Serafino Gaddini

Serafino Gaddini was born in Bologna, Italy on 1882 February 20th, and his parents gave him the same name of his paternal uncle, a lumber trader, who died a little more than a year before its birth, at the age of 60.
His father, Carlo Gaddini, was a 47 years-old scrivener (clerk) from Rimini, in Romagna, temporarily emigrated to Bologna, while his mother Vittoria Semprini, was born in Savignano di Romagna, now Savignano sul Rubicone (province of Forlì-Cesena) 36 years before; she was a housewife but in her native town's registry office she is recorded as a seamstress.
Serafino had only a sister, Rosa Beatrice, known as Rosina, elder than him by some more than two years, who was born in Bologna on December 27
th, 1879 but lived and died in Rimini, with her husband Giuseppe Cocco, who was born in the Sardinian village of Busachi (province of Oristano), and worked as a policeman in Rimini. The couple had no sons, but they raised Giovanni, the son of Antonio, the dead brother of Giuseppe, who also was a policeman, in the Carabinieri.
According to the civil status in 1905 Serafino transferred his residence from Savignano to Bologna, where he had entered the Veterinary Medicine Advanced School, and whence in academic year 1902-03 he had proceeded to the Royal Advanced School of Agriculture, which had been inaugurated on May 16
th 1900 and started in academic year 1900-01 (1). The School was private, promoted by a bank (the Cassa di Risparmio di Bologna), and the seat was in a small fifteenth-century building, the palazzina della Viola, which had already hosted, at the beginning of the nineteenth-century, another agronomic school, founded by the great agronomist from Reggio Emilia Filippo Re (1763-1817) (2). In 1910 the School became state-owned and was integrated in Bologna State University. In 1923 the school turned into Royal Advanced Institute of Agriculture and, finally, in academic year 1935-36 the school became the Agriculture Faculty by the same Bologna University.

Serafino had the matriculation number 175 and graduated on July 29th, 1910, eight days after his father's death, with the mark 80/110. His degree thesis had the title: "The Kentucky tobacco and its introduction in Forlì province countryside"(3).
It must remark that Kentucky tobacco is traditionnally used to produce the typical Italian cigar "Toscano", which Serafino smoked and appreciated, even if maybe at the early age of his degree he didn't do it yet.
After the degree, because of the death of their father, which occurred in Rimini, both Serafino and Rosina moved temporary by an uncle in Pesaro, where Serafino worked as a chemist, since at that time he could practise that profession even with a degree in agriculture.
Serafino, during his Bolognan period, cultivated many interests and, amongst the others, he followed the lectures of Giosué Carducci, 1906 Nobel prize winner and professor at the Bologna university, and in 1907 took part in the solemn funeral of the poet. From the on line archives of Carducci house in Bologna you can find between the visitors also Carlo, Serafino's father.
Even in the website of the Domus Mazziniana of Pisa, in the Ghisleri collection, a correspondence of Carlo Gaddini is reported.
During the world war I he was a officier in the Corps of Engineers; when he was stationed in Rome, he used to give the command "eyes right" to his platoon when they passed by the windows of his future wife Adele, as herself later told. In the Official Bulletin of the Ministry of War
(4) Serafino's promotion from second lieutenant to lieutenant, in the payroll of infantry reserve officers, with seniority on December 5th, 1926 is announced.
On 1st December, 1918, Serafino married Adele Borbonese, which he had known by friends. Adele was nine years younger than him (she was born in Rome on 1891 April 23
rd) a housewife from a Turinese-Emilian family: her father Melchiorre, from Turin, a State Railways functionary, moved first to Milan, then to Naples, in order to attend to the ferries to the Gulf islands, and then to Rome; her mother Luisa Campana was born in Turin from a Ferrara family, who had moved to Rome for work reasons of her father Guelfo, a state employee.
The pair had four sons: Enzo (1920-1946), Carlo (1922-1998), Bruno (1925-1986) and Vittorio (1929-1988).
Serafino and Adele's family dwelt in Rome, at first in 2f, via Gaeta, near Termini Central Station, then in 19, via Agrigento (at the beginning named "via Girgenti"), near piazza Bologna, and finally in 9, via Verona, in the same district.
In his youth Serafino was socialist, and in 1923 he wrote a letter of solidarity to the former Prime Minister Francesco Saverio Nitti for the attack suffered by the fascist squads on November 30
"To H.E. Nitti
Upon returning from the countryside, I learned of the brigandish aggression of which You and your Family were victims.
I express to you and your loved ones my entire solidarity as a free Italian.
With the utmost respect
Yours very faithfully
Dr S. Gaddini
Serafino later took up a fascist party membership card to be allowed to work.
On April 20
th, 1933, king Vittorio Emanuele III appointed Serafino Cavaliere dell'Ordine della Corona d'Italia (Knight of the Order of the Crown of Italy) (5).

