From The Gilbreth Network Online:
The Quest, Volume 2, No. 1, Spring 1998

Compiled by David Ferguson

Newsletter of the Gilbreth Network

Vol. 2, No. 1 Spring 1998

The Quest is edited and published and copyright by David Ferguson.

Inside this issue (Spring 98):
The Gilbreths Go To Hollywood—Again
Hot off the Presses
Are You Connected?
A Dream Come True—Maybe
Are You Involved?
Beyond Theory


Contact the editor of The Quest, David Ferguson, at

Vol. 2, No. 1 Spring 1998

The Gilbreths Go to Hollywood—Again

We have good news to report. Hollywood is reaching back, into its past to re-make Cheaper by the Dozen. Ernestine G. Carey and Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. were initially contacted last year, regarding Twentieth Century Fox's interest in making a modern version of the popular 1950 movie.

The original, staring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy, has not been seen, on TV, in years. Starting in 1996, first the Disney Channel and than American Movie Classics have been re-broadcasting Cheaper, along with Belles on Their Toes, the sequel in both book and movie. The timing of putting these classics back in the public's view may have been coincidental to Fox's interest, but the result is nonetheless, good news on both counts.

At this point, reports Mrs. Carey, Fox is ready to submit a draft script for her and Frank's approval. This is an encouraging step in what has been a long process. We have to take heart, knowing that putting together a movie is somewhat like watching Congress launch a new bill; a long, drawn-out process.

The new Cheaper is reported to be set in modern times which certainly presents some interesting challenges for the movie. For one thing, where are they going to find a house big enough for 12 children in our modern American landscape? I also doubt that we'll see an equal to A Foolish Carriage. Somehow, a Chevy Suburban won't be the same thing.

We will keep you posted on the movie's progress.

Comment: Many have expressed the concern that the original movie made light of the Gilbreths' work and it follows that the same concern would apply to the remake. Let's keep some perspective. Cheaper was always meant to be a comedy. And a classic comedic method is to take our foibles or idiosyncrasies to an extreme. However, we need two things in order to enjoy such comedy; 1) Not to take ourselves too seriously and 2) to have a balance of information.

As to taking ourselves too seriously, America is rife with this disease. Indeed, we've gone crazy with political correctness, to the point where the whole process has become comedic.

The real issue becomes balance. We need to balance the story by getting the real facts, of the Gilbreths' brilliant work, into the public's eye. Keep in mind, that when the book was first published, in 1948, America knew the Gilbreths better. Industry was very familiar with motion study which had been one of the tools used to crank-up industry for the production of war materials, playing a part in winning World War II.

The following year, Edna Yost's biography of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth was published. These two events gave America a balanced knowledge of the Gilbreths.

The answer now, is for us, as members of the Network, to create a balance in the minds of people enjoying the new movie. We need to let the public know of the serious side of the story. In that way, we can all laugh together at, what we hope will be a movie as funny as the original.

Hot off the Presses

Did we say we needed a balance in the story of the Gilbreths? Well, we're on our way, with two new books concerning Dr. Lillian Gilbreth. Both books are being published by Engineering and Management Press (part of the Institute of Industrial Engineers)and will be the first new books published, about the Gilbreths, in 28 years. Our own Dr. Laurel Graham has written Managing On Her Own: Dr. Lillian Gilbreth and Women's Work in the Interwar Era. This book looks at Dr. Gilbreth's life after Frank's passing and how her career grew during these early years on her own.

Dr. Graham had previously written about Dr. Gilbreth's work for her doctoral dissertation, followed by articles on the subject (if you're interested, her paper is available through UMI. See the Fall 1997 issue of The Quest). Dr. Graham is currently teaching at the University of Southern Florida. We can also, in part, thank Dr. Graham for the second book, As I Remember, by Dr. Lillian Gilbreth.

The publishers at Engineering and Management Press had their interest peaked by one of Dr. Graham's references; an unpublished autobiography by Dr. Gilbreth, found in the Gilbreth papers, at Purdue. EMP contacted the Gilbreth Network and we put them in touch with the Gilbreth family. The result will, happily, be available soon.

