltimore Pure Rye to the Shop in the future. Joe and his sons eat ham sandwiches and drink coffee in the small Shop office on a rainy Spring day. They’re talking about the Baltimore Pure Rye job, the still and how Eddie got the thing to work.

“Nice job on that, Eddie,” says Leo, “This may add up to a lot of work over the next couple of years. They have to get the whole facility up and running. This is gonna be good for us.”

“You bet, brother, this could be a real good customer. It’s too bad about James. I mean I feel a little bad knowing that he has lost this job. He was probably counting on it to get his shop going.” Eddie replies as he tosses the crusts of his sandwich into the trash.

Joe sips his coffee, then speaks up, “The fact that James couldn’t handle this job and it got screwed up has nothing to do with us. We have to take the work whenever we can. We can’t worry about someone else. Even my brother.” Joe glances from one son to the other.

“We know that, Joe,” Leo answers his father, “Eddie means he doesn’t wish anything bad on James and hopes he does well.”

“I do too, but if it conflicts with us doing well then I pick us over him. Every day.” Joe says as he strikes a match to light his pipe.

Eddie looks closely at his father then asks, “So no hard feelings with your brother? Really? You sure this isn’t some kind of parting shot?”

Joe glares at Eddie for just a second, his eyes opening wide, then he calmly puffs his pipe and says, “No, Not at all. No hard feelings. This is no parting shot.” he looks from Eddie to Leo, then continues, “If anything, this is my curtain call. Okay? My final bow. I’m done boys.” He rises from his chair and places his hands on his hips. He begins breaking into the little jig he would do around the Shop occasionally when things were particularly good or a job was going very well, “My last day is two weeks from Friday. No party. That’s that and you two can take care of it from now on.” He does several stomp steps then a quick slide for a finish, his boys smiling broadly.

Leo and Eddie are shocked at this sudden announcement of Joe’s departure, delivered in his unique style, but knowing their father, he probably had it planned this way. “Okay. That’s great, Joe. You deserve it. Don’t worry about a thing.” says his eldest son, Leo.

“Yes, yes, Joe. It will all be fine at the Shop. We’ll take care of it. We promise.” Eddie joins in with Leo then quickly inquires, “Does Mother know?”

“She does. You should know by now. Your mother knows all.” Joe says, his wide grin covering his face. The room grows silent for a moment, then they each get back to their duties. Joe picks up the phone to order some copper sheet, Leo resumes working on a sketch for a beer vat and Eddie heads into the Shop to get the crew back to work.

May 19

Joseph Anthony Kavanagh retires. He cleans out his desk; Leo will use this one now and the drafting table will be just that from now on. It is a very typical Friday at Joe’s Shop; the banging of hammers and the voices of workers fill the day. A few drip pans and brewery fittings are made while a fountain is fabricated. Joe stands in the Shop watching as copper tubes are curved into rings and drilled to allow the water to pass through. He has seen this done so many times, his Uncle Joe did this. It’s some of the oldest coppersmith work the Shop does. There is no party but Joe does joke and kid a bit with the crew during their afternoon break. He is soon humming a tune, then clapping his hands, then dancing his dance as the boys cheer and chuckle. After getting his crew back to work, he steps out into the Spring afternoon, standing on the corner of Pratt and Central. Joe looks up and down both streets, smoking his pipe and thinking, remembering all he can. He nods to the driver of a truck paused at the corner, then looks up at 201 S. Central, the building he has worked in for thirty-eight years. He recalls it all: the construction, moving, the starting, the struggling and the succeeding. He taps his pipe on the lamppost, dumping his ashes onto the sidewalk. He grinds them out with his shoe then returns to the Shop. The day finishes like any other but for the first time in its history, there is no Joseph Kavanagh working at the Joseph Kavanagh Company.

June 9

Ed Jr. finishes his first year of college and returns to the Shop full time for the summer. He has learned a good deal about business practices and theories but is ready to get back to smithing. The crew are happy to see the next generation Kavanagh. He is not hazed or teased any more; a full coppersmith now and over the last three summers, he has earned his spot. Joe stops in to see them and welcome his grandson back to work. Joe wanders through the Shop greeting the workers, then stops in for a smoke with his sons in the office. He sits at Leo’s desk and Leo hovers between Joe and the drafting table as the three speak. The phone rings and Joe moves to answer it, but Eddie is faster, greeting the caller with the standard, “Hello. Joseph Kavanagh Company,” that Joe himself would say every day in the past. Joe stands up and departs, bidding his sons farewell. Eddie, in mid phone conversation makes eye contact with his brother as Leo returns to his desk.

June 12

The Baseball Hall of Fame officially opens in Cooperstown, New York. The first Induction Ceremony is held and all eleven surviving Hall of Famers are honored. Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Christy Matthewson, Walter Johnson and Honus Wagner were the first players ever elected to the hall. Two of the old National League Baltimore Orioles were inducted as well, John McGraw and Wee Willie Keeler. Also, Joe’s old acquaintance, Connie Mack, the great manager of the Philadelphia Athletics enters the Hall of Fame. The Kavanagh’s are excited for these gentlemen who were their heroes, especially Cobb and Ruth. Through the careers of both, there was always Joe’s strident support of “the Georgia Peach,” Ty Cobb, and his son Eddie’s equally unwavering admiration for Baltimore’s own Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth. They speak of the Hall and how wonderful it might be to visit some day and see the monuments. Eddie’s son Jack is amazed to hear that his grandfather knew Connie Mack. Joe, of course, is thrilled to tell him the story of their meeting in a hotel bar so many years ago when Joe was touring with his musical troupe. Neither Joe nor Eddie will ever make it to the Hall. Jack does, but not for a very long time.

June 27

Joe has spent a few hours again at the Shop for the third time this week. He has made a habit of coming in several days every week and it’s getting a bit much for his sons. They’re busy, either in the Shop or on the phone or making drawings. They don’t mind a brief occasional chat but Joe seems to be planning on stopping by frequently. They can’t forbid him from coming; he and their mother own the building and it wouldn’t be worth the fight. Leo thinks of a solution. They should clean out the upstairs of the Shop’s office. It is used for storage now but they could turn it into a crude office. They can put a desk in there and let Joe have his own office. Eddie loves the idea; it appeals to Joe’s vanity and will keep him from being underfoot. They will buy two desks and put Joe’s old one in the upstairs office. Each brother will get a new desk and the small one closest to the Shop door will be moved next to the safe. It can be used as needed and then eventually used by Ed Jr.

July 9

Eddie and fifteen year old Jack drive up Edison Highway and spend the day at Bugle Field for a couple of ballgames. The Baltimore E-lite Giants are hosting the Newark Eagles for two games. The first will count in the Negro National League standings as an official game. The second is purely an exhibition as both teams want some younger players to get a chance to play in a game situation. Jack and his father share a large bag of peanuts and a soda, taking in a beautiful Sunday for baseball. On the ride home, Eddie informs his younger son that next year he’ll be expected to start at the Shop, to start his trade, his apprenticeship. Jack nods and is silent, thinking of what it will be like to work at the Shop with his father, his brother and his uncle. So many Kavanagh’s have followed this path; Jack knew it would eventually be his.

August 15

Eddie, Annie, Ed Jr. and Jack spend a week vacationing in Ocean City, Maryland. They visited four years ago and they love the beach, the amusements, the rides and the fishing. Jack and the younger Ed are thrilled for a return trip. They spend the whole week exploring the city, lounging on the beach or fishing and crabbing. The boys have a blast but the week flies by. On Friday, they will make the long drive back to Baltimore with the summer nearly over. Eddie and Annie have decided to take the boys to the movies on Saturday; a new color film has been released called the Wizard of Oz. Annie thinks the kids will love it.

September 1

Leo and Eddie sit in the Shop office today talking about the latest from Europe. Germany has invaded Poland. The brothers feel sure this will be the tipping point and war is more and more likely. They know it’s very far away but once before, the US was pulled into War in Europe. The Kavanagh’s hope this doesn’t happen again. Many young men were lost in the First World War and the thought of a repeat is frightening.

September 3

By this Sunday, England and France have declared war on Germany. They had pledged support and arms to Poland earlier this year. With the German invasion underway, the two nations have little choice but to get involved. After Mass, Joe reads the story to Johanna, riddled with his own commentary and disdain for US involvement. Johanna tells her husband they should pray for all the poor souls in Europe and pray that this conflict ends quickly. Perhaps this time it will and Americans will not be a part of it.

September 5

The Kavanagh’s and all Americans receive their answer on how the US will respond to the fight in Europe. President Roosevelt declares that America will remain neutral as far as any War in Europe goes. Most citizens, including the Kavanagh’s, are very relieved. Still, there are those who think the US should be proactive and join with their Western European allies to fight off the German aggression. They are in the minority though and FDR’s announcement is welcomed by most.

September 11

Ed Jr. returns to the College of Commerce for a second year to continue his business education. He will do what he did last year, work three days and go to school for three days. Joe pays another visit and spends three hours in his office calling his old cronies in the alcohol trade to chat.

September 17

Things in Europe get worse when the Soviet Union invades Poland. The Soviets had been fighting the Japanese in Mongolia but after reaching a ceasefire, they are able to focus on Poland and the West. At the same time, the Japanese are able to turn to the Pacific for expansion.

September 27

Poland is divided between Germany and the Soviet Union per a secret non-aggression pact signed between the two countries. The Soviets also gain control of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Poland never surrenders but the government goes into exile as their two rivals divvy up the country. Both Germany and the Soviet Union are able to increase their sphere of influence and look West. With an agreement in place with Russia, Germany can prepare for France and England. The USSR will move against Finland soon in an effort to gain better access to the North Atlantic. Most Americans aren’t aware of this and their daily lives go on but there is a growing concern for this war. At the Shop, Eddie dispatches Mr. Funke and two helpers for a repair at Gunther’s Brewery while the rest of the crew labor on several kettles and brewery fittings for their stock. The “Kavanagh” valves and fittings that they produce are very much in demand. They make custom parts but these are standard fittings and attachments for brewing and distilling systems. Customers buy them for their own “quick fixes” and replacements. It’s a steady source of income that they make a point of staying ahead of, always sure to keep their stock high.

October 8

The New York Yankees sweep the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series winning four in a row. This is the fourth consecutive Series win for the Yanks and their eighth overall. Both teams managed 27 hits in the four games but New York homered seven times while Cincinnati failed to hit one. It is one of the shortest World Series in real time; totaling seven hours and five minutes of real time combined. Game two which the Yankees won 4- 0 was played at a brisk pace, finishing at 1 hour and 27 minutes. The Kavanagh’s follow along closely, rooting for the American League Champion Yankees, they check all the box scores and listen on the radio when they can. Each game is analyzed and discussed by Joe, his sons and grandsons, especially Jack who is such a huge baseball fan.

November 6

Joe arrives at the Shop again about mid-morning and sits in his upstairs office. He is going over paper work and old jobs. Leo and Eddie have been at their wits’ ends finding things for Joe to do. He doesn’t work here anymore but seems determined to come in several times a week and “help out.” Unfortunately, the helping out often means getting in his sons’ way and distracting them from their work. Leo comes up with an idea that Eddie thinks is brilliant. Leo suggests to Joe that he write letters to some of the distilleries who were customers before Prohibition, the ones who they have not heard from since to see if they are in need of our services. He can assure them that the Shop is still open and seeking work. Joe loves this idea and sets right to it. He slowly taps away on the typewriter upstairs and his sons are thrilled that he is occupied and busy.

Letter from Joseph A. Kavanagh to Piedmont Apple Products, an apple brandy distiller. November 6, 1939.

December 21

The Shop is finishing this year as strongly as it began. Brewery repairs and distillery work is attended to while a fountain is made today. Leo and Eddie sit in the office of the Joseph Kavanagh Company as the year winds down. They discuss the news in the paper that Lou Gehrig has been voted into the Hall of Fame. Despite only being retired for months, he is an easy pick for the Hall. Leo and Eddie are happy as it is richly deserved. Gehrig was a great player and a gentleman. Very little is known about ALS at this time but the Kavanagh’s know it is bad. The brothers chat more about baseball; then Eddie mentions that he and Annie are going to the movies Friday night. They will see “Gone With the Wind,” a new film based on the Margaret Mitchell novel. It is said to be four hours long so Eddie was hesitant to go but his wife very much wants to see it so that decided that.

