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The Gilbreth Family

Generation 1: The Parents

Frank Bunker Gilbreth Sr.

b. 7 July 1868 – Fairfield, Maine
d. 14 June 1924 – Montclair, New Jersey (55y 11m)
e. Autodidact
m. Lillian Evelyn Moller, October 19, 1904 – Oakland, California
i. Cremated and ashes scattered in the Hudson River; cenotaph in Fairfield, Maine

Frank Gilbreth was born in Fairfield, Maine, on July 7, 1868 to John Hiram Gilbreth and Martha Bunker Gilbreth. His father was a prosperous farmer and merchant who died of pneumonia at just 38, leaving his 3-year-old son, two older daughters and a young widow to a far less prosperous life. In a complex series of moves spurred by the somewhat mysterious loss of his father's estate, Frank was raised in Boston, graduating from the prestigious English High School. This was to be his last formal education.

Although he applied to and was accepted by the relatively new Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he turned down the opportunity to attend. Various reasons are given for the choice, the most common being that he wished to spare his mother and sisters the financial burden of sending him to college, on top of his being little able to contribute to family support while attending. While this is likely part of his decision, there is also evidence that he was offered something like an internship in the booming construction industry, and he saw that as a faster track to success and weath than a traditional degree.

In any case, he started as a bricklayer and did indeed progress rapidly until he was a respected builder with offices in NYC and Boston, whose company services were in demand throughout northeastern cities. Frank B. Gilbreth & Co. built a great number of large buildings in about a ten-year span — factories, schools, public buildings and more, as well as dams and what was at one time the tallest factory chimney in Boston (about 220 feet). Most of these were of the then-preferred brick construction. A large part of his success was due to the speed with which his company could construct buildings, which was in turn due to his studied efficiency in site management, bricklaying and other construction tasks.

[more to come]

Dr. Lillian Moller Gilbreth

b. 24 May 1878 – Oakland, California
d. 2 January 1982 – Phoenix, Arizona (93y 7m)
e. B. Litt., University of California 1900; M. Litt., University of California 1902; Ph.D. (Psychology), Brown 1915.
m. Frank Bunker Gilbreth, October 19, 1904 – Oakland, California
i. Cremated and ashes scattered off of Nantucket Island; cenotaph in Fairfield, Maine

Lillie Evelyn Gilbreth was both in Oakland, California on May 24, 1878 to William Moller and Annie Delger Moller. Both her parents were born to German immigrant couples who had become quite wealthy in industrial, mercantile and real estate endeavors in New York City and San Francisco, and she was raised in one of the wealthiest households on the West Coast.

Despite a protective lifestyle, she convinced her father to let her attend the then-new University of California in nearby Berkeley, and was awarded her first degree, a Bachelor's of Literature, in 1900. She was also selected to give the commencement address that year, a rare honor for a woman in that time. After brief studies in New York, cut short by homesickness, she returned to acquire a Master's in the same field in 1902.

At about the time of her first degree, she changed her name to the “more adult” Lillian. She was studying for a Ph.D. in psychology at the time she met Frank Gibreth, and would have completed that degree around 1911 except that UC refused to waive its one-year residency requirement. As she was married, with several children and living in New York at the time, the residency was an impossible hurdle. Her already-written dissertation on management psychology would be published a few years later as a book.

It was on a European trip with a friend and a chaperone that, in passing through NYC, she was introduced to Frank Gilbreth.

[more to come]