JB Monaco: “The Dean of North Beach Photographers”

From Dick Monaco, United States

There were five siblings who emigrated from Verscio to the United States starting with Louis who emigrated in 1859.

Louis was the pioneer and first started work in the mines at Lancha Plana in 1859. Then he moved to Virginia City and Gold City in approximately 1862. He was in several businesses in Nevada and started a photo gallery there in 1869.

He moved to Eureka, Nevada in 1870 or 1871. He brought his younger brother Marino over in 1873. They could not get along and Marino moved to Stockton in 1874. Then he brought my grandfather JB Monaco over in 1875.

They ran a very successful business in Eureka until 1888 when they moved to San Francisco. They had two studios on Market Street in San Francisco and Louis died in 1898.

My grandfather who was married at the time to a woman from Colinasca (she was the one who told him your native language is Italian, why don’t you set up in North Beach where they are all Italian). He moved to North Beach in 1902.

Verscio centre, photographed during JB Monaco’s visit in 1908


I should mention that Louis was married to Liberatta Cavalli, the sister of George Flavio Cavalli….

There were two other sisters who emigrated from Verscio prior to the time that JB Monaco emigrated.

I have lost track of them or their descendants now. I still have contact with Ellen Starkey who is the great, great granddaughter of Louis Monaco.

JB went on to be “The Dean of North Beach Photographers”. JB died in 1938.

Visit the website http://www.jbmonaco.com for more information.

4 thoughts on “JB Monaco: “The Dean of North Beach Photographers”

  1. I loved reading about the Dean of North Beach Photographers. Wonderful. My great-grandfather, Giacomo Pedrotti, emigrated from Canton Ticino and ended up in Marin County, California along with at least one brother. My question is: Does anyone know why so many Italian-Swiss folks came to Northern California in the mid-1850s. Did they come because of the (by then nearly done) Gold Rush, or for other reasons. My great-grandfather came with very little, if any, money, and ended up a successful cattle rancher.

  2. To The Monaco Family,

    May I just say, so many thanks to your family for providing, so many of our families with amazing photographs of our grandparents and other relatives. Your Grandfather’s pictures captured and preserved the lives of so many of our Ticinese ancestors. These photographs, which he took, have survived time incredibly!

    JB Monaco was “the person” for an immigrant from Ticino to have their portrait taken by – either those living in San Francisco or those traveling to and from the Bay Area. Just think of how many letters written back to Switzerland contained a photograph taken by the Monaco Studios, saying we arrived safely in the new world and we are doing well, or this is me and my new bride, our child, etc..,

    The photo book of North Beach, which was published a few years ago, along with your web site, are great examples of his work and his dedication to recording history!!!

    Personally, I was so excited when I found the photo of his studio at 205 Columbus Ave, in the North Beach book, as it shows the Hotel San Gottardo next to the studio. As a child I had heard so many stories of my grandparents traveling to San Francisco from Del Norte and staying in two locations in North Beach – this being one them. Also in later years my uncle and other relatives lived there when they work in the Bay Area. I can look at this photo and say; my grandparents were at one time in both of those locations, the studio and hotel.

    Thanks again to your family for providing all of our families the photos we have today!!!

    All the best
    Mark Lesina
    Seattle, WA

  3. To Mary Staples and Mark Lesina,

    I am happy that you liked the picture .I grew up in North Beach but have lived in Marin for fifty years. Actually in Greenbrae. My business was in San Francisco…

    Dick Monaco

  4. I made a mistake relative to my cousin Ellen Starkey…She is the great granddaughter of Louis Monaco and Liberatta Cavalli. It is amazing how the Swiss in the United States seemed to marry people from their own part of Switzerland…That was not the case with my father Dante Monaco, he married Edna Callahan….
    Dick Monaco

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