December 23

The annual Shop Christmas Eve Party is held on this Saturday. The crew works a half-day then sets to cleaning and decorating the place. The usual mix of customers, vendors and employees fills Pratt and Central with celebration. It has been a good year business wise for the Shop, plentiful work and more scheduled for the New Year. They are happy with their crew and next summer it will be augmented. Ed Jr. will be full time and Jack will begin his apprenticeship. Leo and Eddie have made it through their first year on their own. At this point, the brothers know they can do it; they can run this place and be successful. It always comes down to whether or not the work is out there, and it certainly is. Leo and Eddie are close and this helps to limit any disputes so far and they have a great balance of skills. They compliment each other, which is one of the biggest reasons Joe trusted them and was able to step down. Though he has retired, his continued appearances at the Shop complicate his sons’ lives but they are dealing with it. Joe is back at the party today, holding court surrounded by his old distilling and brewing friends. He is truly in his element and his sons are happy to see it, but both hope Joe takes his retirement a little more seriously next year. They wouldn’t mind the occasional visit from him but weekly is too much. It is difficult for Joe to not be involved in some way as he has worked at the Shop for most of his life and his sons know that. It is strange for them too, not having Joe there each day, and they will give him some time to adjust. Finally, the time arrives for a song and Joe steps into the middle of the crowd of guests and leads them in “O Holy Night” as he does every year. The Little Man With the Big Voice fills the Shop with music once again and the warmth of the holiday fills them all. They are happy but brace for what could happen to their world. World War Two has begun and though little happens over the winter, all signs point to a bloody 1940. They hope for the best. Again.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States. The Manhattan Project begins. The Hewlett Packard Company is formed. Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep” and John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” are published. Batman makes his first appearance in Detective Comics. Superman’s own self-titled comic premieres. The First World Science Fiction Convention is held in New York City. The cornerstone of the Jefferson Memorial is laid. The automatic transmission is invented. Marvin Gaye, Lou Brock, Carl Yastrzemski, Tina Turner and Francis Ford Coppola are born. Chick Webb, Zane Grey and Douglas Fairbanks die.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Joseph A. “Crazy Joe” Kavanagh. 1930s. In front of 1629 Thirty-third Street.

To read older posts, click on the Table of Contents link below:

Table of Contents

1938 Incorporation

January 10

It is a busy start to the year at the Shop. They begin 1938 with several weeks worth of work already on the books and more has come in. Several distillery repairs are lined up and a few cooking jacket kettles are produced as well. The Kavanagh’s are entering a transition year as plans are being made to transfer control and ownership of the Shop to Joe’s boys, Leo (42) and Eddie (41). Joe has worked here for more than forty-two years and he is over seventy years old. It’s time for him to move aside and yes, enjoy the fruits of his labor a bit. This transfer of power might take some time to sort out, but it’s clear Joe will be gone soon enough.

February 7

Eddie receives a call from Gunther’s Brewery and they order three beer vats to be fabricated and installed. Eddie will lead the install but do as little of the physical work as possible to give his workers more experience. He needs to be sure his crew can handle these installations without his presence. Eddie is confident in his workers but he needs to be sure. He has developed a good relationship with Gunther’s after so much work in their facility. He has become friends with a few fellows there and this makes Joe happy. Joe is seeing great progress from his boys on the business side of the job. Eddie is a little more gregarious and is quite suited for dealing with customers while Leo is a bit quieter. Leo is fine with customers but not quite like Eddie. Still, Leo seems to excel at handling the accounts, both customers and vendors. They still have a bookkeeper who comes in once a week but Leo makes it easy for him, keeping meticulous records in the same fashion that his sketches and drawings are done to exacting detail. Every day, Joe is more convinced that his sons will make a great team. The crew of twelve men is busy on this bitter cold day with a copper storage tank to build and several small orders, a railing and some drip pans to make. The Kavanagh’s and crew are able to fight off the cold of February by heat and hard work. The winter’s cold can make a smith’s job that much harder but if you’re busy, you’ll feel a little warmer. Also, the day goes by faster.

List of “Kavanagh” Brewing Fittings that the Shop made, sold and used in the 1930s.

March 13

After Sunday Mass, Joe sits reading the newspaper in his home on Thirty-third Street. The big international story of the day is Adolf Hitler’s Germany has annexed the nation of Austria. Hitler’s stated goal is to unite all German-speaking people under one country, thus the absorption of Austria. In addition, Hitler calls for Czechoslovakia to surrender a section of their land, the Sudetenland, to Germany, claiming the majority Germanic residents want to join his nation. Joe shakes his head as he finishes the story. This is eerily similar to what happened not so long ago, which led to World War I, the War to End all Wars. Joe hopes that moniker sticks but if things keep going they way they are in Europe, that could all change.

April 19

The Shop stays very busy through the spring with Eddie and Leo taking on more of a leadership role to Joe’s delight. The crew are toiling away with heat and hammers, shaping copper. The focus this week is an updated distilling system for Hannis Distilling, the makers of Joe’s favorite, Mount Vernon Rye. It has been designed by, and will be installed by the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Leo has handled the proper engineering and made full sketches and now Eddie leads half of the crew on the fabrication end. A Continuous Still for rye is built in the Shop, then it must be disassembled and installed next week. It’s a good job and truly their forte. The rest of the crew handle some smaller orders of fittings, parts and several commercial cookers.

May 14

Joe finalizes his plans for the future of the Shop and how he will pass it on to his sons. He has discussed it a great deal with his wife Johanna. She wants the boys to be protected but also wants Joe and herself to be well taken care of in their retirement years. Joe has decided to form a corporation with his sons, Leo as President and Eddie as Vice-President. Joe and Jo would still own the property and be payed $ 75.00 per week for the remainder of their lives. This way they will maintain some income, but will not be sole owners of the Shop. The three principles will own stock but Leo and Eddie will manage the day-to-day and Joe will be available as a consultant if needed. Joe likes this solution because it does give him the option of remaining a little involved if the boys need assistance and it guarantees he will have some money to enjoy his retirement. Upon Joe’s death, his stock would go to Johanna and then to the boys. He will mull it over for several weeks before presenting his plan to his sons.

June 6

Ed Jr has graduated from high school and is back to work at the Shop but will be attending the College of Commerce of Baltimore in the fall. After conferring with his father and brother, Eddie thinks it’s wise to have someone with a solid business education background working at the Shop. This will give Ed some experience and training on the management side of the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Young Ed will still finish his apprenticeship as a coppersmith but will also learn a bit about business and commerce. He will give the school a try in September and wait at least one year before he works full time.

June 19

Eddie and his younger son Jack visit Bugle Field for baseball on this Sunday afternoon. The Baltimore E-Lite Giants, a new club in the Negro National League has begun playing at this park. They play a short schedule of 20 – 30 games but Jack is very excited to see some baseball live. Two games will be played at Bugle Field today. Firstly the E-Lite Giants defeat the Washington Black Senators. The Senators will be in the bottom of the standings this year as they manage only one win in twenty-one games played. A young catcher who plays for Baltimore stands out. He’s only 16 but Roy Campanella looks to be a real good ball player. Eddie and Jack both are fans of catchers, the one player besides the pitcher who is in on every pitch. Jack is amazed that a boy only two years older than he, is playing professional baseball. The second game is another pair of Negro teams who barnstorm, playing in different cities as they travel around the country. A second game only adds to the fun for Eddie and Jack. They talk baseball on the entire ride home and Eddie tells his son, “We’ll do this again. Maybe we can do it every Sunday during the season.”

Jack Kavanagh. Altar boy at St. Elizabeth’s Church. Patterson Park. 1930s.

July 17

The Kavanagh’s gather for dinner at Thirty-third Street on a warm breezy Sunday. Eddie and Jack have spent the day at Bugle Field. Eddie, true to his word, has taken Jack to games there each Sunday. There are always at least two games and on this day, there were three. The very rare triple header is a great thrill for Jack. The third game is comprised of local semi-pro and club teams. The talent and quality of play isn’t the same, but it’s still baseball. If two games are good, three are only better, according to Eddie. The E-Lite Giants are defeated in their game against the Homestead Grays. The Grays will win the pennant this year, led by Josh Gibson and Buck Leonhard; they are a powerhouse and win the title easily. Jack fills his grandfather in on the highlights of the games today. Joe loves that his grandson has this same passion for the sport that he has. After Jack has spoken at length about today’s ballgames, Johanna calls them all into the dining room for a lamb dinner. They eat, talk, and gather around the piano, taking turns playing and singing. Jack has been taking lessons for six years now and he clearly has some talent for music. Joe is pleased at his grandson’s progress and a fun time is had by all. Before Leo and Eddie leave with their wives and kids, Joe takes them aside and fills them in on his plans for the Shop. He doesn’t ask them what they think but simply tells them that they will form a corporation among the three of them. He tells them that Leo will be President and Eddie, Vice-President, and the building will still be owned by Joe and Jo. The boys are happy and shake their father’s hand; no disappointment from Eddie about being V.P. He knew that’s how it would shake out. Both brothers are confident they’ll be successful and look to the future for their children. Finally, Joe passes along that sometime next year, he will retire, but will always be available as a consultant.

August 12

The legal paperwork is finished and the Joseph Kavanagh Company becomes a corporation. It has little effect on the daily activity at the Shop, and like any other August day, they sweat and fight through these dog days of summer. The job is hot already but August is the cruelest month for a smith. The work is still plentiful and today is occupied with some boiler parts to be made and a long curved decorative brass railing.

September 5

Ed Jr. passes the pitcher test, the final “exam” of coppersmithing at the Shop. He heats and hammers a flat copper sheet, then shapes it into a drinking pitcher. Small careful taps with a finishing hammer smooth the surface and finally a handle is curved and soldered to the pitcher. This is the last test to prove your skills as a smith. His apprenticeship finished, Ed begins attending the College of Commerce in Baltimore to get a business background. Ed is excited to see what he can learn and is also happy to have several breaks from the Shop during the week. He has classes three days a week and will work three days a week at the Shop. Leo and Eddie both look on Ed’s education and the newly incorporated Shop as steps toward success in this ever more modern world.

“Business Letters” Ed Kavanagh Junior’s school book from College of Commerce.

September 30

The Treaty of Munich is signed by Britain, France, Germany and Italy. Despite the Czechs being the focus of this meeting, they aren’t present or even properly represented. This accord surrenders the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Germany. This is done primarily to pacify Hitler and he promises that this is the extent of his expansion. He assures all parties involved that he will take no further action against the Czechs. The Kavanagh’s, like many Americans, are following the news closely, and some condemn this treaty as a capitulation to Hitler. There are rumblings and calls for the U. S. to prepare for a conflict in Europe and just as strongly, there are calls for the U. S. to stay away from any military intervention at all costs.

October 9

The New York Yankees sweep the Chicago Cubs to win the World Series. The Cubs keep it close in each game but lose them all. The Yankees are led by Joe DiMaggio, who hits .326 with 32 home runs for the year while the Cubs team is anchored by veteran pitcher Dizzy Dean. Dean’s arm carried them to the pennant this year but it’s not enough to overcome the Yankees offense. The Kavanagh’s read all about it in the papers and listen on the radio when they can, including the final game in its entirety today. The World Series is and always will be a big deal at the Shop and to the Kavanagh’s. They talk about each game and analyze the box scores closely; thrilled at each and every minor detail.

October 16

Joe switches on his radio this Sunday to hear a message from Winston Churchill broadcasting to the U.S. Churchill is the most adamant critic of the Munich Agreement. He labels it a defeat for Western Europe and a victory for Germany. He encourages Americans and Western Europeans to prepare for war to resist further aggression by Hitler’s Nazi Germany. Joe takes Churchill’s warning seriously and though he’s concerned for the nation, he’s very worried for his grandsons. He doesn’t want them fighting a war in Europe. He thinks to himself, didn’t we do this twenty years ago? He hopes and prays for the best.