At the beginning of his career Serafino worked in Rome in the Montecatini company, later on he was hired by the "Terni Società Anonima per l'Industria e l'Elettricità", where he devoted himself in particular to the Calcium cyanamide, a Nitrogen mineral fertilizer, which was produced in the industrial plants of Papigno (photo 1, 2 and 3) (6) and Collestatte (photo 1 , 2 and 3) near the city of Terni (7) (see photos 1 and 2 of the Papigno plant today).
Serafino promoted with much energy the Calcium cyanamide, both by technical interventions, and by promotional methods for the Nuovo Consorzio per la vendita in Italia della Calciocianamide (New Consortium for the Marketing in Italy of Calcium Cyanamide). This promotional effort took Serafino to make long travels all along Italy, where he knew many people, thanks also to his sociable character.
On the journal "Calciocianamide" (n° 1, autumn 1966) it's reported: "But above all it is right to turn, the most grateful memory to Serafino Gaddini, who perceived, studied and assessed - with the sensibility of the Master - the multifarious, unsuperable qualities of Calcium cyanamide and propagandized the technique of its various employments, with the aware tenacity of the Apostle. To him must be recognized the merit of having given the maximum contribution to the spread of the knowledge of a technical mean with a higher effectiveness in fertilizing the fields, in the increase of the unitary yields, in the increment of the productivity indices of the Italian farms. To the incomparable master goes the thought of all those who remember him with the highest esteem and reverent gratefulness."

In his professional activity Serafino Gaddini was interested in many different fields of knowledge, often far away from his professional activity, as an example psychoanalysis, and he knew many artist, like the painters Enrico Ortolani (1883-1972), one of the "25 of the Roman Campagna", Giovanni Capranesi (1851-1936), Alberto Bianchi (1882-1969) from Rimini and equal in age, Mori, Leypold, Holzer and the poet Giovan Battista "Titta" Marini (1902-1980).

Serafino edited a series of propaganda books and brochures named "I quaderni della calciocianamide", ("The Calcium cyanamide Booklets"), and commissioned the covers illustrations of the works and the promotional posters to several artists, among others Ortolani, Holzer and Bianchi (see images here below).

Between his more illustrious friends there was the great roman poet Trilussa (Carlo Alberto Salustri, 1871-1950), who composed a short stornello (a popular poem) on Calcium cyanamide:
"Chirps the cricket, flower of rue / God helps those who help themselves, / and the farmer merry laughs / with the Calcium cyanamide"
or, according to another version, published on the Agenda della Calciocianamide of 1938:
"With the Calcium cyanamide / all the farmer merry laughs / stimulating, but with prudence / the Divine Providence"
while in the Gaddini family another version circulated, expectably not published:
"With the Calcium cyanamide / all the farmers merry laugh / showing that's a waste of time / dealing with those dirty slime"
the ending alluded to the progress obtained with the substitution with mineral fertilizers of the organic fertilizers made with faeces, even of human origin (as the so-named cesspit or sump), bearers of infectious diseases.
The musician Francesco Balilla Pratella (1880-1955) who came from Romagna like Serafino and was about the same age, besides being a dear friend, in 1935 put to music the short poem of Trilussa with the title "Canta rurale (La canta della calciocianamide)" ("Rural song ("The song of Calcium cyanamide") (listen).
In the "canta" the text of the short poem had been made longer, becoming a couple of verses :
"With the Calcium cyanamide, all the farmer merry laughs, stimulating, but with prudence, the Divine Providence. He laughs and thinks : - it suits me, to do things quickly and well ... - And pleased with his work, he caresses the golden wheat. We'll eat without fail - says the donkey to the horse. And the cow says to the ox : We are both well - Chirps the cricket - flower of rue, God helps those who help themselves - and the farmer foresaw it with the Calcium cyanamide"

Another Serafino's friend was the animator Luigi Pensuti (1903-1945) (11) who carried out also the covers of two Serafino's promotional brochures about Calcium cyanamide (see image 1 and image 2), of the series "I quaderni della calciocianamide". Pensuti was also the illustrator of the Album della calciocianamide ("Calcium Cyanamide Albums") in which the protagonist of the comic stories was a very opulent black woman, who represented calcium cyanamide, which is black
Here below you find a series of cartoons by Luigi Pensuti from the Agenda della Calciocianamide of 1938.

