|Caesar A. Grasselli (1850-1927)
Photo: Williams Haynes, American Chemical Industry. Click to enlarge.
Caesar Augustin Grasselli (1850-1927) was a leading manufacturing chemist in the U.S., heading for many years the Grasselli
Chemical Company. The company was one of the largest family owned chemical enterprises in the country and was founded in
1839 in Cincinnati by Grasselli’s father Eugene Ramiro Grasselli. The Grasselli roots in the chemical business can be traced back to
the 15th century in Italy, where they were druggists, perfumers and gunpowder makers.
Grasselli was born in Cincinnati in 1850 and attended local schools. The family and company moved to Cleveland in 1867 where it
manufactured sulfuric, nitric, and hydrochloric acids and ammonia. Grasselli displayed an aptitude for the chemical business while
young and worked alongside his father, learning brick laying and pipe fitting. He graduated from Mount St. Mary’s College in
Emmitsburg, Maryland and joined the company as a chemist. Grasselli became an expert in the manufacture of high explosives and
helped the company expand in this business.
He married in 1871 and took his wife on a long honeymoon to Europe, where he visited his ancestral home in Torno, Italy. He also
found time to visit chemical plants in France, England and Germany.
Grasselli became a partner in 1873 and was named president of the company after his father died in 1882. In 1885 he introduced
American saltcake, or sodium sulfate, to the glass industry, which had previously relied on imports from England. During the World
War I dye famine, he built a dye manufacturing plant, alongside the company’s sulfuric acid works in Linden, New Jersey.
Grasselli became chairman of the board in 1916 when his son, Thomas S., succeeded him as president. Company assets grew to
$30 million, with 14 plants in several states engaged in the manufacture of organic chemicals, inorganic chemicals, and metals
He was active in civic and charitable affairs in Cleveland and was one of the founders of the Cleveland Institute of Music and the
Cleveland Museum of Art. He helped organize the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce. Grasselli died on July 27, 1927 following an
operation and an illness of two months. His philanthropy was exemplified by the gift of the spacious family home at 2275 E. 55th
Street to the Cleveland Society for the Blind.
Family ownership of the Grasselli Chemical Company ended in 1928 with the sale of the chemicals business to DuPont and the dyes
business to I.G. Farben of Germany.
1) Williams Haynes, Chemical Pioneers, pp. 88-107 (Freeport, NY: Books for Library Press, 1970 Reprint of 1939 Edition).
2) Williams Haynes, American Chemical Industry, Vol. VI, pp. 174-177, pp. 183-185 (New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1949).
3) “Caesar A. Grasselli, Chemist, Dies at 77”, New York Times, July 30, 1927.
Caesar A. Grasselli Biography
Grasselli Family Residence Donated to Cleveland Society for the Blind