October 30

Eddie and his family are gathered around the radio at 8 pm on a Sunday night. They switch to WFBR to listen to Edgar Bergen’s ventriloquist act with dummy Charlie McCarthy. Always good for a laugh or two, listening to this short broadcast is a Sunday night habit. After the act finishes at approximately 8:13 PM, Eddie tells his boy Jack to switch to WCAO’s Mercury Theater Production. This show is usually entertaining as the cast is lead by Orson Welles of “The Shadow” fame. Instead of the Mercury Theater, they find themselves listening to a live news report. It seems impossible but the report is that an invasion of Martians has occurred in New Jersey. Everyone silently focuses on the radio as the station switches transmission to a report directly from the scene of the alien landing. Eddie grins and his sons do as well, this must be a story they have joined in progress but it seems interesting. Suddenly, the phone rings and Eddie grabs the receiver and says hello.

“Do you have the radio on? Do you hear what they’re saying is happening?” asks the caller, whom Eddie recognizes as his father, Joe.

“Yes, I have it on. I think it’s a joke or a story. We just started listening. It can’t be real.” Eddie replies.

“I don’t know.” says Joe, “this is the news. It’s a news reporter. They say they’re fighting a battle up in Jersey.” Eddie hears his father place the phone to his shoulder and say to his mother Johanna, “Jo, lock up the good rye, at least the Mount Vernon.”

Eddie hears a distant but firm reply, “I will do no such thing,” from his mother. Eddie then calls his father back to the phone, “Joe! Joe! Joe, this isn’t real and Martians probably don’t drink rye anyway.”

“No rye? The heathens! All the more reason to be worried.” Joe answered.

At this point, young Jack gets his father’s attention and points at the radio as the speaker announces that this is a dramatization of H. G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.” Eddie nods and says to his father, “See. it’s fake. Just a show. They just said so on the air.”

“Oh, I heard it. Okay. Never mind.” The line clicks and Eddie stares at the phone with a wry grin spreading over his lips, shaking his head in amusement.

The next day the news of the hoax and the panic it caused is the talk of the nation. The panic is largely over-stated as most listeners knew it was entertainment. CBS did cut in several times to announce it was a drama but there certainly were individuals who were alarmed and frightened. Locally, one Baltimore jeweler, Samuel Shapiro, is reported to have had a heart attack during the program and he died two weeks later. The interest and press coverage is great for CBS and the Mercury Theater but there is an outcry from a few skeptics for no more faux news reports, but nothing comes of it.

Orson Welles. 1930s. Courtesy of Library of Congress. Carl Van Vechten – Photographer.

November 1

A big showdown is scheduled in the horse racing industry. Sea Biscuit defeats War Admiral in a match race at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The Kavanagh’s are not horse racing fans but they certainly take note of it as the City is excited to hold this race. The Pimlico Race Course hosts the Preakness every year and it is celebrated throughout Baltimore and Maryland. This was a bonus once-in-a-lifetime match up.

December 3

At a Saturday meeting of Coppersmiths Local #80, Eddie learns that the J. D. Kavanagh Coppersmith Company has been awarded a contract by Baltimore Pure Rye Distilling. They are opening a new distillery and the Shop did quote them a price but the job goes to James’ firm. Eddie calls his father about it when he gets home and Joe is surprised but not upset. The Shop has had a good year and they will start 1939 with more work scheduled. Joe thanks Eddie for letting him know but says let’s see how it goes for James. Getting the job is one thing but doing the job is another. Joe tells Eddie that he wishes James luck and, as always, to pass along anything he hears from the union.

December 23

The Shop’s Christmas party is thrown on this Friday. They have been working most Saturdays this year but will be closed tomorrow. The family will attend mass as a group tomorrow with Sr. Mary Agnes at the Visitation Convent on Roland Avenue. Today the Shop is full of merriment and mirth as customers and friends gather with the Kavanagh’s and crew. After a morning of work, an hour or so of cleanup and decorating, the party is quickly in full swing. They celebrate another year in business and as a family. The Joseph Kavanagh Company has had a fine year and Joe feels even more confident about retiring. He is 72 years old now and it is clearly time. He will be the first Kavanagh to make it to retirement from the Shop in its history. With this new corporation formed, he believes he has set his sons up for success. They work well together and have a very talented hard-working crew. At one point during the party, Joe takes his usual stroll out to the corner of Pratt and Central. He gazes up Pratt Street toward downtown Baltimore but doesn’t really see what is there. In his mind, he is back 28 years ago when this building was first erected. He recalls how he and his brothers, James and Frank, moved into a small place on Central Avenue, then within a few years, into this new and bigger Shop. They couldn’t have done it without Johanna, of course. She loaned them money to get started, then pooled her money with theirs to build Pratt and Central. It’s hard for him to believe it has been this long but the time has blown by. They’ve seen more than their share of ups and downs between Prohibition, bootlegging and issues between the brothers but they’re still here. They are still open and working. Joe is very proud of what they’ve done and what they will do in the future. In a flash, he’s back in 1938 and rejoins the party. There is more song and celebration into the evening then home for them all. For a second, Joe thinks this might be his last Christmas Eve party at the Shop. He’ll retire early next year; he’s not sure of the date yet. Then again, he can always come in to visit and enjoy the party like the rest of them. It might not be the same without his singing voice so he’ll be at next year’s party. After all, it’s the Joseph Kavanagh Company, he can come in whenever he likes.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States and this year he founds the March of Dimes. Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” is performed for the first time. Action Comics premieres featuring a character in a secondary story named Superman. Bugs Bunny makes his first appearance in a film called Porky’s Hare Hunt. Slacks are marketed by the Haggar company for the first time. The minimum wage is established. Bill Withers, Judy Blume, Etta James, Wolfman Jack and Evel Knievel are born. Clarence Darrow and Robert Johnson die.

There are still 48 states in the Union.

Pratt and Central building. 1990.

To read earlier posts, click the Table of Contents link below.

Table of Contents

1937 Her Left Foot

January 11

It is a solid start to the year for the Joseph Kavanagh Company. The Shop is filled with distillery repairs and commercial cooking kettles to fabricate. Joe and his sons are busy fielding calls and bidding jobs while their crew crank out the work. More and more, Joe allows his sons to take some of the phone calls and deal with customers. Joe knows the boys’ time is coming and they need to start handling that end of the business. Once a job is received, Leo does any engineering and makes the necessary sketches. Eddie assigns the work to different members of the crew, taking care of the more difficult projects himself. He still leads the crew for most installs at distilleries and breweries but whenever possible, he passes as much off to the workers as he can. As Eddie and Leo must learn, sooner rather than later, Joe will be gone and his sons will be in charge.

February 15

Another member of the next generation starts at the Shop, Leo Jr. He has been playing baseball for different semi-pro teams in Maryland for several years after school. His father convinces him to give the Shop a try though the younger Leo isn’t particularly enthused. At nineteen, he’s a little old to be starting as an apprentice, but he’s persuaded by his father to step into that position. He works as a helper as any other apprentice would, but is also taught the basics of coppersmith work by his father. The Shop is flush with work: some boiler parts, a fountain and a brass railing to make in addition to some distillery repairs.

March 1

Distilling and beer brewing work continues to return to the Shop. The crew has grown to sixteen including the Kavanagh’s. Young Leo is struggling a little but most employees go through a period of adjustment to Shop work. It’s dirty, heavy and occasionally dangerous. Today, several beer vats are being made, the copper heated and hammered into the large basin-shaped vats. Once finished, they will be installed next week at National Brewery. The team of workers will be led again by Eddie but this time he will take on more of a supervisory role. He’ll allow his crew a little leeway during the installation. He wants his senior workers to take on more of a leadership position so he doesn’t have to.

Bronze label attached to beer vats and stills in 1930s.

April 3

After a discussion with his father, Leo Jr. returns to playing baseball. The Shop is not for him and he’s quick to join a team on the Eastern Shore as the baseball season begins. His father may have been disappointed, but is happy his son gave it a chance and knows that baseball is young Leo’s calling. He is a good pitcher and player but not of the same caliber as the Major Leaguers. He is talented enough to work on the semi-pro side and in the minor leagues. He tells his father he wants to take his shot at baseball for as long as he can. Perhaps he will turn to coaching or even return to the Shop some day.

May 7

Joe reads the newspaper account of the Hindenburg disaster in Lakehurst, New Jersey and is horrified at what he reads. The airship exploded as it landed and thirty-six passengers were killed. Joe has always been very skeptical of air travel particularly airplanes. This is different though; these rigid airships were considered relatively safe. This is a terrible disaster whose memory will live on forever in the US. The live broadcast of the event is replayed on the radio for all to hear later that night. Joe listens and wonders at this terrible disaster and the loss of life.

Hindenburg flying over New York just prior to the crash and explosion.

May 17

The Shop gets a phone call about the Statue of Liberty. Joe answers the telephone and the caller is from Coppersmiths Local #55 in New York. They wish to speak to Eddie and Joe passes the phone over to his son. They need some additional help on repairs to Liberty, specifically her left foot. The shackles are damaged and need fixing. It is pure coppersmith work; the feet like the rest of the statue are copper. It will require a deft and skilled hand to reshape the foot or it may need replacing. These repairs need to be done as quickly as possible because Liberty’s Fiftieth Anniversary is in October. A large ceremony is planned to celebrate her birthday. Eddie has made several trips to New York over the years. These trips are rare, but occasionally an out of state distiller needs the Shop’s services. This is very different, obviously, and Eddie is very interested. He assures his union brother that they’re happy to help and will get back to him tomorrow. After hanging up, Eddie explains the situation to Joe who is just as interested. Joe is all for it as he remembers that Old Uncle Joe played a part in the Statue’s construction. He regales his sons on the tale they have heard before: how Joe traveled to New York to offer his services in the building of Liberty. Learning that all the copper work was finished in France, Uncle Joe was undaunted and returned the next day offering to be a simple laborer. It was important to him to be involved. He helped rig and assemble the pieces that make up the statue. Leo and Eddie can see the excitement building in their father as he speaks to them. They know already that he wants this job and they will get it, whatever it takes.

May 20

Joe places a call to the administrator of the Statue of Liberty and quotes a price to repair the foot. He quotes a base price and then an hourly rate as they have yet to see the damage. Joe is excited to be involved in this project but several days has lowered his enthusiasm if not interest. He was never one to forget price and quotes a figure to be sure to make some profit. Joe is confident they will be awarded the job. Time is of the essence and the Shop has its experience and reputation.

June 7

Ed Kavanagh Jr. returns to the Shop for the summer to continue his apprenticeship. He did well in his first summer and with school finished he is back for more. His father teaches him the skills he needs, using a torch, using a hammer and the other details of copper work. He is welcomed back by the crew with a mix of enthusiasm and chiding. The young guy often takes a lot of ribbing at the Shop. You have to be tough enough to take it and find a way to fit in with the group. The crew is like a team and this is part of finding your place or position on the team.

June 28

On this Monday, Eddie travels to Bedloe’s Island in New York to do some repairs on the Statue of Liberty’s left foot. Eddie takes the train along with Mr. Funke and young Leo Giannetti. After getting lost briefly, they make their way to Bedloe’s Island by ferry. Eddie meets his fellow coppersmith union members and the details are quickly gone over. Eddie and his crew are escorted up on to the Pedestal to see the damage. The left foot itself has some wear and tear but the real issue is the shackles near the foot. They are broken to signify her breaking the shackles of oppression and finding freedom. That is how they are supposed to look but they are in far worse shape. The chains are pitted and split throughout with most of this damage caused by water. Eddie is told the copper apron at the bottom of Liberty’s garb is to be extended by about twenty-five feet. This will help to protect the feet and chains from rainwater in the future. There’s a crew in place to take care of the apron, but with a deadline to finish, additional help for the foot is called for. That help is Eddie and his two assistants. Eddie assesses the problem quickly and knows what needs to be done. The chains must be re-worked and in some places covered in new copper. He doesn’t think this will take them very long. He came here assuming they would need three or four days to complete the work but now he thinks two days might just do it. They set to work immediately and hope to be finished and heading home the day after tomorrow.