The manuscript was apparently written in the 1940s; a time when a great deal of work was being done on the Gilbreth papers for Purdue (you will find many typescripts of letters and papers dated in the early 1940s with in the collection). It is hard to say why the manuscript was never published. We can surmise, however, that by this point, Edna Yost was preparing to write Partners for Life. Perhaps Dr. Gilbreth preferred to help Ms. Yost rather than publish her own writings.

The book recounts Dr. Gilbreths' life up until 1941, in her own words and experiences. The book begins with the first meeting of her parents, her years with Frank and through her years of teaching.

These two books will be a long-awaited treat. Both will be available in May, 1998, from EMP. Dr. Graham's book sells for $34.95 and Dr. Gilbreths' autobiography is $29.95, both plus shipping and handling. If you order both books before May 1st, you receive a $10.00 discount (IIE member prices are $31.46 and $26.96, respectively). To order, contact Engineering and Management Press, 25 Technology Park/Atlanta, Norcross, GA 30092 or order by phone 1 (800) 494-0460.

Webmaster's note: November 11, 1999: These books are going out of print. For more information, go to:

Are You Connected?

Close your eyes for a minute and let your imagination wander. From what you know of Frank and Lillian Gilbreths' never-ceasing love of new things and education, can you imagine their reaction to the World Wide Web? I don't think you could pry them away from the computer.

OK, open your eyes now and check out the growing Gilbreth information on the Web. While the Web is no substitute for a good library, a Gilbreth search will surprise you with its breadth.

Here are just a few sites you may find interesting:

The Taylor Collection at the Stevens Institute contains some of the Gilbreths' articles.

You will find a brief biography of Lillian Gilbreth at
Frank Gilbreth has found a fan in a gentleman who simply enjoys quoting some of his statements.

Of course, don't overlook the web sites of IIE or the ASME for further information.

Try your own search an see what you find. You'll be surprised. If you have a number of search engines available, Look Smart gathered the best results.

A Dream Come True—Maybe

There is no disputing that the Gilbreth Collection at Purdue is the greatest single source of information on Frank and Lillian Gilbreth. For those who surf the web for Gilbreth information, there is a site you should visit, but don't wait too long.

Jim Beaven, an assistant at the Special Collections section of the Purdue library, has started to make a Gilbreth researcher's dreams come true. As part of a class project on exploring the use of the Internet with libraries, he started a web site which includes part of the Gilbreth Collection Finding Aid.

For those who have visited Purdue, the Finding Aid is a valuable tool in wending your way through the vast collection of Gilbreth material. Having this on the Internet is a valuable tool in making future visits to Purdue time efficient. In addition to the Finding Aid, Mr. Beaven has also included a collection of photographs from Lillian Gilbreths' A Kitchen Practical. Not only was this fun to explore, but it was a glimpse into the future as to how we can best preserve the photographic part of the Gilbreth Collection.

Unfortunately, Mr. Beaven's class is now over and we probably won't see the Finding Aid completed. Indeed, according to Beaven, the site may be removed from the server to make room for other student projects. Therefore, call up the site for a quick look into the future.

I have written Dean Emily Mobley and Ms. Katherine Markee, of the Special Collections Library, expressing interest in continuing the development of this work. Recognizing that funding is necessary for such a project, I also inquired into the possibility of setting up a directed fund towards the site's development.

The members of the Gilbreth Network, are urged to add their voices to my own and write Purdue, expressing their interest. Perhaps we can generate the needed interest in this valuable project.

You can write to: Special Collections
Purdue University Libraries
West Lafayette, IN 47907

The web site address is:

Are You Involved?

It always seems as though there are unceasing demands on our time. The more advanced our society becomes, the more complex becomes the very function of living. It seems we have less time for hobbies or community than ever before. Yet, the need for people's involvement, in various causes and organizations, is greater than ever. The Gilbreth Network has no less of a need for involvement by its members.

The Quest has identified many current and future objectives for the Network. Few of these ideas will come true without the help of our members. Indeed, the very future of the existing Network could be at risk.