At the end of his working career, after the world war II, Serafino didn't receive any pension, like his wife, and a great part of his patrimony, which he invested in bonds before the war, was lost, so he had to go on working as a consultant. Just when he was working to an advice, he was struck by infarct, he was admitted to S. Giacomo hospital in via del Corso, in Rome, where he died on June 9th, 1950.
He was buried beside his son Enzo, who died four years before him, in the oldest cemetery of Rome, Campo Verano, in the terraced garden named "Scogliera del Monte" (that is "the cliff of the mountain"). Not far from there lies the tomb in which are buried his wife Adele with her parents Melchiorre and Luisa, her grandfather Guelfo and her brothers Mario (junior and senior) and Maria.

Thanks to Rebecca Falkoff for the precious information provided

Serafino's genealogical tree

Serafino's publications (from on-line catalogues of the libraries):
ZAGO Ferruccio, GADDINI Serafino (1926) La calciocianamide. Rizzoli, Milano. image
GADDINI Serafino (1929) La concimazione degli agrumi. Fed. Italiana dei Consorzi Agrari Edit. Tip., Piacenza.
GADDINI Serafino (1931) La concimazione degli agrumi. Stab. L. Salomone, Roma. image
GADDINI Serafino (1933) Concimazione presemina al grano. I quaderni della Calciocianamide. Tip. L. Salomone, Roma. image
GADDINI Serafino (1933?) Il consumo dei fertilizzanti negli ultimi ventisette anni. Tipografia della Federazione dei consorzi agrari, Roma. image
GADDINI Serafino (1933) Consolidare la vittoria. I quaderni della Calciocianamide. Stab. L. Salomone, Roma. image
GADDINI Serafino (1935) La concimazione dell'olivo. Supplemento quaderno n. 21 di "Pubblicazioni per propaganda", gen.-giu. 1935. Salomone, Roma.
GADDINI Serafino, FRANCOLINI Francesco, ZITO Francesco, CAROCCI BUZI Carlo (1935) La concimazione dell'olivo. I quaderni della Calciocianamide. Calciocianamide, Milano (Tip. L. Salomone, Roma).
GADDINI Serafino (1936) Il granoturco nell'anno dell'assedio economico. I.G.A.P., Roma.
GADDINI Serafino (1938) Le mosche, biologia delle mosche, loro distruzione con la calciocianamide. I quaderni della Calciocianamide, 29, Roma. image
GADDINI Serafino (1938) Letame artificiale. I quaderni della Calciocianamide. I.G.A.P., Roma; Milano. image
GADDINI Serafino (1939) Per l'autarchia alimentare del nostro paese. I quaderni della Calciocianamide, 33. Grafiche I.G.A.P., Roma; Milano. image
BIASCO Attilio, GADDINI Serafino (1939) La concimazione dell'olivo. I quaderni della Calciocianamide, 35. Ist. Italiano Arti Grafiche, Bergamo. image.
GADDINI Serafino (1940) Sulle analisi chimica e fisiologica dei terreni della Libia occidentale. Regio istituto agronomico per l'Africa italiana, Firenze. image
GADDINI Serafino (1940) La concimazione degli agrumi. I quaderni della Calciocianamide, 36.. Grafiche IGAP, Roma. image

Bibliographic references:
(3) Archivi degli studenti - Facoltà di Agraria (1900-1950), a cura di Elena Parmeggiani. Bologna, Archivio storico Università di Bologna, 2003.
(4) Ministero della guerra - Bollettino ufficiale. Dispensa 62a. 22 settembre 1928.
(5) Gazzetta Ufficiale del Regno d'Italia - Parte Prima - Anno 74 Numero 201 - Mercoledi, 30 agosto 1933, Roma.
(6) PIANTONI Giorgio (2005) Storia dell'industrializzazione chimica a Terni e Narni : 1887-2005. Centro Studi UIL – Associazione Arianna, Terni.
(7) TRINCHIERI Giuseppe (2001) Industrie chimiche in Italia dalle origini al 2000. Arvan, Mira-Venezia.
(9) L'Agenda della Calciocianamide (1938) Ist. Italiano Arti Grafiche, Bergamo.
(10) FALKOFF Rebecca Ruth (2022) - Autarkic Skies. Nitrogen Capture and Atmospheric Imperialism in Italy. CIVIS Summer School in Environmental Humanities – 13 June 2022.
(n.n.) MiBACT - Collezione Salce - Museo Nazionale

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page last updated: December 8th, 2023