The right foot of Liberty prior to construction. Postcard undated.

June 30

Eddie, Mr. Funke and Leo Giannetti head back to Baltimore via train. They have finished and the foot and the chains look much better. With Eddie’s union brothers near at hand, any tools and materials they needed were available. Eddie and the boys were able to borrow torches and hammers. Any holes were covered or filled with new copper. Those areas that were out of shape were hammered out and all seams were repaired. The administrators of the Statue of Liberty were very pleased with their work and quite grateful for the speed with which it was completed. Eddie and the boys smoke and play cards on the ride home. All the while, Eddie is going over the experience in his head. Not just for his own sake but for his father’s. Something tells Eddie that Joe will want to hear all about it. When they return to the Shop, Eddie gives his father a blow-by-blow account of their trip and what they did. It was not a big job but one of the more important ones they have been involved in. The story was short as the work was fairly straight forward for an experienced coppersmith like Eddie, but Joe loved hearing about it and was happy to pass it along to anyone he knew. And, of course, he was happy about the money they were paid.

July 4

Eddie and his wife Annie host an Independence Day cookout on Lakewood Avenue. Eddie’s parents, Joe and Jo are there, as are brother Leo and his family. They cook burgers and hot dogs in the backyard while enjoying potato salad and the rest of the trimmings. After they eat, they take the short four block walk to Patterson Park to enjoy some fireworks. They sit in the grass on a humid night and watch as the sky explodes in colors of red, white and blue. The children are getting older but still not so old to not “ooh” and “ah” at the display. The older Kavanagh’s talk baseball and the Shop as they watch. Joe brings up the story of Amelia Earhart, a famous female pilot who has gone missing during her transatlantic flight. Joe pontificates a bit about the dangers of flying but as a group they are hopeful that Miss Earhart will be found soon. When the fireworks are finished, the family joins the throng of spectators exiting the park. They make their way back to 434 N. Lakewood Avenue, all having enjoyed a great holiday.

Letter from Administrator of Statue of Liberty to Director of the National Park Service referencing pictures taken of repairs to Liberty. July 7. 1937. Courtesy of National Archives.

August 14

Eddie leads a meeting of Coppersmith Local #80 on this Saturday night. The news is mostly good for the rank and file as more work has come back and more companies are hiring. Eddie has seen this himself at the Shop but other small shops are also bringing on new men. One thing that strikes Eddie is the news of a new coppersmith shop opening called the J. D. Kavanagh Coppersmith Company. He realizes immediately that this must be his Uncle James’ new place. He gives it some thought on the drive home and calls his father on the telephone upon arrival.

August 15

The Kavanagh’s enjoy a Sunday dinner at Thirty-third Street. Johanna prepares ham and potatoes in a large jacket kettle cooker made in the Shop by Eddie. After their meal, the kids and their Moms settle in front of the radio while Leo, Eddie and their parents have a chat. They gather around the kitchen table with Joe at one end and Jo at the other, each drinking a glass of much needed iced tea on a humid August night.

“So James has opened his shop. Eddie heard so last night at the union meeting, but we knew it was coming.” Joe announced to the room, though everyone there knew this. “We knew he was going to do it and I’m not worried. He can’t compete with us, not with our quality, our experience and our reputation. Good luck to him.” Joe finished and lit his pipe while his eyes moved from his wife to his sons.

“Do you think this will effect the Shop? I mean, sure, he can’t compete with us, but he could still take work away from us. He could call customers of ours.” Leo inquired before taking a long finishing drink of his tea, the ice tinkling in his glass as he put it down.

“I’ll handle it if he calls customers. I’m not too concerned. They all know me.” Joe answered, pointing at his chest with a jerk of his hand, “I’m not much worried about our old customers, but there are new distillers out there. With Prohibition long gone, thank God, more will keep opening. James knows how we price jobs. He could underbid us pretty easily. It’s a concern, but I’m not worried.” Joe puffed on his pipe and leaned back in his chair.

Eddie sat forward in his and said, “I don’t know where his shop is located yet or if it’s even open. I know there was an inquiry about hiring two coppersmiths and two helpers later this year. The union approved it and we’re waiting to hear back from James. My only concern is that he knows all about our business with James Connelly and the whiskey. He knows all we’ve done for the last fifteen years. Bootlegging with James and without. He was involved in it, but not like we were.” Eddie paused to strike a match and light a cigarette, his eyes focused on the tip as he brings the match to it. “Should I be worried about that?” he asked looking directly at his father.

“No. I’m not. James may have tried to stay out of our whiskey deals but he took the money. When there was money anyway. We did what we had to do to survive. Plus, he’s my brother. He won’t do anything about that. He’s just trying to make a living and that’s fine with me. If he calls our customers or tries to low bid us, that’s different.” Joe replied to Eddie. “Still, keep your ears open at the union meetings.”

Eddie nodded in response as his mother spoke up, “I think you’re right, Joe. He is your brother and he is trying to run a business like you are. Let him have his shop. There will be plenty of work for everyone. It seems much busier this year. Does it not?” Johanna looked to her husband but seemed to be speaking to all of them. Both boys quickly confirm that the level of work is better than it was.

Joe spoke up to the boys, chiming in, “See. Your mother says it will be fine so it must be true.”

Johanna grinned as her husband and sons chuckled then she continued, “I think the best thing to do is stay out of any trouble with James. Ignore it, and you boys,” she looked from one to the other, “take care of our Shop. That is more important than what James does.”

The Kavanagh men agree and the room grows quiet. Each is satisfied that they won’t worry about James and the J. D. Kavanagh Company. They will focus on the Joseph Kavanagh Company and may never cross paths with the other business as far as they know. Joe and Jo’s sons and families soon depart, ready to start another week on Monday.

September 6

Ed Jr. returns to high school for his final year. He has learned a lot in the second year of his apprenticeship at the Shop. He has not passed the pitcher test yet which is a time honored tradition for the Kavanagh’s: to be able to make a drinking pitcher from a flat sheet of copper, heating it and shaping it on your own. This has been the standard by which a coppersmith is measured at the Shop for years. Next summer Ed should be ready for that; it takes several years to get the skills and experience to make a good, balanced, smooth pitcher. It is the Kavanagh litmus test for coppersmiths.

October 10

The New York Yankees defeat the New York Giants to win the World Series in five games. It is a very one-sided series with the Yanks winning the first two games each by a score of 8-1 and is also the first series where a team, the Yankees, did not commit an error in any game. This World Series featured the last appearance by the great left-handed pitcher, Carl Hubbel and the last series home run hit by Lou Gehrig. With this championship, the Yankees pass the Philadelphia Athletics and the Boston Red Sox for most series wins with six. The Kavanagh’s follow it closely as they always do with each game being discussed both at the Shop and around the dinner table. Eddie’s son, Jack updates his father every night on what he heard on the radio. The final game is on a Sunday afternoon and father and son are able to listen together.

October 28

The ceremony and celebration is held at Bedloe’s Island for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Dedication of the Statue of Liberty.

November 27

The Kavanagh’s visit Sister Mary Agnes at the Visitation Convent on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a tradition they follow every year. Sister Mary Agnes is Joe and Johanna’s daughter and she joined the order nine years ago. She sits with her parents, brothers and their families and has a long chat. They visit her once a month if they can and do keep her up to date on the family. They tell her the Shop is doing well and all of them as well. She is teaching now which makes her very happy. She loves children, and that certainly includes her brothers’ kids who call her Aunt Anna. She is thrilled to hear of Eddie’s work on the Statue of Liberty’s left foot, something that sounds very grand to her and much easier to be very excited about than their usual work. It’s a wonderful day and they make plans to return in several weeks and attend Mass with her.

December 24

On a chilly Friday afternoon, the Joseph Kavanagh Company’s Christmas Eve party is held. They convert the messy dirty Shop into a decorated festive place for a party. There is food, drink and song as there is every year. Customers and friends stop by through the day and celebrate with the Kavanagh’s and crew. It has been a very good year for Joe and his family. They do have the small concern of James’ shop competing with them but, for the most part, they are not very worried. Joe knows it will be difficult for the J. D. Kavanagh Company to be compared to the Joseph Kavanagh Company. They have years of experience and Joe has many friends in the industry. The distilling and brewing work keeps picking up steam as each year passes after Prohibition. Joe feels very confident that the Shop will do well and even flourish if the work holds out. He gives more thought to his retirement and even begins to look forward to it a bit. Joe begins formulating a plan for next year and beyond: how to transfer responsibility and control of the Shop to his boys. It must be done carefully and with thought to the long term. One thing he knows is that his sons get along very well and their partnership would be a very amiable one. Of course, things can change over time but Joe does not envision any situation like what happened with his brother Martin or with James. The party kicks into high gear, and calls for Joe to lead them all in “O Holy Night!” are heard. Joe sang this for years on the Lombard Street bridge on Christmas Eve in his younger days, both with his fellow members of the Primrose Quartet and on his own. Joe remembers those days with a smile but it is starting to be a very long time ago. It was just before and after the turn of the century. He takes his place in the midst of the party and starts to sing, his booming baritone voice filling the Shop. He is happy; they are doing well and he sees a successful future ahead for his family. They did a lot of work this year and they have more on the books. The distilleries, breweries and other customers are keeping them busy. Joe sings and his thoughts run to Old Uncle Joe. They went back to Liberty for work and a great deal of pride fills Joe at this thought. His uncle would love that they worked on the Statue again and both Joe’s might be surprised that it is still not for the last time.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States. John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not are published. Daffy Duck appears in a cartoon for the first time. A soldier is stationed at the Tomb of the Unknowns in perpetuity. Spam is invented. The first issue of Detective Comics is released. Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs opens as the first full length animated feature film. The Lincoln Tunnel in New York opens to traffic. Jack Nicholson, Mike Cuellar, Morgan Freeman, George Carlin, and Madeleine Albright are born.

There remain 48 states in the Union.

Statue of Liberty. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

Table of Contents

1936 Joe Stands Alone

January 20

The Shop is off to a strong start this year with several orders from distilleries, several beer vats to fabricate and a boiler repair. The boiler repair is for E. J. Codd, one of the Shop’s oldest customers. A copper liner is fabricated and several flanges to go with it. Joe is happy but his mind is on the lawsuit filed by his brother against him. The two sides have been negotiating through their attorneys and Joe is more and more hopeful that a settlement will be reached. James has hired Mr. James F. Thrift as his attorney while Joe is represented by Maloy, Brady, and Yost who have helped him with several legal matters in the past, primarily automobile accidents. ( Joe was a notoriously bad driver and had his share of lawsuits filed by other drivers.) Eddie continues to make and sell his illegal rye on Lakewood Avenue. Joe has stashed away his share of those profits and he will use it to pay his brother if and when they come to an agreement.

February 29

Joe hears from his attorney and a settlement with James has been reached. Both sides have agreed that the value of James’ share, less the loans from Johanna and any other debts, is $9,000. Joe has the money; it must be paid in cash within fifteen days of this notice. James signs an official release of his share of the Shop today and Joe will sign after payment is made. Joe is thrilled and very relieved that this conflict is all over. The settlement is very clear; James will relinquish all claims to the business and the property, and Joe will assume all debts and assets of the Joseph Kavanagh Company. There had been five Kavanagh Brothers at the start, and now Joe will be the last surviving brother at the Shop. Once James is paid, the Shop will pass through Joe’s line with Leo and Eddie being the next owners.

Financial Agreement between James D. and Joseph A. Kavanagh. Page 1. February 29, 1936.
Financial Agreement between James D. and Joseph A. Kavanagh. Page 2. February 29, 1936.

March 30

With a couple of signatures, for the first time in over thirty years, Joseph Kavanagh is the sole owner of the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Joe visits the office of Maloy, Brady and Yost to sign the agreement; the money has already been passed on to James. The entire process takes just a few minutes this morning, then Joe drives back to Pratt and Central, relieved and happy to focus on the day to day work at the Shop. The small corner office is shared now by Joe and his sons, Leo and Eddie. Leo sits at the drafting table where his Uncle James usually sat, as they both focused on drawings and engineering. Eddie sits at the desk previously occupied by Cousin Guy, close to the door, as Eddie is always in and out of the Shop more than his father and brother. Joe’s is the largest desk situated next to Eddie’s and across from Leo’s, covered in papers and a constantly full ashtray. While eating ham sandwiches and drinking coffee for lunch, the three Kavanagh’s discuss James and the future of the company.

