Compiled by David Ferguson
The inaugural issue of The Quest...
Newsletter of the Gilbreth Network
Vol. I, No. 1 Spring 1997
On the occasion of the official start of the Gilbreth Network, marked by its first newsletter, it is traditional to look back to the birth of the idea. However, I would prefer to relate another story, which occurred last year at this time. The reason will become evident. Besides, it’s a much more interesting story.
Last March was rather memorable for me, for many reasons. A very dear friend had invited me to attend an awards dinner on the last night of the national conference of the Society for Advancement of Management (SAM). Now, for those of you who are not aware of it, SAM has a long history that began with an idea of Frank Gilbreth’s, from a conversation he had late one evening, with William Kent. Later called the Taylor Society (Frank’s idea) and again changed, in the ‘30s, to SAM, Frank’s inspiration is still honored by the group. Since 1931, they have awarded the Gilbreth Medal to a long list of people whose names read like a Who’s Who of Industrial Engineering and Management.
I left for the airport, from my office in San Francisco, for a flight to Corpus Christi, Texas (site of the meeting). Since I managed to mis-read my flight schedule, I arrived at the airport with ten minutes left before the flight was to leave. I created quite a sight; of this fat man running to catch his plane. I couldn’t help but remember Frank saying "I’ve never missed a train, but a few trains have missed me." Thankfully, this train, err, plane didn’t miss me.
The friend who had invited me was also one of the award recipients. Not only was I invited to sit with she and her family that evening, but was also included in their activities of the day. This included browsing garage sales and antique shops as we were all either serious or would-be collectors. Our choice of a place for lunch was an example of how to please a large group of people with varied tastes. As we found a Mexican food place next to a sub’ shop, all appetites were satisfied.
That evening, our party re-grouped at the dinner hall. We were met by the SAM officers, who treated us like royalty as we were ushered to the table of honor, front and center of the speakers’ table. As we sat, enjoying our dinner, listening to various speakers, you could feel our group’s anxious anticipation of what was to come.
Finally, Ralph Foster, then SAM’s President, began to talk about the Gilbreth Metal; an award not given for many years. From the sound of people straightening in their chairs, it was evident that this was the focal point of the dinner. I felt a real thrill as the recipient was announced; Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.
This award was long overdue and well deserved. If you read A.N. Marquis’ Who’s Who in America you will find Mrs. Carey’s extensive vitae. Best known as the co-author of Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes, (the former translated into over fifty languages) and sole author of three other books. Author and lecturer, fifteen years as a buyer for R.H. Macy’s, and also "...active in the care-preservation and current student use of Frank B. and Lillian M. Gilbreth papers..." The list goes on to cover her many activities with various libraries, colleges, etc.
The book doesn’t mention one important accomplishment; that of teacher and mentor. While we all remember a special teacher from our schooling, not every "teacher" stands in front of a classroom. Some teach by suggesting ideas and by challenging and encouraging your abilities. As a good teacher she has both inspired and challenged us, not only with the work of the Gilbreths, but in our own capabilities, so that we may be the best we can be. In a sense, there is no greater gift one person can give another.
Frank and Lillian knew that learning was a part of life to be promoted and cherished. In this spirit, no person more richly deserved the Gilbreth Medal.
If one needed evidence of Ernestine’s ability to interest and inspire, you only had to wait until the end of the dinner. Of all of those receiving awards/recognition that evening, the largest group gathered around Ernestine. The large contingent of students attending the meeting, showered her with questions, handshakes or seeking the chance to have their photograph taken with this special lady.
And so, we come to the challenge of the Gilbreth Network. The idea was Ernestine’s, proposed to me two months earlier. Her hopes are that we can carry on the work she has done these many years; that of sharing information with each other and those just beginning their quests, as well as to continue to work towards the preservation of the Gilbreth archival material. And, if along the way, we can inspire others as she has inspired us, we will be richer for it.
David S. Ferguson, Coordinator of the Gilbreth Network
The door is wide open for the scope and breadth of this newsletter. At this point, it is planned to produce it quarterly, subject to submissions. Both Active and Contributing Members are invited to submit short articles, new/old ideas or discoveries and any general items of interest.
Please, don’t limit submissions to the academic. Humorous stories of your trials and tribulations in conducting research certainly will have a wide and empathic audience.
To reduce time of production, it is asked that your submissions be submitted in one of the following formats (listed in order of preference).
This column will feature projects members of the Network can develop, that will be a legacy to new researchers. Members are encouraged to submit their ideas and to ask others for their help. Our degree and direction of growth will be determined by our members.
These first projects listed came from ideas generated during discussions with various Gilbreth researchers.
As anyone, who is or has done research on the Gilbreths, can tell you, there is a wide and scattered collection of books and articles by and about them. A truly beneficial task for the Network would be to develop a comprehensive bibliography of these publications. This has been a project of mine, during my research. I already have almost 40 pages of citations.