It has been cheerfully pointed out to me that if I were to be run over by a car tomorrow, the Gilbreth Network could die with me. While I can't say that my dying thought would be of the Network, I would like to see that it survives me. The point of this happy thought is that we not only need your help now, but will need it in the (far distant) future.

Your involvement is needed NOW. Whether it be writing for The Quest, helping to design a web page or simply presenting fresh ideas to the Network, there is plenty to do. The success or failure of this organization cannot depend on one person, but will come from the commitment of its members.

Beyond Theory

by David Ferguson

Early in the year of 1996, I felt the personal bite of the national disease; I was laid off from my job. The employment market I faced didn't offer much in the way of promise. Despite all of my contacts and resources, there were simply no jobs available.

In an effort to keep busy, I turned to my beloved avocation; the study of the Gilbreths. While money was tight, free time wasn't. What better opportunity to travel to the repositories of Gilbreth material.

I wanted to return to Purdue and make visits to the Smithsonian and the Stevens Institute, in New Jersey. The best method, to cover this vast territory on a limited budget, was to drive. To keep costs down meant covering as much territory as possible between motels.

Now I had driven cross-country twice in my younger, college days. In the interim years, I had gained weight, gotten out of shape and in general was a poster boy for Couch Potatoes Anonymous. I worried how I was going to manage those long hours of driving. Note: The first leg, to Purdue, was 2,200 miles, which translated into 36 hours of driving, which I'd hoped to do in three days.

Since this was a Gilbreth Trip, I turned to their writings for some answers. The Gilbreths always approached a task considering the mind and the body. The mind must be stimulated or kept interested and the body must never be unnecessarily fatigued.

For mind stimulation, I took a selection of music and four Books On Tape from the local library. The music was relaxing and the books practically eliminated the monotony of driving.

As to the reduction of physical fatigue, despite all my years in ergonomics, I have found little on reducing static position fatigue. The only answer found was to take frequent rest breaks. However, a high frequency of breaks would add to the length of the day.

I found the answer in an unpublished notebook page written by Frank Gilbreth. He was describing how he avoided writer's cramp during a marathon writing session to complete the manuscript for Primer of Scientific Management. The manuscript was written in one, 8 hour session, sitting at the kitchen table. He theorized that his hand and arm muscles would be less fatigued if he made periodic and slight variations in the position of his arm. To accomplish this, he used several, thin pillows, on which to rest his forearm. This resulted in a varied hand position, so that the muscles were working in a slightly different lines of force. He changed positions every hour or two. The result was that the manuscript was completed without experiencing writer's cramp or undue fatigue.

To adapt this theory to driving, I looked at the adjustable features of my car. I had a split bench seat (having only front to back and back angle adjustments), tilt steering and cruise control. The plan I developed was as follows.
First, I set the equipment in a normal, comfortable position. Then, every two hours of driving, I made slight adjustments to the three variables I had; seat forward and back, seat-back angle, and steering wheel tilt. These adjustments effectively varied the positions of arms, back, shoulders and neck. To address the static position of my right leg, I used the cruse control whenever traffic conditions permitted.

Rest breaks (pulling over and walking around) were conducted every four hours, for 15 minutes each. One break, every eight hours, was stopping for gas. Then, halfway between gas stops, I would pull off at a rest stop to use the facilities and walk around.

The overall results were excellent. I never had a back or other joint ache. The fatigue accumulated during a 16 hour day was never so much that it couldn't be cured with a hot shower and eight-hours sleep. Indeed, the level of fatigue was just right. I got excellent night's sleeps despite rock-hard motel beds.

When I arrived at Purdue, I was well rested and ready to dig into my work. Now, if we can just do something about those old wooden chairs in Special Collections.

Yes, the results are subjective, but for that matter, so is fatigue. However, we would be foolish to overlook the possibilities of applying these results to any work situation.

By the way, the trip was a total success. In six weeks, I performed 140 hours of library research, drove almost 9,000 miles, saw family and friends and had the chance to tour Gettysburg.

— 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.