“Boys, it’s all behind us now. We knew it would work out and that the Shop was ours but it’s good to be done with it. Now we just need to stay busy.” Joe announces to his sons as he lit his pipe.

“We’re glad it’s over too. Do you think you’ll hear from James? Do you think he was happy with the price?” asks Leo, still sipping his coffee.

“He took it, so I guess he was, and I haven’t heard from him. I probably won’t.” Says Joe, staring at the drafting table, not meeting Leo’s gaze.

Eddie, leaning forward in his chair and crushing a cigarette into the ashtray on his desk asks Joe, “Do you think he’ll open his own coppersmith shop?”

“I think he might,” replies Joe, “he’s got some money now and that seemed to be his plan.” Joe takes a slow puff on his pipe then continues, “We’ll know. You’re General Secretary of the union.”

“I know,” Eddie says into the cloud of smoke surrounding his father. “If he hires any of the union brothers, I’ll be the first to know. And congratulations. You outlasted them all.” Eddie finishes with a bit of a grin as he tosses a stick of Doublemint gum into his mouth.

“This was James’ choice, not mine. I’m glad it worked out this way for all of us. For your children too. Before long your boys might be working here. You told me that Ed Jr. would be starting this summer. This is how it should be.” Joe snaps in response.

“We’re grateful. Eddie doesn’t mean it that way,” Leo chimes in, casting a glance at Eddie. “We know it’s the best thing for all of us and our families. We’ll keep it going and pass it on.” Leo sometimes wearied of being the occasional peacemaker between his father and brother.

“Of course, I’m grateful. You know that, Joe.” Eddie looks directly at his father as he speaks. “And yes, Ed will start his apprenticeship this summer. It’s time.” Eddie nods and continues, “I do feel like I want to ask you something about your owning the Shop completely now. No brothers. No partners. Is this what you always wanted?”

Joe hesitates as both his boys sit silent waiting. For a moment, he remembers his four brothers. There once were five nephews of Old Uncle Joe at the Shop and now Joe stands alone. Joe stirs and says, “Yes. This is what I always wanted.” He turns his chair back to his desk and picks up the phone, placing a call to Seaboard Steel and purchases some steel rods they need in the Shop. Leo turns to his drafting table and resumes sketching a doubler for a distillery repair and Eddie stands, lights a cigarette and walks out into the Shop to get back to work on a domed lid for a large beer vat. It will take Eddie and two helpers two days to shape the lid.

Settlement agreement between James D. and Joseph A. Kavanagh. 1936.

April 4

Eddie is doing his best to move some more of his whiskey, but his list of customers has shrunk. It’s mostly friends or friends of friends who he has sold to for years. He has talked to his father and brother and it’s time to think about stopping the bootlegging. The Shop’s work is picking up, and the concerns over James are finished. Eddie decides to keep selling to his regulars for a few more months until the end of summer but no later. He tells his remaining customers that he may be getting out of the game and they may want to stock up before he stops. He receives some bigger orders from his friends, nothing major, but two or three bottles instead of one. Today he’s delivering two cases of whiskey throughout the City and he needs to take his car. This is too much for the motorcycle. He takes his son Ed along, and allows the boy to drive. Ed does fine and is excited to take part in his father’s bootlegging. His father swears him to secrecy, but young Ed still brags to his little brother Jack about it at the first opportunity.

April 25

A Saturday evening meeting of Coppersmiths Local #80 is held. Eddie attends as General Secretary and as the Shop’s representative. Eddie will announce that the Shop is hiring another coppersmith and two helpers. In addition, there are more jobs coming back for other companies in the trade. The rank and file are happy as they head home; finally jobs are here and the men hope that the Depression is coming to an end. Eddie cruises home on his motorcycle, a cool spring breeze blowing through his hair as he turns onto Lakewood Avenue. He parks in his yard and heads through the door; he takes a seat at the dining room table for an evening cup of tea with his wife, Annie. He fills her in on how the meeting went while she catches him up on what their boys were doing today.

May 30

Eddie has more whiskey to sell and deliver before ceasing operations. Today Eddie drives off on his bike while Ed delivers in the car. This time, young Ed brings his little brother Jack who begged his father to let him help. Jack was jealous of his older brother and Eddie knew it was safe, so he allowed his younger son to take part on a run. Jack’s older brother Ed often teased him but this time he was glad to have him along. They chatted baseball as Ed drove from street to street. Jack stayed in the car and Ed handled the whiskey and the money but still, Jack was thrilled to be involved. What kid wouldn’t get a charge from riding shotgun on a whiskey run in those days?

June 7

Another generation begins working at the Shop as Ed Kavanagh Jr. starts his apprenticeship today. Ed is sixteen and the Shop is busier now so it’s high time he begins at the Shop. He’ll work during the summers first, as his father and uncle did, then be back to school in the Fall. His apprenticeship starts as they all do, as just a helper/laborer, but gradually he’ll be taught the heating and bending skills that are essential to coppersmith work. Ed grumbles a bit, but not much as he gets to work. His younger brother Jack has a change this summer too, but a much more pleasant one. Jack convinces his mother to allow him to skip his piano lessons for the summer and join a Little League Baseball team. Jack loves the piano but is thrilled to have a chance to play ball on a neighborhood team. He plays at St. Elizabeth’s Elementary School, where they have a team in several sports including baseball. Playing baseball and being part of a team is a thrill for young Jack. He’s nearly jubilant when his mother agrees; and he has no idea that Eddie did his best to sway Annie’s decision on this matter.

July 11

Eddie delivers two bottles of rye to Thomas Cunningham, his friend from Chester Street who is celebrating the birth of his third grandchild, Audrey. Eddie and he toast the new baby’s birth and Eddie informs Thomas that he will soon be retiring from the “Radio Repair” business. Thomas understands and tells him he’ll keep buying until Eddie gets out of it, then he’ll go to the bar like everyone else. Eddie smiles and promises to share a drink together some time soon, then heads off on his bike to finish his rounds.

July 18

The family visits Sister Mary Agnes (Joe and Johanna’s daughter) at the Visitation Convent on Roland Avenue. Joe and Johanna are there with both sons, Leo and Eddie and their families. Aunt Anna (Sister Mary Agnes) is thrilled to see the children. They play on the grass of the grounds, sit, chat and catch up. Joe tells his daughter that he has bought out her Uncle James and owns the Shop outright. She’s happy for him and promises to pray for them all and the business. She is delighted for Leo and Eddie as she knows soon it will be their place to share as brothers.

August 1

Eddie has a very busy and long Saturday between the Shop and delivering his rye throughout the City. He works at the Shop in the morning on some drip pans for a still. Copper sheet is bent into a box shape that is used to catch slow drips from the distilling system. They make them all the time at the Shop as standard fare for their whiskey-making customers. Eddie returns home for a quick lunch, then is off to take some of his rye to his last customers. Today he makes eight trips to different parts of Baltimore while his sons make several deliveries right in the Lakewood Avenue area. Ed Jr. drives and twelve year old Jack accompanies him. They stop at homes in the neighborhood, dropping off a bottle here and there and Ed takes the cash for his father. The boys return and sit listening to the radio when their father finally gets home for the evening. He greets his wife with a kiss and Ed Jr. passes the money along to his father who pours himself a glass of his own rye. He takes a sip then stretches out on the couch with today’s newspaper as the boys listen to the Lone Ranger. Ed Jr. has had a good first summer at the Shop; learning the basics of torch work, hammering and shaping, but more to the point, it was his first experience of working hard all day in the heat of the summer. He has learned a lot but will be happy to get back to school after his first months of apprenticing at the Shop.

August 23

Eddie and his younger son Jack spend a Sunday afternoon at Bugle Field in Baltimore. A doubleheader of semi-pro teams is scheduled on a hot and hazy day. Jack is very excited and he sits with his father sharing a bag of peanuts and a Coke. He watches intently as the first baseball game is played and then another follows it after a brief intermission. The players are mostly local fellows who play for businesses and municipal groups, many of whom have teams that play all over the City. It’s a thrilling day for Jack as he loves the game so much. He talks with his father about the particulars, the players and the rules. Eddie passes along the store of baseball knowledge that he possesses. For just a few cents, father and son have this wonderful day and Eddie promises Jack they will do it again.

September 4

In New York, a letter is sent to the Director of the National Park Service from an administrator at the Statue of Liberty. The National Park Service as part of the Department of the Interior is charged with the care and preservation of national monuments certainly including Liberty. The letter details some damage to the left foot of the statue that was discovered during a standard inspection. The copper chains that should be attached to the left foot are worn and some have broken away. They must make a careful evaluation of the damage because the last thing they want to do is make it worse. Copper needs to be treated with a skilled hand otherwise you can hurt more than you help. The maintenance department of the Statue will make an attempt to fix the chains as soon as possible. Some renovations and repairs are already underway on Bedloe’s Island to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Statue’s dedication next year. Every effort is being made to have the Statue in top form for this occasion and this newfound damage must be dealt with as well.

Letter to National Park Service from Statue of Liberty administrators. September 4, 1936.

September 5

Another Saturday afternoon is spent by Eddie delivering his whiskey but this will be the last. He has sold nearly all of the last of his rye. He will save several bottles for nostalgic purposes but the rest are handed off to a few final customers. Thomas Cunningham and T. J. Burns buy their last several bottles and that’s that for Eddie. He speeds back to Lakewood Avenue and spends a quiet evening with his family. He does give great thought to what he’s been doing, this bootlegging/“Radio Repairs” work that he has kept at for over five years. He knows it has helped them with cash and it has helped to buy out his uncle but he won’t miss it. The hours got to be too much especially with the Shop busy now. He will miss his customers and friends, but the rest of it? No. He’s happy to stop.

October 6

The Yankees defeat the Giants to win the World Series in six games. It’s the first championship for the Yankees without Babe Ruth and the first with up and coming outfielder, Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio sets a Yankee rookie record by blasting 29 home runs in his first season, a record that will stand until 2017. The Yanks offense powers them to the championship including a game two 18-4 shellacking of the Giants. In this game, Tony Lazzari joins Elmer Smith as the only players to hit a grand slam in World Series play. Young Jack still races home to listen to all he can of each game on the radio. He and his father discuss each game during dinner throughout the series. Both still pull for the Yankees, as a residual loyalty to Ruth.

November 3

Roosevelt wins re-election to the presidency by a landslide defeating Republican challenger Alf Landon who only wins eight electoral votes to the incumbent’s five hundred and twenty-three. Landon was the sitting Governor of Kansas and after this defeat he retires from public life. The Kavanagh’s voted for FDR; the end of Prohibition was enough to secure their votes but the improvement in the economy in other areas only makes it easier for Joe and his family to support Roosevelt.