Any member, who would care to do so, can send my a list of citations you have found. These lists will then be collated and updated yearly. Copies will be sent to known Gilbreth archives and will also be available to members and researchers (subject to a small cost for copying and mailing).
While we all know of Purdue, Smith and the Smithsonian, finding the locations of Gilbreth material can be difficult. I have already checked many sources listed in various articles/books, only to find nothing there. If you know of or have used an archive, library, museum with Gilbreth or related material, please let us know.
Again, we hope to have a list put together for the members use. Pertinent information should include: location, contact person/address-phone, etc., and a description of the material contained there.
A challenge to us all is the discovery and preservation of unpublished material or Gilbreth furniture/equipment. Of course, for those who knew the Gilbreths, stories of your encounters have an equally great value.
While it is understood that an enthusiastic Gilbrethite would want to retain such material, we can only ask two things:
We would certainly welcome the chance to share these materials or insights.
The main purpose of this Network is to help each other to answer questions that arise in our research. While the primary source will be the Active Member list, there are many Contributing Members and others who will be receiving this newsletter.
In future issues, we will feature this column whenever there are submissions. So feel free, if other sources haven’t helped, to send questions into this column. Please keep the questions simple, in no more than two, brief, parts. Your name and preferred contact method will be printed in the next issue of the newsletter.
For those responding to questions, please contact the person directly. Time constraints simply won’t allow for printing answers in this newsletter.
We want to thank three of our members for their contributions totalling $135. I am not listing their names simply because the subject of anonymity was never broached.
We have no membership fees for two reasons: first, to avoid taxing the limited resources of students and second, to encourage as many to join as possible. In an effort to keep overhead low, the newsletter format will remain low-tech. The only costs will be printing and postage for large documents that are developed.
Of course, we will gratefully accept any future contributions.
For those of you who are "connected", there is an amazing amount of material on the World Wide Web. A search for Gilbreth will bring any number of listings. It is certainly worth the time.
One of our members, Jane Lancaster, wrote a wonderful article for the Brown Univ. Alumni magazine, which, thankfully is available on the Web. You can find it at: http://www.brown.edu/A...features/gilbreth.html
We would like to thank Jill S. Tietjen, P.E., for the following sources.
A History of IIE: http://www.iienet.org/history.htm
A listing of Women in Science: http://www.maths.monas...ison/fem/womensci.html
Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology: http://www.erlbaum.com/1286.htm
Another source of Gilbreth and Taylor material is on line from the Stevens Institute. http://attila.stevens-tech.edu/~rdowns/
Of course, as you can see from our membership list, many of us have e-mail addresses which do make for fast correspondence.
As was suggested by Dr. Nadler, the Network should consider obtaining a future Web Site. We would all welcome someone’s knowledge and interest, in this subject, to explore this idea. However, in consideration of those not involved in the Internet, we will continue to offer material and information the old fashioned way.
If I may be allowed to repeat some statements made in the initial information mailing, The Gilbreth Network depends on its members. We need your ideas and what time you can spare. While we will always work to achieve our initial purposes, the future of this body has unlimited possibilities.
While there is much to embrace in the historic aspects of the Gilbreths, much or their work and ideas have a viable place in business and society today. Our small group could be the beginning of a new business/professional society or strong contingent in an existing organization. The possibilities are as unlimited as the ideas and work the Gilbreths left to us.
For the present, we have started on the formation of a group of friends and new-found associates. I was delighted to see the diversity of interests in the applications. Indeed, our differences will make us that much better. Welcome to all.
Thus far, our membership has developed by "friends of friends" and "word of mouth." We are very grateful to two (very appropriate) organizations who will be printing notices of the Network’s formation.
The Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE) has had historic support for the Gilbreths and continues to do so. In fact, the Industrial Engineering community has been one of the few groups that continues to give proper perspective to the Gilbreths’ work. Our contact there is:
Lisa Zaken, Director of Membership
Institute of Industrial Engineers
25 Technology Park
Norcross, GA 30092-2988
An even older Gilbreth friend is putting out the word. Frank joined the ASME in 1904. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers has continued to recognize and support the Gilbreths’ work for these ninety-plus years. They still have a Management Division, that will be notifying its members of our Network. Our contact is:
345 East 47th St.
New York, NY 10017
If you are a member of or know an organization that might be interested in providing some publicity, either provide them with the initial information you received or have them contact the G-N Coordinator. The more, the merrier.
For anyone interested in the work of Frank’s and Lillian’s partnership, "The Quest for the One Best Way: The Films of Frank B. Gilbreth" is now available in video. For more information, write:
3 Middleton Rd.
Savannah, GA 31411
Gilbreth Network Coordinator:
David S. Ferguson
113 Kay Ct.
Cloverdale, CA 95425
— from the website The Gilbreth Network Online. Reformatted but unedited. All rights remain with the author and/or publisher.
It can be assumed that all physical and web addresses in this document are obsolete.