Josephine Kolmer-Benitz Page last modified:

Josephine’s
Early Framed Photos

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List with the Portraits

The following framed pictures are an important part of Josephine Benitz’s personal collection.  They are the first (often only) pictures we have of the subject (person or landscape).  All the photos on this page were taken between 1850 and 1870.  It is very unlikely there are any earlier photos.  Photography was invented in France in 1839, and the first photographer arrived in San Francisco (California, USA) in 1849.

The photos are daguerreotypes, ambrotypes, or tintypes in golden frames and red velvet lined cases.  The pictures were kept in a large tin-box (cookie or candy).  Most, if not all, have suffered with the years.  Many are exceedingly dark, others are covered in stains.  We scanned the originals in their frames.  To restore each image, we excised it from its frame, worked on it, and then put it back.  It is wonderfully rewarding to see a photo come back to life — see for yourself below.

We have dated the framed portraits based on Josephine’s son Alfred’s diary entry of May 15, 1873.  In it he mentions a set of photos which surely must include many if not all these portraits and the portraits in Josephine’s album of CDVs (carte de visite):

... Frank had our photographs on the table when I came home, I gave one to Father, Frank and Bella, Bella said that she would give me one of hers in return.  Frank also had a large photograph of our house at Fort Ross, and of father about 20 years ago, and of mother about 15 years ago.  and then of himself about 12 years ago and of Josephine when she was three years old, and then he had another picture of himself coming home from hunting.

There are 2 important photos missing from Josephine’s collection, both were taken at Fort Ross ca.1866 — of the family house (ex-Rotchev), and of Josephine and her children.  We know both these pictures existed (and may still) because the museum at Fort Ross has a grainy copy of the first, and we discovered a photo of the second in Malcolm Benitz’s pack-rat “files”.  We have included them both here as at some point they must surely have been part of Josephine’s collection.

If you are interested in reading up on early photography, here are some interesting sites:

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William (Wilhelm) Benitz
California, ca.1855 (approx. age: 40)
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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— Originals —

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Josephine (Josefa) Kolmer
California, ca.1855-1860 (age: 25-30)
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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Frank J. Benitz
California, ca.1861 (age: 10±)
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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— Originals —

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Frank J. Benitz
California, ca.1868 (age: 17-18)
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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Michael & Josefa Kolmer
California, ca.1855
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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— Originals —

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William & Caroline Howard
(It is possible these 2 pictures were taken on the same day: Josefa & Caroline are wearing the same earings.)

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Caroline Kolmer
(Dense stains thwarted restoring more)
California, 1855-1860 (age: 20±)
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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“Mr. Black”
Most likely James Black,
of Rancho Olompali.
California, c.1870
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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— Originals —

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Back of: Josephine & Children
Most likely from Paul Schreiber,
Alfred’s nephew.
(We don’t know who added the blue note.)

It is a photo of a photo: tiny bits of the original
picture frame are visible in the corners.
(Source: F. Malcolm Benitz)

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Josephine & Children
Fort Ross, 1865-1866
l-r: Charlie, Josephine, Herman, JKBz, Frank, Willie, Alfred, Johnnie.
The nurse is likely Maria Myers (father: Charles Meyer)
(Source: F. Malcolm Benitz)

   

Fort Ross, ca.1866

We believe the following pictures, including the family group above, were all taken by a single photographer over a period of a few days before William sold the fort and the family moved to Oakland.  It is possible the photos were taken for sales promotional purposes. William gave title to tenants in Timbercove in July-August, 1866, and sold the fort in March & April 1867.

We added the diagram (at right) and the photo of the family house (at bottom).
Neither are in the current collection.

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Diagram of Fort Ross, ca.1866
(North is left)

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Exterior - From the North-West
Most of the buildings date from the Russian era with some modifications. The 2-storey building was built by William as an addition to the Rotchev house in which they lived.
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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Exterior - From the North-West (close-up)
Notice the numerous fences & enclosures, and that there is banner flying above the right (SW) bastion.

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Exterior - From the South-West
Most of the buildings date from the Russian era with some modifications. The leftmost 2-storey building was built by William as an addition to the Rotchev house (not visible) in which they lived. The orchards can be seen up on the hill beyond.
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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Exterior - From the South-West (close-up)
The orchards are above fort on the hill.

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North-East Side of Yard
The Russian fur warehouse
We don't know who the people are
(Frank X.Bz and son William?).
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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East Side of Yard
Russian new fur warehouse & Kuskov house
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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North & East sides of Yard
Created by merging the 2 pictures above this one.
(Source: John C. Benitz, edited by: P.Bz.)

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South-East Quadrant of Yard
The Russian chapel is back-center and employee barracks (converted into a barn) are to its right. The child in the 3-wheel baby-carriage is probably Herman (aged 2) with Alfred (7) pushing.
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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Sout-West Quadrant of Yard
The long shed and corrales were most
likely added by William.
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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West side of Yard
Russian era buildings, L-R: New-Kitchens, main gate, and Officials Barracks.
(Source: John C. Benitz)

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South & West sides of Yard
Created by merging the 2 pictures above this one.
(Source: John C. Benitz, edited by: P.Bz.)

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North-West corner of Yard
The family house (former Kuskov house with additions).
(Per presence of the ladder at right, this photo was part of the set taken ca.1866.)
(Source: FRIA - Fort Ross Interpretive Assoc.)


© Peter Benitz (Benitz Family)