It's all about the Gilbreths, of course...
...from the parts everyone knows, to the parts that are less well-known, and a little more, and yet more to come.
For all the popularity of the first two books and interest by generations of fans, I've always felt that the Gilbreth family — roots and shoots as well as the well-known trunk and branches — has been widely misunderstood, and worse, is becoming increasingly forgotten as a relic of the Mauve-to-Jazz Age. The continuing appreciation and memory of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth in the industrial and management engineering field does not seem to extend much beyond those fields.
So, this virtual stake in the ground is the beginning of what I hope to be a renewal of interest in these exceptional people, some exploration of their greater story, and a long-needed nexus where the different interested groups can come together to share a better understanding.
...oh, and a book, too.
This site is a small reflection of the much larger project, a comprehensive multi-person biography and family history that's in progress and also titled The Gilbreths: An Extraordinary American Family. There will be more information about the book as it rounds the bend towards completion, but it's what lies behind nearly all of this effort.
No. This is not the first website dedicated to all the myriad aspects of the Gilbreth family.
A pair of sites were created at the dawn of the web by David Ferguson, and carefully maintained and updated for a number of years. David was successful in bringing together not only fans of the popular books, but the admiring segment of modern-day industrial engineers and academics who know and respect the Gilbreths' early development of the field. Alas, the sites ceased to be active around 2002, with only sporadic updates until about 2006... and nothing of consequence after that. David's efforts should not be forgotten, and I hope you'll welcome this fresh start on the community-building and discussion. To that end, I have captured and archived the best of the Ferguson sites here. A link can be found on the Resources page.
There are a number of other sites with Gilbreth material, many under the aegis of Purdue University (which holds nearly all of Frank and Lillian's working papers, and the family archives as well) but most are relatively shallow, repeating the same basic information or (worse) just summaries and finding guides for offline material. Many, especially those by universities and organizations, have a disconcerting tendency to move around, disappear, lose content, and get outdated. I hope to integrate organized links to all these sites as part of the web project.
But this is a completely new approach to the subject (subjects?), and the advantage we have now, fifteen years after the heyday of David Ferguson's sites, is that several much more thorough books have been written about the family, especially about Lillian's contributions and history, and there's so much more to work with in accessible repositories.
Unfortunately, we lost the last of the original family a couple of years ago, so we are now almost wholly reliant on secondary sources. But we can still find the One Best Way to tell this sprawling story.
It's for everyone who has any interest in the Gilbreth family, from any perspective — those who have read and loved Cheaper By the Dozen and perhaps Belles On Their Toes, those who have read the lesser-known family and biographical books, those who have read the professional writings of Frank and Lillian, those who work in the descendant fields of industrial engineering and efficiency, and those who are just enamored of life in the early part of the 20th century, of which the Gilbreth family history is an indelible part.
Just perhaps, it's for you.
I believe there is more to be said about the Gilbreth family — corners that have been so far overlooked or marginalized, events that have been left to simple tellings, and most of all, a deep division between the work and lives of the parents and the overall life of the family. Put simply, there's a better telling of this story to be made, and this is the start of it.
I'm not a Gilbreth, nor closely related to the family. My family history does overlap with theirs in some ways, and it's likely that some of my ancestors in the northeast had dealings with Frank and the businesses run by him and his side of the family
But mostly, I am a writer, researcher, historian and biographer who has long been fascinated with the many facets of this incredible family, and have finally decided to take my efforts seriously, and public. I hope to build a good standardized library of information on this site, as I have for some other quirky and overlooked interests. I'd like to see it become an organized center for the various facets of the community, from casual readers to working professionals and educators, as were David Ferguson's sites, And, of course, the major goal is the book mentioned above.
Nearly all of the original writings and photos of the Gilbreth family are long out of any reasonable copyright or trademark, and to the best of my knowledge none of the family, publishers or other interested parties have sought long-term protection of the names, ideas, materials or other elements.
However, it is my intent to properly credit, acknowledge and thank all sources of original material and all new contributions of any kind.
The problem here is that so much of the Gilbreth material has been reprinted from original sources and distributed across the web without proper attribution that original sources and permissions are obscured, but I will do my best.
I will credit all materials on this site from their immediate sources, include their original sources when known, and work to update the credits to accurate, original source information whenever possible. Family members, publishers, and university and organization archivists are asked and encouraged to review all material here and send along confirmation or correction of any attributions — as well as any additional material or pointers to available material they may care to share.