December 24

On a cold Thursday, the Joseph Kavanagh Company throws its annual Christmas Eve Party. The Shop is transformed from its dirty and cluttered self to a wide open space with a tree and decorations in a matter of an hour or so. Friends, both of the Shop and the family, stop by and help the Kavanagh’s celebrate. It has been a very good year and Joe is relieved that the issue with James is over. James is out and Joe stands alone. He is the last of Old Uncle Joe’s nephews and he retains the Shop. The Joseph Kavanagh Company will go to his children now, and in saving Uncle Joe’s legacy, he is also ensuring his own. He can see the future before his very eyes now with his boys carrying on as he and his brothers did. They have a good building, there is work with more on the way and his sons and the crew are a good team. They work well together and are highly skilled and experienced. Joe sneaks out of the party for a minute to smoke his pipe outside on the corner. He smokes silently in the chill December air looking up and down Central Avenue. He recalls so much of the Shop’s history. He started in 1895 but he was born the year the Shop started, 1866. Technically, he’s about six months younger than the Shop. He has seen so much pass through its doors and so much happen to this family over the same years. Joe does miss his brothers and remembers fondly those days when he, Martin, Eugene, James and Frank worked for their uncle. They too were a good team and did a lot of work, but time took its toll. Eugene was killed in a horrible train tragedy. Martin was a crook and nearly destroyed the Shop. Frank’s life was a sad one with deaths to his wife and son, then his own from malaria at the Panama Canal; finally, this fight with James which was a long time coming. Joe knows that James was not happy with the way things were going. He just didn’t realize how bad it was, but it’s over now and Joe is the last brother remaining. He is proud of what he has done to secure his family’s future and even his own legacy. Joe was not a man of small ego, he worked at a place called the Joseph Kavanagh Company, but was never the sole owner. Most folks thought he was when they met him, so it may have galled him a little occasionally that he was not, maybe not much, but enough to bring some satisfaction in owning the place, though he knows it won’t be for long. Joe is content as he can be and thinks now of when he will be gone. He envisions the days with Leo, Eddie and their sons all working together, his sons owning and running the Shop while his grandsons work there. Joe knows soon the time will come when the Shop will be out of his hands; he needn’t worry about it. He’s quite sure it will all be fine.

Roosevelt is re-elected to the Presidency of the United States. The Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge are finished. Bruno Hauptmann is executed for the infamous murder of the Lindbergh baby. Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” is published. American Jesse Owens wins gold in the 100 meter dash and the US Men’s Basketball team wins its first gold at the Summer Olympics in Berlin. The YMCA is founded. Barbara Mikulski, Robert Redford, Buddy Holly, Mary Tyler Moore, and Jim Henson are born.

There are 48 states in the Union.

Jack Kavanagh Sr. in his Little League uniform in front of 434 N. Lakewood Avenue. Age 12. 1936.

To read past years, click on the Table of Contents link below.

Table of Contents

1935 The Trouble with Brothers

January 10

The Shop’s year starts fairly well with some confectionery kettles to make and a few distillery repairs on the books. The country is slowly rising out of the deep Depression that has covered the US for years. Eddie is still making and selling his illegal rye to supplement his income and to provide the cash for his father, to buy out his uncle, James. Joe sends a letter to James’ lawyer informing him that Joe has no interest in selling the company and splitting it between himself and James. He offers to buy James out, but makes it quite clear that he has no intention of closing the Shop or giving up the name, the Joseph Kavanagh Company.

February 20

Eddie leads a crew of four on a brew vat installation at National Brewery on a very chilly Wednesday. The vat was hauled and placed in the brewing room yesterday and today they return to connect the fittings and valves and attach the vat to the existing brewing system. This job adds a boost to February and helps to keep them busier than usual for this time of year. The remaining crew work on some cooking kettles, and bending and shaping an ornamental brass railing for a large residence outside of the City. Today is a good day to be holding a blowpipe or torch in your hand; you can even work up a sweat on a frigid winters day. The workers occasionally huddle around one another, wielding torches today as they hold and direct what little heat there is in the place.

March 13

Joe receives a legal notice that James will go to the courts to sue Joe over the Shop. Joe finishes reading and folds the papers back up and places them back in the envelope. He sits at his desk thinking for a moment when his anger gets the best of him and he calls his brother. James picks up the phone but Joe was the last person he expected to be calling.

“Joe? I got nothing to say to you. If you’ve got something to say, say it to my lawyer,” James fumes.

“Your lawyer? We’re brothers and you get a lawyer involved in this. What are you thinking? I told you before I will not dismantle this company. I’ve offered to buy your half. Why won’t you just take the money?” Joe pleads.

“I don’t want your money. I want a fresh start for both of us. The Shop has served us very well but it is time to move on. Each of us.” James answers.

“I won’t break up the Shop. It’s not going to happen. Uncle Joe wanted the Shop for all of us, for our families, and that’s the way it’s going to stay.” Joe is firm.

“Well, that’s the whole thing right there. You want it for YOUR family. Don’t you? You’ve put your sons in position to run the place, to take it all over, and where would that leave me and Guy? Nowhere. That’s where. I won’t work for your boys. It’s not right.” James angrily retorts.

“I don’t know where you’re getting this. You know Leo and Eddie are our most senior smiths and both are very talented. They’ve earned everything they have, and Guy did have a place here. I told him he had a job as long as he wanted it, but he quit because of…of…,” Joe pauses, “because of this. This crazy stuff you’re making up. We all worked together before and it was fine. You know this.”

James responds with a snort, “It was not fine and that’s not how it would be. You’ll be out of there in a few years, Joe. We both know that, and your boys will find some way to force me out. And Guy. We won’t work for them. I don’t want that and I don’t want it for my son either.”

“You’re crazy. The boys get along great. Leo, Eddie and Guy are tight with each other. Close almost as brothers. Hell, Guy is godfather to Eddie’s son Jack. My sons won’t turn on him in anyway.” Joe says, shaking his head and gazing at the receiver in disbelief.

James slips into a tirade, yelling at his older brother, “You’re wrong and I don’t care. I won’t work for my nephews, ever. I won’t do it and neither will Guy. I own half the Shop. We are partners and I say close it down, go open your own company and I’ll do the same. Then we’ll see what happens.”

“Nope, this is the Joseph Kavanagh Company and that’s the way it’s going to stay!” Joe shouts into the phone, his blood boiling with anger.

“You’re not Uncle Joe. You’re not even a coppersmith. You just want his name. You’re not him.” James replies with a bit of a sneer in his voice.

“I’m not Uncle Joe but I AM Joe Kavanagh and this place is going to stay the same as it has for 70 years, brother. It is not going to change,” answers Joe, his baritone voice filling the small Shop office.

“Then, I’ll see you in court!” James shouts and hangs up the telephone.

Joe seethes for a few minutes, then calls an attorney he knows who has helped in the past. He needs to be prepared for James’ lawsuit which he now knows is coming.

All Kavanaghs but one. Left to right: James Sr., Eddie, James Jr.(standing), Frank, Leo(standing), Joe, Guy(back to camera), Anna. Mr. Fairbanks(Shop employee) on the far right.
James Kavanagh Circa 1920.

March 23

Eddie Kavanagh spends a busy day delivering some whiskey throughout Baltimore. He works a half-day in the Shop, then visits his friends and associates that still buy his cheap homemade rye. He distills the whiskey in the evenings during the week and makes most of his deliveries on the weekends. Eddie is still racking up many hours but it’s not quite as bad as last year. He enjoys driving through the streets of the City, especially on a warm spring day. Today he makes a stop to see Thomas Cunningham on Chester Street and drop off a bottle. For a few years now Eddie has known Thomas, who works at the Continental Can Company, a customer of the Shop’s. Eddie and Thomas exchange some pleasantries, Thomas offering him a quick drink, but Eddie declines. He has to head home, refill his briefcase and make one more round of visits to customers. He carries no more than four bottles in his briefcase which is strapped to the old Indian. Eddie is cautious, and he prefers it this way. The money he makes can still be used to buy out James, depending on how the lawsuit works out, and it gives Eddie some cash in hand which he can always use.

April 30

Baseball season begins and Babe Ruth has signed with the Boston Braves where he will finish his career. Ruth returns to Boston where he started out in the big leagues over twenty years ago. He has a tough go of it and his age is clearly showing. He is slowed by the years and his batting skills are not what they used to be; he struggles to play the outfield. It becomes painfully clear that the Braves have signed him merely as an attraction to get people to come to the games. Eddie and his son, Jack, have a discussion during dinner about Ruth and the Braves. Jack is still certain that Ruth will get hot and finish the rest of the season strong. The Babe walked three times yesterday according to the newspaper, and that shows teams are still afraid of his power. Eddie nods but notes that Ruth is batting a meager .240 at the moment. Eddie is certain that the end is near for Babe Ruth.

May 15

The Shop’s work has stayed steady but has not increased in volume very much. They are maintaining their crew of ten and for the most part are able to keep everyone busy. A fountain is fabricated today, thin sheets of copper are annealed (heated) until orange in color, then rolled into round tubes. Holes are then drilled into the tubes at measured intervals; these will allow the water to pass through. After cooling, the newly made tube is carefully bent around wheels and curved blocks until it is a circle twelve feet in diameter. The circle is trimmed and the ends butted together and a seam is soldered to close out the ring. A valve is attached to allow the water to flow in and out of the tube and spray in and out of the holes. Fountains are an example of coppersmith work they have been doing for many years, all the way back to when Old Uncle Joe owned the place. It’s a good job and the type of thing they will always make some money on.

May 26

Eddie reads the newspaper with his son Jack, recounting a great day for Babe Ruth at the plate. Ruth hits three home runs, delivering six RBI’s against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Forbes Field. Jack is excited and hopes that maybe Ruth is getting his stroke back despite a very slow start at the plate. Eddie is more realistic and tells his son that the Babe’s best days are past and this may have been his last hurrah. In fact, these will be the Babe’s final home runs, a swan song to a distinguished career.

May 30

Babe Ruth retires. His abilities have deteriorated; his batting average is down to .181 and he can no longer compete in the game that he re-shaped and changed during his long years in baseball. Amazingly, he ends his baseball life with an incredible 714 home runs. The next on the career home run list is over 200 below him. Ruth also tallies a .342 batting average and 506 doubles in his illustrious career. His status in the history of the game is assured. In fact, his deeds quickly become the stuff of legend. At the time of his death, Ruth remains the face of the sport, despite not playing for 13 years. He changed the game; he was the first superstar and he grew the game by his mere presence. A giant figure in sports and American culture, Ruth’s persona would become iconic for generations to come. Eddie’s son Jack is disappointed that his hero has retired but his father tells him that Ruth’s accomplishments will live on in the history of the game. He emphatically tells his young son that “There will never be another like the Great Babe Ruth.”

June 14

Eddie returns to Baltimore on a Friday after a four day repair job in Richmond, Virginia. He returns to the Shop after a morning train ride back to the City with Mr. Funke, Leo Giannetti and a young fellow named Vincent. This is the first job outside of Maryland they’ve received in ten years and Joe is excited. These are expensive jobs, but if the customer pays, there is money to be made. Eddie was less than thrilled, but took the crew and went. He would have preferred if Joe would have sent another smith along with Funke and the boys, but his father is his father so off he went. The year continues to be good, but not great, for the Kavanagh’s and crew.

July 17

Joe receives a notice at the Shop from the Baltimore Circuit Court; James has filed his lawsuit against Joe. James contends that the business is defunct now that he is not involved, and that since he and Joe do not agree on what to do with the place, it must be sold and the profits divided between them. Joe shakes his head as he reads it all. The basic contention is that the business was a partnership, and if one of the partners decides that it should be ended, then it should be so. James believes the assets of the business are to be divided and that neither party should have ownership of the name. The Joseph Kavanagh Company should cease to exist and the brothers would split everything and move on. James is suing over the name and reputation (and goodwill, in Joe’s mind). Joe knew it was coming and is very upset with his brother for taking it this far, but he can see that James is determined, so Joe will do whatever it takes to maintain the Joseph Kavanagh Company, its name and reputation.

July 21

After Sunday Mass, Joe sits at his piano in the parlor on Thirty-third Street, absentmindedly tinkering on the keys . He has spent the last several days going over the situation with James in his mind. After speaking to his attorney, Joe is very confident that his claim will be upheld, but there is always the chance that the Court will decide that if one of the partners wants to dissolve the company, it is his right. Joe believes the opposite; both parties must agree, or one is given the opportunity to purchase the other’s percentage. It seems logical to Joe but he is concerned and he can’t stop thinking about it. He wanders into the kitchen and sees his wife, Johanna standing on a wooden step stool pulling a canister of flour from a shelf. She climbs down and meets his gaze then motions toward the table.

“Sit down, Joe.” He sits as she pours them each a cup of tea, sitting opposite him.

“It will be fine, Joe. Don’t worry so much about this. It’s really quite silly of James to take this to court. They won’t want anything to do with it, I expect. Just wait and see, but they have better things to do than decide things between two brothers, and if they do, it will be in your favor. Maybe, almost as much as you want the Joseph Kavanagh Company to stay open, the City might want the same. Even the court.” She takes a slow sip of her tea and looks at her husband.

