Gustaf Adof Serlachius was indisputedly one of the pioneers of Finnish paper industry. He established a ground wood mill on Mäntänkoski in 1868 and despite of serious problems was able to build a economically profitable industrial company.
GUSTAF ADOLF SERLACHIUS
Gustaf Adolf Serlachius established a ground wood mill on Mäntänkoski in 1868 and despite of serious problems was able to build a economically profitable industrial company. Known as a irritable person, mill owner Serlachius loved art and lead the society constructed around his paper mill with paternal hands.
Gustaf Adolf Serlachius was born in Ilomantsi, eastern Finland on 5 November 1830. His father, also called Gustaf, was a district police chief who died when his son was 13. After his death, his mother moved with her children to Kuopio, where Gustaf Adolf was enrolled at a secondary school in 1843. Due to the family´s straitened financial circumstances, however, he had to leave the school only three years later.
His school days over, Gustaf Adolf took his mother´s advice and decided to make pharmacy his profession. He worked as a trainee, apprentice and pharmacist in several places and at the age of 23 qualified as a dispensing chemist in Turku. From there he moved to Tampere and became the manager of the Tennberg Pharmacy, which he bought using borrowed money in 1858.
He married Alice Eufrosyne Maexmontan the following year. They had seven children, the first four of which died in infancy.
Pharmacy was not G.A. Serlachius´ only business during his time in Tampere. Other interests included running the business side of Fredrik Idestam´s groundwood mill, where he quickly grasped how profitable this business could be. He decided that his future career would be in groundwood.
New Beginning at Mäntänkoski
In 1868 G.A. Serlachius sold his pharmacy and moved to Keuruu, where he bought the western bank of the Mäntänkoski Rapids, together with a share of the hydropower rights. Beside the rapids he built a groundwood mill, which was completed in March 1869.
Then followed three decades of intense work, at the end of which his industry and unyielding resolve had brought two groundwood mills, two steam sawmills, a paper mill, a cardboard converting factory and a bag factory into being.
The groundwood mill had to overcome a multitude of practical and financial difficulties in its early years. Mänttä was a remote place, far from the main transport routes of those days. The pulp that the mill produced had to be drawn by horses to Hämeenlinna and from there on to St. Petersburg via Viipuri. It was only in the 1870s that communications improved significantly.
His other major achievements included arranging for the new railway line between Helsinki and the north-western region of Ostrobothnia to run east of Lake Näsijärvi and building a branch line between Mänttä and Vilppula. He wrote a great deal on themes mainly relating to providing effective transport infrastructure and was a pioneer in nature conservation.
G.A. Serlachius has a place in the industrial history of Finland as one of the pioneers who created links to markets in Western Europe. He carried through a project to arrange winter shipping services to take goods from the Finnish port of Hanko to Copenhagen and Britain. It was also on his initiative that Finland´s first icebreaker was acquired.
He was awarded the prestigious honorary title Kauppaneuvos (Counsellor of Commerce) by the Senate of Finland in 1896.
Mill Owner in Mänttä
G.A. Serlachius believed that Finland´s future lay in education and culture. He worked in many ways to promote the Finnish language and Finnish culture in a period of growing national awareness. One of the ways in which his patriotism manifested itself was his support for "Finnish-minded" visual art. Thanks to his generosity, an elementary school and a library were opened in Mänttä in 1871.
Althought the circles of business men considered Serlachius a petulant and hazardous business partner, among the inhabitants of Mänttä he was well appreciated. The mill owner of Mänttä organized the services needed by the industrial society but not organized by the municipality. The mill in Mänttä meant work and livelihood. People understood as much to be grateful for it.
Friend of Artists
His frequent trips outside Finland further broadened G.A. Serlachius´ world view. On them he often visited international industrial fairs, many of which included extensive art exhibitions. He took a keen interest in exhibitions both in Finland and elsewhere and publicly expressed his views on them. He was also a member of the Finnish Art Society and personally acquainted with several artists and prominent cultural figures. The most important of these contacts was with the painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela. The two met in 1884 and their friendship continued until G.A. Serlachius´ death in 1901.
The artist visited Mänttä several times and the gentlemen later met also abroad, for example in Paris. Serlachius demonstrated that he understood the essence of creative work, and he encouraged and guided the young artist in many ways.
Another artist whose life G.A. Serlachius followed closely was the sculptor Emil Wikström, whom he encouraged to dedicate himself to art full-time. Wikström was a frequent visitor to Mänttä and the two men also travelled abroad together.
G.A. Serlachius died at the age of 71 on 13 June 1901. His lifework was carried on by the company he founded, G.A. Serlachius Oy, which later became part of the Metsä-Serlä Group. His interest in art was carried on by his nephew Gösta Serlachius. Today the museums of Gösta Serlachius Fine Arts Foundation preserve the legacy.