From The Gilbreth Network Online:
The Quest, Volume 8, No. 1, Summer 2004

Compiled by David Ferguson

Newsletter of the Gilbreth Network

Summer 2004

[Archivist's note: This issue was apparently published only as a Word file posted on the GNO website. Like its immediate predecessor, it thus has some content and heading differences from all previousissues. This also appears to the be the last issue of the newsletter, except for one brief website notice.]


Vol. 8, No. 1 Summer 2004

The Ever-Growing Need

Our reasons for admiring Frank and Lillian Gilbreth are many.  They pioneered the field of work efficiency and ergonomics; they made important contributions to business management; and they did some of the first important work in helping "crippled soldiers" (physically disabled) to lead normal and productive lives.

Sadly, it might be hard for the average person today, to understand the importance of these contributions.  The current political and business climate appear to have eliminated the need for the majority of the Gilbreths' legacy.

As to ergonomics, in January, 2001, the US Congress repealed the Occupational Safety & Health Administration's Ergonomics Standard, with the new Secretary of Labor promising to replace it with new guidelines.  To date, this has not occurred.  And, beginning on January 1, 2004, businesses no longer have to report repetitive injuries (caused by poor ergonomics) on their OSHA Injury Report Logs, which means that this type of injury is no longer recorded in national Bureau of Labor Statistics records.  I suppose there are some who felt if the injuries attributed to poor ergonomics were not separately reported, that the cause of concern would disappear.

As to business management, where do you begin to chart the changes since the Gilbreths' promoted their theories.  Improving a company's profits through better work efficiency and management techniques, seems to have taken a back seat to the profits realized from mega layoffs, overseas outsourcing, etc.

At the beginning of the "Great War" (World War I), Frank Gilbreth recognized the need for developing methods to help the "crippled soldiers" returning home with missing limbs.  Having grown up in the late 1800s, he likely knew of many disabled Civil War veterans. He knew the war in Europe would produce the same results.

Today, in our war in Iraq, the existence of these maimed soldiers is kept from the public's view.  Despite this attempt to avert our eyes from these brave soldiers, we know they exist and add to the growing ranks of the physically disabled, which still need the help, which began back with the Gilbreths' first efforts.

Despite what seems like the current climate of denial of facts, the truth remains that there is still much work to be done.  The Gilbreths' started much of this work and it is up to us to carry it on.

In ergonomics, there is a vast future for anyone interested in this field.  Despite the "head-in-the-sand" attitudes pervading Washington, injuries continue to occur and businesses are grudgingly recognizing the need for improved ergonomics, to address these injuries.

It is important to keep in mind, that the great opposition the business and political community had towards ergonomics standards was that it would cost a fortune to make the changes.  This is inherently untrue, particularly, if your ergonomic training, like mine, was supplemented by learning the Gilbreth approach.

Frank Gilbreth, as the industrial consultant, recognized that businesses, in his time, just as it is now, are cost conscience.  His solutions were cheap and generally could be done in-house, with minimal cost impact, compared to the improved output of production.

Regarding using the Gilbreth techniques of business management, in all honesty, it is doubtful anyone could interest big business in the Gilbreth approach.  They are thinking in terms of saving billions, when all the Gilbreths could offer is savings in the thousands.  However, opportunities abound in the even larger group of small businesses in this country.  These businesses aren't burdened by layers of bureaucracy and the effects of improvements will be more visible.

Despite the good work of the past, there is still much to do in aiding the physically disabled to lead productive lives.  There has been far too little of the innovation used by the Gilbreths and challenges await those who enter the field.  Add to this the growing field of microelectronics and robotics, and the frontier of this endeavor is endless. 
Yes, to the casual onlooker, it may seem that the Gilbreths' work is nothing more than a footnote in history.  But to those up to the challenge, there is still much work to be done.

The Quest—Going Forward

It is sorely obvious, after almost two years that I simply don't have the time available that I once had, for putting out a quarterly edition of The Quest.  Ironically, in changing from a private industry position, to a self-employed, independent consultant, I have less time to devote to other interests.

While we still have some members, who don't have access to the Internet, I'd venture to say, eventually, we will one day be exclusively publishing articles on our website.  This will, of course, cut down on the time of printing, stuffing envelopes, etc., leaving more time for actual writing.

We will at least be able to keep an annual edition of the newsletter, with hopes to at least raise it back to two per year.  Of course, this still could be a more frequent publication, with the support and writing contributions of our members.

[Archivist's note: This would be the final edition of the newsletter.]

Financial Support

Owing to the reduced amount of activity, our Gilbreth account remains more than adequate.  I would like to thank Dr. Gerald Nadler and Dr. David Gilbreth for their contributions, but we didn't need them, at least for this year.  Your support is greatly appreciated. 

Books from Our Members

We are pleased to announce a new book by Dr. Jane Lancaster, a long-term member of the Gilbreth Network   "Making Time Fly:  Lillian Moller Gilbreth—A Life Beyond "Cheaper By the Dozen"  has been released, in May, 2004, by Northeastern University Press, 2004.   The book examines the life of Lillian Gilbreth and her tireless work.  We applaud Jane, for what we know was a long and hard effort of research.  We hope to have a review of the book in the next issue of the newsletter or posted on the website.

The book is available from on-line dealers like or your local bookseller.

