Gaspar Józef Hipolit Cegielski (1813 - 1868)
– a teacher, philologist, industrialist, publisher, and public activist – is one of the most outstanding people in the history of Wielkopolska. Thanks to his exceptional abilities, conscience, and hard work, Cegielski acquired knowledge and succeeded – at first, as a teacher and a scientist, and next, since 1846, under other circumstances, as a merchant, an industrialist and a publisher. His great personality, versatility and energetic activity made him strongly influence the public and political life, culture, and economics of the region.
Cegielski was born on 6th January 1813 in Ławki, near Trzemeszno, as a son of Michał and Józefa, maiden name Palkowska. One can distinguish two distinct phases in Cegielski’s life. In the first one (to 1846), he acquired knowledge, and next he worked as a teacher and devoted himself to linguistic studies. When forced to resign teaching, he established an iron shop in Bazar, which soon started to expand into a repair shop and a factory. At the same time, since the early forties, Cegielski engaged himself in public and publishing activity.
Due to financial hardships of the family and his mother’s early death, Cegielski was left to his own devices since the earliest years. He was educated in Trzemeszno (1827 – 1830), and next at Maria Magdalena Grammar School of Poznań (1830 – 1835). Through all these years, he was the top of the class in languages and mathematics. Thanks to these abilities, he got a government scholarship, and started studying classical philology at the University of Berlin (1835 – 1840), where he graduated with thesis: De negatione, as a doctor of philosophy.
The knowledge enabled Cegielski to realise the goal of his life, of the time, which was taking up a job of a teacher at a grammar school. He taught Latin, Greek, Polish, history and geography at Maria Magdalena Grammar School of Poznań in 1840 – 1846. At the same time, he worked hardly as a scholar, publishing linguistics dissertations and articles with “About Polish word and its conjugations” (1842), and others. He wrote a handbook of Greek grammar (1843) and a well known, “Learning Poetry” (1843) reissued several times, which, beside the poetry theory, contained extensive extracts from Polish literature. When professionally and financially stabilised, in 1841, he married Walentyna Motty. The Cegieskis had three children: a boy - Stefan and two daughters - Karolina and Zofia.
The first phase of Cegielski’s life ended in 1846, when he refused to fulfil the order of school authorities to inspect the flats of his pupils who were suspected of patriotic conspiracy. Cegielski was suspended and right after removed of his position in the school. Necessity of a livelihood and the lack of prospects for reemployment in a grammar school made him decide to begin a merchant activity. After praxis in Berlin, he established, with Józef Łukaszewicz’s financial assistance, an iron shop in Bazar on 30th September 1846. The enterprise started to expand into a repair shop during the following years, to move to Butelska St. (1850), and an agricultural tools and machines factory, at Kozia St. (1855). Its products were sold in The Great Duchy of Poznań and exported to Prussia, Silesia, and the Kingdom of Poland. A heavy demand for Ciegielski’s machines made him extend his works again. In 1859, a modern foundry and an assembly department was put into operation in Strzelecka St., in which, besides agricultural machines and tools, devices for mills, oil mills, distilleries, water pipes and gas-works were made, too. Relating to his economic activity, Cegielski wrote and published a well illustrated catalogue of his products in 1858, under the title: “Tools And Machines Acknowledged As Mechanical”, which was one of primary publications on the topics within the original Polish territories. In spite of a brisk competition of German and Jewish firms, Cegielski succeeded. His factory became the most important Polish manufacturing plant in Poznań, and its founder – the most remarkable Polish industrialist on the Prussia annexed territories.
Despite the management activities in the continuously growing industrial enterprise, Cegielski continued his scientific research, and was engaged in a public and publishing activity. In 1852 he published a new, extended edition of his thesis: “About Polish Word And Its Conjugations” and a second edition of “Learning Poetry”.
Still working at the Maria Magdalena Grammar School, he made friends with Karol Marcinkowski, and joined his Society for Scientific Aid for Youth from The Great Duchy of Poznań. After Marcinkowski’s death, Cegielski took up several duties in the organization, including vice-presidency during the period of 1850 – 1868. With his help and support, the Society was able to overcame the financial hardships, and became the biggest scholarship institution on the territories annexed by Prussia. Moreover, Cegielski acted actively in The Industrial Society, the activities of which which co-originated and lead as a president; The Central Society of Economics, lead in 1865 – 1868; The Poznań Society of The Friends of Science.
Working in school, yet, he published in “The Scientific Advocate” (1840) an article entitled ”On The Rules for Upbringing in High Schools”, where he postulated a thorough school reform. Relating to this, Cegielski was, together with Edward Raczyński, a propagator, co-originator and a sponsor of the Real School of Poznań. He was a member of its superintendent’s office in 1853 – 1867. He was also interested in school affairs having a seat in Poznań Town Council for many years, which was a one more section of Cegielski’s public activity.
Cegielski belonged to a group of Polish press co-originators in The Great Duchy of Poznań. He established the first Polish daily paper in 1848, named “The Polish Newspaper”, of which he was the editor-in-chief, and one of the authors for some time. After the liquidation of the paper, in 1850, due to the restrictive press regulations imposed by the Prussian regime, he established “The Polish Messenger” together with W. Stefański and W. Bendkowski. The paper was published until the end of 1851. Cegielski returned to publishing in 1859, to establish “The Poznań Daily”, which in the course of time became one of the most important newspapers in Wielkopolska. Cegielski made them both - “The Polish Newspaper” and “The Poznań Daily Paper” – of national-liberal character. His political activity was relatively scarce. He was a deputy in Prussian Seym for a short time in 1849, and operated in a Polish election committee in the following years. Cegielski raised political problems in his articles and in “A Matter of Poland in The Front of The European Congress Tribunal” booklet published in Brussels (1864).
Having all the duties to fulfil, Cegielski often felt exhausted since his earliest years and fell ill very often. He died on 30th November 1868 in Poznań. With his death, the Polish people lost one of their leaders, particularly devoted to re-creating the nation’s cultural identity, and triggering the economic modernisation. It was all possible due to his extensive knowledge and expertise, public and economic activity, but also to his temperament, charisma of extraordinary social skills, pragmatism, and perseverance. Cegielski was a teacher, an industrialist, a public activist, but also a loving husband and father, looking after his family’ health and prosperity. He was able to combine his knowledge and great sophistication with humanistic, liberal ideas and profound understanding of material affairs and economic development of the original Polish territories. It was an important contribution to the support and expansion of the organic work in the area.