Joe smiles at her and says, “I hadn’t thought of that. It’s possible and I do think they would prefer to stay out of it. I hope you’re right, Jo. Still, we will have to put out some money, and I suppose it will be worth it.”

“We have the money between the two of us. Don’t worry so much. I’m not worried. I’m sure you’ll pay me back.” She finishes, a smile covering her face as she bustles up from her chair and begins mixing ingredients for pie dough, a peach pie today, her specialty. “Now, get out of my kitchen. Go play something. A song this time, not that just playing about.” She points to the parlor as Joe grins his way out of the room. He sits at the piano and breaks into Cruiskeen Lawn, filling the room with his voice and music, not thinking about James.

Johanna Kavanagh’s step stool. Photo taken April 2019.

August 16

Joe reads the newspaper account of Will Rogers being killed in a plane crash. He was traveling with pilot, Wiley Post and they crashed just after takeoff from Barrow, Alaska. Joe is shocked and saddened. He was an admirer of Rogers but chalks it up to the fact that airplanes are still too dangerous for Joe’s taste. This is a tragic loss but people should be wary of such things as lifting up off the ground and flying through the air.

August 26

Joe is very happy today because the Shop has the sort of job he wants. Two large copper storage tanks have been ordered by Records and Goldsborough, one of Joe’s distillery customers. These will take several days to fabricate, then deliver and install, and will keep several workers busy throughout its construction. It all starts with Joe discussing the particulars with the customer and finding out exactly what they need and quoting a good price. Then Leo does the engineering and fluid mechanics involved in the tanks and makes the necessary drawings. Eddie leads the crew on bending the sheets of copper into the tanks and installing and attaching the necessary system. This is what Joe wants, he wants his sons working together using their specific talents. It’s very much like Uncle Joe with Joe and his brothers, and when Joe, James and Frank went out on their own, breaking away from eldest brother, Martin. James did the engineering and drawings, Frank was the best coppersmith and Joe made the deals. They each brought different skills to the Shop and they worked together. This system worked well for both the Shop and the Kavanagh’s and Joe wants the same for his boys. Leo the engineer and Eddie the smith and Joe still making the deals. The Records and Goldsborough tanks job is good for the Shop and Joe is getting more confident that the work he’s been waiting for is coming.

Joe Kavanagh’s Shop Book. August 26, 1936.

September 23

Joe again sends a letter to James’ lawyer emphasizing his position and again offering to purchase James’ share of the business. Joe’s lawyer encourages him to negotiate a settlement with his brother as he is concerned about any outcome in court. He tells Joe that James’ lawyer feels the same way, as this is an unusual situation and it could go either way. Neither attorney seems confident or comfortable putting this in the Court’s hands. Joe is all for a settlement and he encourages his lawyer to keep in touch with James’ representative.

October 7

The Detroit Tigers beat the Chicago Cubs to win their first World Series title in their fifth try. They were defeated last year by the Cardinals but take the championship this year in six games. The Tigers win despite losing their star first baseman, Hank Greenberg, in game two after he broke his wrist in a collision with Cubs catcher, Gabby Hartnett. The Cubs had overtaken the defending National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals in the standings by winning an astounding twenty-one games in a row. They fall short in the Fall Classic and Detroit has its first World Series Championship. The Kavanagh’s follow along, reading the news accounts and listening on the radio when they can.

November 20

Joe receives another letter from James’ attorney and the court date is delayed. Joe is pleased with that and hopes that it never comes to trial. Joe’s lawyer has advised him that the Court would prefer if a settlement is reached in this matter. He has been in contact with James’ representative and it appears there may be a softening in James’ position. Joe believes that perhaps James is running out of money and he needs an influx of cash, especially if he means to open his own coppersmith shop. Joe thinks back to when he started working for his Uncle Joe. He was 29 years old and the fourth nephew hired. He was hired to do what he does now, to find work and deal with customers. A General Manager, Uncle Joe called him and Joe did well from the start. The Shop had customers up and down the East Coast then and the business boomed through the 1890s. Then the Fire happened, Uncle Joe died and they went through several years of Martin Kavanagh’s chicanery. Joe remembers when he, James and youngest brother Frank broke away from Martin and formed what is the Joseph Kavanagh Company today. They struggled, but found a home at Pratt and Central, then made it through Prohibition, and they are poised to bounce back. Joe is sure of this, the work is coming back. He knows they will get through this trouble and he decides to have a letter sent on his behalf by his attorney. Joe’s letter gives James an offer for one half of the Shop and the letter informs him that henceforth James should pursue any further negotiations with Joe’s attorney. Joe will wait and see.

December 24

The Shop’s Christmas Party is held on this Tuesday. The crew quickly cleans and decorates the place around Noon, and customers and friends begin arriving soon after. There is food, drink and a great deal of song to add to the celebration of the holiday. A good time is had by all, though the Kavanagh’s, particularly Joe, do worry about the situation with James. It hangs over them like a cloud; an unfavorable decision could change their lives. They are growing more confident that the Shop will remain open and still be the Joseph Kavanagh Company. It would be very different without that name. Their reputation precedes them with most customers. It stands out when they find that the Shop has been in business for nearly 70 years. It provides a level of trust that customers seek, and this experience that the Kavanagh’s have has calmed the nerves of many a concerned customer. They try not to focus on the lawsuit or a settlement, for they know it will be resolved one way or another early next year. Otherwise, this year has been successful, but not great. The Depression is still on and jobs and work are both still down, but the alcohol industry’s return to operation has very much helped the family. They can at last open the doors of Pratt and Central most days and the Shop is filled with men heating and hammering and shaping copper. They are doing better than they were but not as well as they would like. That probably goes for most Americans at this time, as well. Joe and his family hope for a better year next year as they always do but this time, they hope for a resolution on the James issue, one that leaves the business intact and completely in the hands of Joe and his boys. If they can do that, the Shop will continue on and pass down to Joe’s descendants.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President of the United States. The parking meter is invented in Oklahoma City. Alcoholics Anonymous is founded. Richard “Bruno” Hauptmann is tried, convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of Charles Lindbergh’s baby. Airplanes are banned from flying over the White House. Porky Pig debuts. The first nighttime Major League Baseball game is played between the Philadelphia Phillies and the Cincinnati Reds at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. The Hoover Dam is dedicated. Elvis Presley, Johnny Mathis, Jerry Orbach, Mary Oliver, and Frank Robinson are born.

There remain 48 states in the Union.

Lawsuit filed by James Kavanagh against Joseph Kavanagh. 1935.

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

Table of Contents

1934 The First Time Down the Ocean

January 5

The Shop starts the year with some distillery and brewery work to attend to while Eddie Kavanagh, assisted by Mr. Funke, continues to make and sell whiskey at 436 N. Lakewood Avenue. Joe receives calls for repairs and spare parts, valves, gauges and fittings. Finally, all of those stock parts they have been making for the last several years are in demand. The Shop has accumulated a large and varied stock of these parts. Joe is able to take advantage of this supply to offer quick installs and repairs. The Shop has the tools, the supplies and the manpower to respond quickly. The repeal of Prohibition has brought back those liquor industry customers, operations resume at a deliberate pace. There is work to be done but the alcohol industry is taking its time in getting back to full production. This makes the decision to continue making their rye easier. They need the money to help the Shop with cash flow but also to prepare for buying out James, Joe’s brother. Joe has not been in communication with James since December. James has stated clearly that he will not return to work, and Joe takes him at his word. At some point, James will want to be paid for his portion of the business. Joe uses his half of his son Eddie’s whiskey money to cover the Shop’s payroll when necessary and to put aside some cash to buy out James. The money is “loaned” at times by Joe to the business then paid back to him and Eddie. Some times vague general notations such as “General Distilling” or simply “still” work are made and cash credited to the company. Considering how tough January can be for the Shop, this one starts the year off very well.

February 12

The work has stayed steady at the Shop and Joe is proceeding as if James will never return. Today, Eddie is doing double duty. He works eight hours at the Shop, then spends the evening making some of his rye in his neighbor John Kellner’s basement. Eddie is very familiar with the distilling process, making his own mash and running passes through the still that he made himself. He spends a lot of hours in that basement but he has grown accustomed to it. Eddie’s rye is cheap, but most saloons and pubs are able to purchase legal whiskey with no problems now. Most of Eddie’s remaining customers are individuals who are still short of cash but enjoy a drink. The Kavanagh’s assume that eventually Eddie’s market will dry up but they need the money and he keeps at it.

February 26

Joe is saddened to read in the newspaper that baseball great John McGraw has died. Joe was always a big fan of McGraw as both a player and a manager. McGraw will be buried in Baltimore’s New Cathedral Cemetery where so many Kavanagh’s are interned. McGraw was a great player and an even better manager. He was hugely popular in the City due to his success as a player in the late 1800s with the old National League Orioles. He is also given credit for introducing duck pin bowling to Baltimore where he owned several sporting halls and billiard parlors. Joe was a great admirer of his skills, his baseball knowledge and his strong will as a manager. McGraw will be posthumously inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in three years. Even today in 2019, he is still second only to Connie Mack in Major League Baseball wins by a manager.

March 24

On a warm spring Saturday, Eddie cruises through East Baltimore delivering a few bottles of his rye. He is anxious to get home; he worked a lot of hours at the Shop this week as well as his “Radio Repairs” side gig. He makes his last stop on McElderry Street to deliver to a friend, T J. Burns. He meets Mr. Burns in his backyard and they chat a bit as Eddie hands over a bottle. They speak of the sweet weather as it is a night for short sleeves. Eddie bids him farewell and guns his motorcycle, coasting down the hill toward Lakewood Avenue and making a right. He drives a block and turns onto Jefferson Street and then into the alley, parking in his own backyard. He is finished for the night and walks through the door, a very tired man. Kissing his wife Annie hello, he settles into a chair in the living room where his boys sit listening to “The Shadow” on the radio.

March 31

Another week has passed for the Shop with work for the men, but still not what Joe was hoping for this year. They have a good solid crew but are only able to use some of them for two or three days this week. They rotate the men to keep them all on the payroll, but Eddie is the only man who is very busy. Between the Shop and his bootlegging, his hours keep piling up. The Kavanagh’s are still pleased as things are certainly better than they were two years ago, but they expected the work to come back faster than it has. They do attend to a job at Maryland Distilling, a repair of a still onsite. Eddie takes along two helpers, Vincent and Leo Giannetti and fixes the still in two days. On Sunday March 25, Eddie spends the bulk of the day making whiskey and making deliveries. Eddie’s hours are notated in the payroll journals as a “White Distilling” job and the cash is deposited as such.

Shop Payroll Ledger. March 31, 1934.

April 13

The Shop’s crew are working on several brewing vats, the first ordered since the repeal of Prohibition. This is the type of job Joe was expecting after the ban on liquor was removed but it has been mostly small repairs and part replacements. Joe is excited to see the big vats being made by his workers and it feels much better for him to have a real crew of men. The Shop had a crew of over thirty before Prohibition and chances are slim that it will reach that level again, but it is a strange feeling at Pratt and Central to have just four or five men laboring in the Shop.

May 14

Joe has heard from his brother James, who wants the company closed and the partnership dissolved. Joe is nearly floored by this idea and offers to buy James’ half of the Shop. James is determined and tells Joe that in his eyes the business came to an end when he stopped working at Pratt and Central, September of last year. James suggests that they go their separate ways and each open their own business. Joe won’t do it; he won’t give up the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Joe wants the legacy, the history and above all else, he wants the name. He flatly refuses to even consider it and again offers to purchase James’ share of the place. James declines and says if Joe doesn’t reconsider, he may have to take legal action. After work, Joe passes all of this along to his wife Johanna who listens intently and tells him to be prepared for anything. James seems to have given this a lot of thought and if he plans to open his own coppersmith company then he would not want to compete with the Shop’s reputation. Joe agrees with her; James is doing his best to level the playing field if he goes out on his own.