Martha Trescot, another charter member, has written two books of interest to members. "New Paths: A History of Women in Engineering in the U.S., 1850-1980" (1996) includes a review of the work of Lillian Gilbreth, as well as other noted women engineers.  She also has a previous book, now in paperback, through Scarecrow Press, called "Dynamos and Virgins Revisited: Women and Technological Change in History."  We thank Martha for sharing this with us.

The Films of Frank B. Gilbreth

I'm please to announce, that after many years of effort, copies of the films of Frank B. Gilbreth (The Quest for the One Best Way) are once again available.  You can request a copy of the video by contacting Wendy Shay, at the Smithsonian Institution at or (202)633-3732 to find out about obtaining copies.  For those wishing to view the film on site, at the Smithsonian Institution, call the Archives Center at (202/633-3270) to make an appointment to see the films here at the Archives Center.  This would also be a starting point for getting permission for clips of the film for documentaries.

We have a second source for the film as well.  You can download an electronic file of the film through Internet Archive at   Search for "Gilbreth" and the files will be listed.  This is, however, only practical for those with DSL or Broadband Internet connections, as the files are too big for dial-up connections.

It should be noted that getting to this point has been several years of hard work in the making.  We owe a great deal to Wendy Shay, Audio-Visual Archivist, Cathy Keen, and Dr. Peter Liebhold, of the Smithsonian, for all their work in this matter.  And, obviously, we also owe the late James Perkins our thanks for putting together the original film and donating it to the Smithsonian.

[Archivist's note: Once again, these films are readily available on YouTube.]

Cheaper by the Dozen Remake

Since we don't get out to the movies often, we saw "Cheaper by the Dozen", with Steve Martin, the other night, on DVD.   While I used to envision myself as the next Roger Ebert, I won't even claim to be close to his or other reviewers' expertise.  Just thought I'd jot down some thoughts.

First, as Gilbreth Network members, there are two distinct ways for us to look at this film:  1)  as vehicle for introducing the Gilbreths to a new generation.  And, 2) simply as a film for entertainment value.

As to the first point, about the only relation this movie has to the original book and movie is the title and that in the credits, it lists Ernestine Carey and Frank Gilbreth, Jr. as the authors of the book.  In the early script versions, the mother in the film was supposed to be a distant relation to Lillian Gilbreth, but even this thin connection was dropped in the final version.

I think what annoyed me most was that, in the story, Kate Baker (the mother) had written a book called "Cheaper by the Dozen."  It seemed to me that this raised a false expectation that if you bought the actual book, it would be about the Bakers, not the Gilbreths.  Happily, even though the new edition of Cheaper', featuring Steve Martin on the cover, is our old familiar, original book.

While the movie was obviously played for laughs, it was hard not to notice that Dad (Steve Martin) didn't have the slightest resemblance to Frank Gilbreth. While the original movie played Frank's foibles and idiosyncrasies for laughs, you never forgot he was an efficiency expert, even if he didn't always make it work at home.  In the new version, well, let's just say Steve Martin is so pathetic in maintaining order at home, it's amazing he even succeeded as a football  coach (his job).  After all, teamwork is a big factor in football----guess it didn't dawn on him to apply this at home. 
Now, as to viewing the movie as a non-Gilbreth type person, the film had its moments, with some very funny bits.  I can't say if the really funny bits were enough to sustain the entire film, but I still had several big laughs.

I wasn't overly impressed with Steve Martin or Bonnie Hunt as the parents.  While they both played the clueless parents for laughs, you would think after 12 kids, they would have some smarts.  But, in contrast, the kids were adorable and really great in their parts.  Each had his/her own distinct personality, and the script had them doing actual kids-type things, rather than trying to play them as little adults.  By the way, the frog and the dog also contributed great performances.

While there's not much for we Gilbrethites to cheer about, we can be very happy that the marketing people at Fox Films chose to re-issue the original films on DVD and VHS.  This is indeed good news, in that these films were actually about the Gilbreths. 


A New Book from Dr. Nadler:  The Gilbreth Network's own, Dr. Gerald Nadler is the co-author of "Smart Questions: Learn to Ask the Right Questions for Powerful Results."  The book is co-authored with William J. Chandon, who is vice-president of the Center for Breakthrough Thinking and also teaches management at St. Mary's College.  Whether its decision making or for making endless business meetings more valuable, "Smart Questions" can make an important difference in today's business climate.  The book is published by Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Imprint and available for $27.95.  Check your local retailer (IBSN 0-7879-7137-5).

Pricey Gilbreth Book:  "Frank and Lillian Gilbreth: Critical Evaluations in Business and Management" edited by John C. Wood and Michael C. Wood, showed up on a Gilbreth book search I was conducting.  The book, in two volumes, is a collection of papers/articles written about the Gilbreths and their work.  The articles include those written as far back as 1913 up through 2001.  There is even a reprint of an article by the Gilbreth Network's own Laurel Graham. There is, however, no articles actually written by the Gilbreths.  The book appears to be an excellent resource, as I recognized numerous articles I found in my own research, representing many hours of effort in locating them.  Sadly, at $390.00 (USD), it's not a book many individuals can afford to have in their library.  I would, however say, it would be a worthy suggestion for Purdue, Smith or other repositories of Gilbreth material.  It is published by Routledge (2003), (IBSN 0415248280).


— 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.