Looking Back: 40 Years of Benicia Photographs


Photographs digitized from the extensive collection of John Laurence Molfino, a Benicia barber and amateur photographer, will be on Exhibit at the Benicia Historical Museum in February beginning February 6th. 


Mr. Molfino, born in Genoa, Italy in 1874, immigrated to the United Sates in 1888. He lived in Merced, Port Costa and Benicia. Known as Johnny, his barbershop was at 635 First Street, and he made his home at 295 West H Street. He married Giaconda Canessa (Gita) and had three daughters. 


Mr. Molfino’s twelve hundred piece collection, donated through the efforts of Diane and Harry Wassmann by the O’Grady Estate, consists of glass plate and acetate negatives taken over forty years in Benicia, during the late 1800s and early 1900s. His photographs of the Carquinez Strait, sunsets in the hills of Benicia, San Francisco (especially after the earthquake of 1906) and of his family are sterling examples of an artist’s eye combined with the difficulty of the cameras of the day. There are pictures of snow in our city, and many events at Benicia High School.

In order for us to appreciate and enjoy this collection, Museum volunteer Bob Kvasnicka has spent countless hours digitizing these plates, and has created a book of the pictures, Years Around Benicia 1902-1937 which will be on display and available for purchase.  


A member of the International Order of Redmen, he and his subjects are remembered by some of our citizens. His daughter Violet Molfino Wilson was a teacher at Benicia High School. His grandchildren have assisted the Museum in identifying subjects in the photographs.


The opening event will be Sunday, February 6, at 2 pm at the Museum, 2060 Camel Road. The event is open to the public and free of charge.