June 8

Eddie tells his father he needs a break. He’s been working at the Shop and doing his bootlegging non-stop and he needs a vacation. Joe has trouble understanding why but Eddie insists and tells Joe that he is going to the beach for a few days in August and that’s that. He’ll take Annie and the boys to a beach resort town called Ocean City on the Eastern Shore. Joe tries to fight with Eddie about it but Eddie is decided. He insists and won’t even argue about it. Eddie enlists his mother’s help and she loves the idea of Eddie and his family spending some time at the beach. She thinks they deserve it and quickly persuades Joe to allow Eddie the time off and to pay him a normal week’s salary while on this vacation.

July 4

The Kavanagh’s celebrate Independence Day on Thirty-third Street as the rest of the nation does, with picnics, baseball on the radio and fireworks in the evening. Joe and Johanna’s grandchildren play in the yard and wait anxiously for the fireworks when night falls. As the rockets begin going off, Joe, Johanna, Leo and Eddie sit in the kitchen and discuss the Shop. They must decide what to do about James and they must be prepared for any legal action that he might take. He does own 50% of the business, that’s not in dispute.

“I haven’t heard from James in a couple of months,” Joe says,”but I know he must be planning something. I assume he’ll get a lawyer involved in this.”

“You think he wants to close the Shop so he doesn’t have to compete against us. I mean, if he starts his own place?” Leo asks his father.

“He knows he’ll have to compete with us if he’s opening a coppersmith shop. He wants the building sold and the profits split along with everything else. Even if we were in another building, he would rather compete with us without the name, Joseph Kavanagh Company and the reputation. I’m not giving that up, none of it, no chance. We could lose too many contacts and customers, plus, we earned it. Especially these last few years.” answers Joe as he lights his pipe. He takes a slow puff then finishes through teeth clenched around the stem of the pipe, “I’m not losing that building either. It’s too perfect. I love that corner.”

“Do you have the money to buy him out? Because that’s what the solution will eventually be. His claim is legitimate and he’s going to have to get his money; even if we keep the name, he gets paid.” says Eddie, and he glances out the back window at the kids, along with his wife Anna and sister-in-law Maymie watching the fireworks and covering their ears to quiet the booms.

“I think we have the money. It really depends how you look at the value of the business. The building can be assessed, but the business itself is tougher to put a price on. And if we do pay him his half, we may go back to being cash poor again and I don’t want that. I won’t give James one penny more than he deserves. He abandoned us for one thing and now it seems to me he had some money held back that he didn’t tell me about. He seems to have it now despite not working and yet is prepared to open a business,” says Joe.

The conversation grows quiet as the rockets continue to explode outside in the air. Johanna takes a sip of tea then says, “Joe, you do all you can to sort out the value of the business. You have cash put away from the last year or so and I have some cash. We’ll find the money if we need to. Also, remember that the Shop owes me money. Those loans I made to start the place and to help buy the building were never fully paid back. Be sure to take James’ share of those debts off the value of the business. It’s only fair and that may make it easier for us to afford the buyout.”

Joe looks across the kitchen table at his wife and smiles, “Now, that’s a good thought, Jo. He does owe his share.” Leo and Eddie both grin at their mother and nod in agreement.

“Okay, we’ll start thinking about the numbers and we’ll figure out a way, but we are not giving up the name and we will not lose the building either.” Joe finishes, and they join Anna, Maymie and the kids outside and watch the final few bursts of fireworks lighting up the warm night. The rest of the evening is spent gathered around the piano, Joe and Eddie taking turns playing while the rest listen and sing along.

August 14

Eddie, Anna, Ed Jr. and Jack take a vacation to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. There is a burgeoning beach resort town there called Ocean City. The drive is long, taking about six hours to drive North to Delaware and then South to Ocean City. The boys love every minute of it; the end of the ride is along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. They’ve never seen anything like it and their eyes are glued to the windows as they pass several miles of pristine beach. The family stays at the Atlantic Hotel right on the boardwalk and spend several days playing on the beach, swimming and fishing. They walk the boardwalk and play arcade games and billiards. There’s a dance hall for Eddie and Anna and a bowling alley for the boys. The boys are in kid heaven as there is so much fun to be had. It’s a vacation they will never forget and Jack particularly will develop a great affection for Ocean City. He loves it all, the games, the beach, and especially the fishing. One day many years in the future, he will retire there.

Shop Payroll Ledger. August 18, 1934.

August 30

Joe receives a letter at the Shop from James’ lawyer that states his position clearly. As James has told Joe, he feels as if the company was dissolved when in September of last year he ceased to work at the Shop. He believes the company’s assets should be split and that he and Joe should go their own ways. The letter merely re-iterates James’ thoughts on what to do with the Shop but doesn’t state there’s a lawsuit coming. It’s more of a veiled threat at this point. Joe ignores it and does not call his brother. He waits for James to call him, and then he’ll make him an offer for his half of the Shop. That’s what he will do but he’s not going to initiate it; he will wait for James to make the next move.

September 15

The Shop continues as it has been with some business but not enough to keep the full crew working for forty hours. Joe disperses the work so they all receive enough hours to make a little money; no one but Leo Giannetti and Eddie are working full time, and those two are credited with almost two weeks’ worth of hours. Eddie is credited with 79 ¾ hours this week and Giannetti with 62. Young Giannetti has been trusted to help with the bootlegging; the Kavanagh’s have taken a quick liking to the young man who is anxious to make as much money as he can. Mr. Funke is Eddie’s regular assistant with the distilling, but he is getting older and can’t put in the hours. The building on Pratt and Central has a crew in it but they are not as active as Joe would like. He rotates the workmen every couple of days, and he waits, waits for a strong run of steady work where each man can clock forty hours or more every week. That’s what Joe is waiting for.

October 5

The newspaper has been full of Jack Hart’s name for the last few days. He’s being extradited to Baltimore after serving one year in the Cicero Prison. Hart was sentenced to one to fourteen years and strangely he does only the minimum. He returns to the Maryland Penitentiary more than four years after his escape. The warden swears that Hart will never escape again. The Kavanagh’s are not happy to have Jack back in town, but this time the story disappears fairly quickly. After such a litany of escapes, recaptures and crimes, the original murder of William Norris for which Jack was convicted is a long time ago now. Twelve years have passed with manhunts, escapes, accusations against Kitty and questions and searches of the Shop and the rest of Kitty’s family and their homes. Kitty’s mother and sisters went through the same treatment by the police nearly every time that Jack was on the loose. The Kavanagh’s hope, once again, that this is the end of it all. Joe and Leo and Eddie discuss the possibility of Jack escaping again. They all agree that you never know with Jack Hart but Hart is older now and probably tired of being on the run. Also, they agree that with Kitty gone, Jack wouldn’t really be interested in escaping anymore. The Hart saga has been a long strange trip for the Kavanagh’s. They perhaps reaped what they sowed for being involved with Jack, but they had no idea of his level of criminal experience. They hadn’t known about his past, and they had paid a price for that ignorance. Years of random police appearances and searches along with countless repetitive questions, always the same thing: where is Jack Hart? They had made a lot of money quickly which helped them survive some very hard years, but they had paid a price in fear and worry. This will be the end of it though. Jack is in prison to stay.

October 9

The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series, winning four out of seven games. The Cardinals team is nicknamed the Gas House Gang featuring the pitching Dean brothers, Dizzy and Paul. The Kavanagh’s follow the series closely as this one is a well-matched and very exciting series. As the year before, Eddie’s son Jack listens to as much as he can on the radio and tells his father all about it in the evening. The Cardinals’ superior pitching tips the scales in this one and St. Louis gains a championship. Eddie and his son Jack’s favorite player, Babe Ruth hits .288 with 22 homers for the season as his career is clearly winding down. He does eclipse the 700 home run mark for his career this year. At the time, no other player was near 500 career homers, Ruth’s teammate, Lou Gehrig came closest. This will be Babe Ruth’s last season in New York. Age is hitting him hard and the end of his playing days are near.

November 16

Joe opens another letter from his brother’s attorney. This one was very much like the previous, but it does explicitly say that if no effort to dissolve the company is taken by Joseph Kavanagh that a lawsuit will be filed in the new year. The letter requests Joe respond to the lawyer and begin the process of selling and splitting the company’s assets. Joe will not even consider such a thing and refuses to respond in any way. He is angry at James for not calling him, not talking to him. He is sure that their relationship is beyond repair but still feels bringing an attorney in to negotiate between brothers is unnecessary. Joe stews a bit about this for a few days then decides to reply after the holidays. If James’ lawsuit can wait until the new year, so can Joe’s reply. He will send him an offer to buy his half but will never sell and split the Joseph Kavanagh Company. Joe will never even think about doing that.

November 24

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Joe and Johanna pay a visit to the Visitation convent to see Sister Mary Agnes, their daughter who was born Anna. They often visit her on Saturdays and occasionally celebrate Mass at the convent on Sundays but they always make a point of seeing her near each holiday. Their visits are limited and under the rules of the cloistered life that the Visitation sisters follow. Joe and Jo discuss the family with their daughter as she tells them about her studies. She will soon begin teaching and is very excited about it. Her faith and devotion to Christ is matched by her enthusiasm to teach and work with children. She loves to hear about her brothers’ kids and they do come to see her as well. Joe and Jo do not bring up the unresolved problems with James. Sister Mary Agnes spends several hours with her parents, sharing tea and conversation and each other’s company.

Shop Payroll Ledger.December 1, 1934.

December 24

A Christmas Eve Monday starts the week and also the annual holiday party at the Shop. The crew work for a half-day then begin the yearly clean up and decorating. As they do nearly every year, Leo and Eddie rush out in the Shop’s truck and purchase a tree. There are more customers this year and more employees to celebrate with the Kavanagh’s. Despite the issues with James, it has a been a good year albeit slightly disappointing. The return of the distillery and brewery work, even at a slower rate than hoped for, has bolstered the Shop’s billing, but not enough to abandon Eddie’s bootlegging. He has lost more customers as legal booze is readily available. There are no more speakeasies or pubs to sell to, but he has a few individuals who still buy his cheap rye. Joe is moving forward with the Shop without James. He fully anticipates a lawsuit but hopes that he and his brother can come to terms. Joe is prepared to do whatever is necessary to keep the name, Joseph Kavanagh Company. The Kavanagh’s have some final closure on the Jack Hart story now that Jack is back home in Baltimore, in the Maryland Penitentiary. It was a long time ago when Prohibition became law and the Kavanagh’s got involved with Hart who was married to Joe’s niece, Kitty. They had several good years where the whiskey trade kept the business alive, more than that. They made more money than they expected, and faster, but it all crashed down when William Norris was murdered. The mess that ensued may not have been worth the money. Jack’s larger than life personality made him great fodder for the press and Kitty’s flamboyant style only added to it. During Jack’s escapes the Shop had to deal with police searches and questions over many years, random and infrequent appearances by the police, but still disconcerting. Finally, Kitty died several years ago and then Jack was arrested. He resides again in prison on Madison Street not all that far from the spot where Jack and his gang killed Norris. He will serve out the remainder of his term and is by all accounts an excellent prisoner, bringing an end to a long thorn in the side of the Kavanagh’s. For years, they feared it would be found out that they supplied the whiskey that Jack sold, but that never happened. Now Joe and his sons face the challenge of buying out a partner and consolidating control of the company. Joe has been running the Shop for years as it is; James has been gone more than a year now, so now it just needs to be made official. James needs to be paid his share, clearing the way for Joe and his sons to own the business.



Franklin Delano Roosevelt is the President. The Apollo Theater opens. Albert Einstein visits the White House. The US Securities and Exchange Commission and the National Archives are established. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Tender is the Night” is published. The first Soap Box derby is held in Dayton, Ohio. In Baltimore, the Walters Art Gallery opens. Jim Gentile, Carl Sagan, Charles Manson, Hank Aaron and Gloria Steinem are born. It is a very bad year for bank robbers as Clyde Barrow, Bonnie Parker, John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson are all shot to death in gunfights with law enforcement officers.

There are 48 states in the Union.

James Connolly AKA Jack Hart. Mugshot. 1934. Baltimore Sun.

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

Table of Contents