We are fortunate in that the Gilbreth family held a number of very capable writers to tell us the invaluable inside story. Lillian, Frank Jr and Ernestine all wrote multiple books about their own and each others' lives.
I refer to the books that tell somewhat fictionalized versions of events for a public audience the “family lore” to distinguish them from the more serious and factual books written for more select readerships.
Frank B. Gilbreth Jr & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, 1948.
The book that started it all; perhaps the most famous and beloved book of family lore ever written. It fictionalizes and rearranges the family history somewhat and concludes with Frank Sr's death in 1925.
Frank B. Gilbreth Jr & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, 1950.
The sequel to Cheaper picks up immediately after Frank Sr's death and continues, a bit lightly, until the last of the children leaves home about 1944. Not as popular as the first book; at a guess, about a third of the people who have read Cheaper go on to read this one.
Frank B. Gilbreth Jr, 1970.
The third book in the family-lore series did not appear until twenty years after the previous one. It adds more stories and expands on some well-known episodes from the first two books, with more accuracy but an even more clearly stated curtain of privacy about some things. Even less popular than Belles; many fans of the first two books seem to be unaware that this one even exists.
Frank B. Gilbreth Jr, 1954.
One of the more selective family-lore books, this is the as-told-to story of Robert and his wife's adventures in owning and running the Anchor Inn on Nantucket in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Lillian M. Gilbreth, 1924; published 1990.
This slim book is a biographical sketch of Frank Gilbreth Sr, written by Lillian at her urging and against his resistance in the years shortly before his death. It was hastily concluded (with a single opaque paragraph about Frank's death) and printed for private circulation in 1924, but was only made widely available with an edition published in 1990.
Lillian M. Gilbreth Jr, 1941; published 1998.
This relatively detailed and personal autobiography was written during the first part of Lillian's solo career, about 1925-1940. It is oddly written in the third person and had limited circulation until its recent publication.
Frank B. Gilbreth Jr, 1994.
This exceptionally rare book was written by Frank Jr for his surviving siblings and their descendants, to collect and detail both lore and fact about the family ancestors from Frank and Lillian (and their siblings and cousins) backward to colonial America.
It was privately published and never offered for general sale. To the best of my knowledge, only one copy has appeared on the market in 25 years. (Yes, I own it.)
In addition, Lillian's 1928 and 1954 books below contain a considerable number of family anecdotes.
Frank Sr wrote several books about work efficiency in the construction and bricklaying trades, and then more books on more general motion study, not always with Lillian's credited co-authorship but always with her assistance. Lillian's unused doctoral dissertation was published under her own name, and she published several books during her solo career as well.
(1916, 2nd Ed 1919)
— 1916 Edition on file (PDF)
(1917) [Printed 1919]
(1914) Lillian's unused doctoral dissertation for UC.
(1915) Lillian's doctoral dissertation for Brown.
(1944, co-author with Edna Yost)
(1945, co-author with Edna Yost) A late-war public service pamphlet of encouragement and useful advice for returning veterans with both physical and mental disabiliites.
Both Frank Sr and Lillian wrote a considerable number of papers and presentations as well, some of which are collected in the 1917 book and others which were collected (and annotated) by others. A full list will be included here in due time.
Both Frank Jr and Ernestine were prolific writers — Frank as a journalist and Ernestine as a novelist and, later, the family historian. In addition to the two collaborative volumes of family lore and Frank Jr's other books about the family, both wrote a variety of fiction, semi-fiction and other material as well, much of it with an autobiographical slant.
(1951) An autobiography from the time he leaves for college, through his early newspaper career, relocation to Charleston and first marriage, and oldest child.
(1952, co-author with John Held) A collection of jazz-era illustrator John Held's cartoons, with commentary on the era by Gilbreth.
(1956) A quirky and personal collection of stories from Nantucket's long history as a whaling port, with a few autobiographical chapters and stories included.
(1959) A novel of two Depression-era children who are moved from the North to Charleston.
(1962) A tale of Frank Jr's son during his fourth year and leading up to the birth of a new daughter. Fictionalized in some ways, but also contains further stories of the Gilbreth family era.
(1993) A selection from 40 years of humorous local-color and -history columns written for the Charleston News & Courier by Frank Jr, writing as “Lord Ashley Cooper.” (The Ashley and Cooper rivers run through the city.)
(1952) A novel based on her experiences as a department-store buyer.
(1956) A novelized version of her own family life, from meeting her husband until their daughter begins high school.
(1958) A novel of two young women who invent a love-potion lipstick.
Ernestine wrote two further novels, As Silver is Tried and Razzle Dazzle, but neither found a publisher.
For some time, the only third-party book about the Gilbreths (parents as professionals or the family) was the dual biography written by Lillian's colleague. In recent years, there have been several books published, mostly focusing on Lillian and her somewhat overlooked solo career.
Edna Yost, 1949.
The original formal biography of Frank, Lillian and (to some extent) the family appeared from a university press in between the first two popular books. Yost was a colleague of Lillian's noted for writing group biographies of notable women in various fields. While she managed to extract many details from files, records and Lillian herself, it shares the same veil of privacy over certain issues as the others of the time. Interestingly, it contains a few cryptic references that expose or confirm some of these private events, if the context is understood.
Laurel Graham, 1998.
The first of two recent books that focus on Lillian, perhaps somewhat overemphasizing a modern feminist interpretation of her life and achievements while nearly dismissing Frank's role and his accomplishments. Graham focuses largely on Lillian's efforts in the era between Frank's death and WWII to understand and improve “women's work,” in and out of the home.
Jane Lancaster, 2004.
The broader of two recent books that reinterpret the lives and relationship of Frank and Lillian, again relegating Frank to a minor, if not counterproductive role while exploring the very successful solo accomplishments of Lillian after his death and nearly until her own.
Julie Des Jardins, 2013
This short biography of Lillian concentrates on her work for efficiency in the home and kitchen, and is part of a series, “Lives of American Women.”
Monica Kulling; David Parkins, illustrator, 2014
A large-format, illustrated children's book about how Lillian invented the modern kitchen. Parkins' illustrations are taken from photos and otherwise strive to be highly accurate.
...and there will be one more, soon.
This section is incomplete and may never be exhaustive.
Frank Jr was, of course, a reporter and editor for newspapers for some fifty years, and wrote thousands of articles in that time. I will likely limit this list to family-relevant articles.
(1991) An article for Historic Nantucket (vol. 39, no. 2, Summer 1991) about the two small lighthouses bought by Frank Sr and moved to the site of the original beach house.