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‘Cheaper’ is 75!?

Yep. The book that started it all, more or less, turns 75 next year. Published in late 1948, Cheaper by the Dozen was an instant best-seller... my treasured and worn copy is a sixth printing, dated just three months later.

It's hard to believe that when Cheaper was written, Frank Gilbreth had been gone less than 25 years. Lillian Gilbreth was at the peak of her career as "The First Lady of Engineering." All of the adult Dozen were still around. And only about half the grandchildren had been born.

Almost three times that distance into the future, we're almost on the centennial of Frank Gilbreth's passing (which, by the way, is my new target for publication of the book). The 75th anniversary of Cheaper is a landmark, and it's worth noting. I'm noting it with a new e-book (or, as I call them on the publishing side, a FreEbook) that harks back to the very start of my literary involvement with things Gilbreth.

Originally, about a decade ago, my thought was that Cheaper by the Dozen could use an annotated version. It is, after all, a book written in 1948 about events in the 1920s, and its wonderful stories were wrapped in a veil of family privacy since many of the 'characters' were still very much alive. So my first thought was to use my (then much less comprehensive) knowledge to write some gentle, amusing annotations about the people, places, events and era, to bring the stories to life for a fresh new audience and revive it for old readers. Many of the terms are now archaic to the point of being mystifying to anyone much under 40, and historical references may have lost their impact. And, too, there is just so much to tell about the (often wonderful) reality under those polished, well-told tales.

But that project quickly got away from those simple roots, and, well, you see the result elsewhere on this site. But when I realized the 75th anniversary was on us, and that full-scale book still a bit in the future, I thought again that a lovely treat (and teaser) for readers right now would be... that 'annotated Cheaper by the Dozen.'

A combined publication was not in the cards, so I've prepared a 'reader's companion' — something I've done before, for other authors. It's meant to be kept at your elbow as you read or re-read Cheaper, and page by page, chapter by chapter, fill in the details, the forgotten lingo and the charming real history of many of the family events.

This will be published only in Kindle format for convenient electronic reading along with your treasured copy of Cheaper by the Dozen.


  • Cheaper by the Dozen at 75: a 75th Anniversary Reader's Companion for One of America's Best-Loved Books can be found at this link to Nitrosyncretic Press, and here on Amazon. It is available in Kindle e-book format only.

2 thoughts on “‘Cheaper’ is 75!?

  1. JJ Ferreira

    I’m not sure that this is of any interest, but my great-grand aunt, Elizabeth Anthony, taught many of the Gilbreth Dozen while she was a teacher in the Montclair, NJ school system for 44 years. She spoke of them fondly and several of them remembered her and apparently sent cards and notes to her periodically right up until she died in 1985 at the age of 101. Rumour had it that in the original film Cheaper by the Dozen, the teacher that Clifton Webb’s Frank Gilbreth confronted about the children’s education was based on my Aunt Elizabeth, but that they softened the character from my aunt’s genuine New England flinty Yankee personality (she may have been just 4’11 in height, but she was made out of rock maple and didn’t take any guff from anyone). Just bought you’d appreciate that little tidbit!

    1. James Gifford

      This is great stuff, JJ. Thanks for sharing it!

      I have contacted Nishuane a couple of times trying to determine who the principal was a the time, to verify/validate the tale in that chapter and perhaps put a name and face to the character. This is a great lead in that direction!

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