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Welcome to the The Quest, Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 2000, published in April 2000. The Quest is published quarterly.

The Quest is published by and copyright David Ferguson.

Inside this Issue:

  • A Lush Life
  • Time Study Gone Crazy
  • No Stone Left Unturned
  • Winks
  • Gilbreth Books--Update
  • Other Gilbreth Material

See The Quest index for back issues of the newsletter.

Volume 4, Number 1
Spring 2000

A Lush Life

A line from on old movie once talked about how the masses consume life like they're eating a daily ration of hamburger; plain and simple. Whereas, those who know what life is about, saver each moment like fine wine. The character went on to say that the unknowing want to live forever, not knowing why; 80 years of hamburger, instead of 50 of the best.

In many ways, the Gilbreths emulated this "fine wine" type of existence; living each moment to the fullest. Neither Frank nor Lillian Gilbreth were ever satisfied with a mundane existence. Indeed, their zest for life cannot be overlooked when viewing their lives and work.

It would probably not be an exaggeration to say that there were very few wasted minutes in the Gilbreths' lives. Running your own business, writing books and managing a household with an ever-increasing population, makes free time a precious commodity. Yet, the Gilbreths always found the time to take a taste of some new experience or a chance to learn something new.

We've all heard of the language lessons during bath time or the Morse code on the ceilings in the Shoe. The Gilbreths jumped at any opportunity to learn something new, whether it be in astronomy, geography or whatever; their household was like a series of National Geographic specials or watching the Discovery Channel.

When Frank passed, all too soon, Lillian continued on, not just with the family business, but with this zest for living. While still raising a family and later, when most people would find it easier to relax at home, she spent a lifetime traveling all over the globe. While no one has yet calculated the number of miles Dr. Gilbreth may have traveled, I'd be willing to bet that few people today (with our much more modern methods of transit) could match her mileage.

Not only did she relish each and every moment and new experience, she shared her experiences with so many people lucky enough to attend her speeches. Her love for new adventures and experiences showed in that she could conduct an entire speech without notes. Indeed, many times, she would modify or change her subject at the last minute, in order to better address a particular audience.

One of my favorite stories was told of when Dr. Gilbreth had just arrived at an airport and was waiting to be taken to her hotel. Her hosts had provided a comfortable limousine, but someone else in the group was driving a red convertible, sports car. When someone jokingly gave her a choice of transport, she picked the sports car. She said her reason was simple; she had never ridden in one before.

As the years went on and most people her age would be content to play cards or tend their garden, Dr. Gilbreth continued her travels and speaking engagements. Retirement was an elusive word to her, much to the concern of her children.

It would take injury and illness to finally slow her appetite for travel and new experiences. But, oh, what a life she had. Now, in heaven, with her "chum," she probably still hasn't finished telling all her stories.

Time Study Gone Crazy

Have you heard about the latest innovation in the radio broadcasting industry? They now have a digital software program which can compress the length of a person's speech, by greatly reducing the "dead space" between words. So, if a news person or talk show host uses a pause, for emphasis, in his/her delivery, the software will eliminate it. The net result is that enough time is saved in an hour of broadcast, to insert 4 to 6 more commercials. And, of course, the commercials will not be speeded up, except when a disclaimer is given.

While we are unlikely to miss great speeches on a talk radio show, just try to picture, if you will, great orators life FDR or JFK having their speeches compressed, so the broadcaster could sell more commercials.

Instead of: "Today,................December 7th, 1941;........................ a day that will live in infamy...." Americans would now hear: "TodayDecember 7th1941 a day that will live in infamy..."

We know that this innovation will raise at least one person's hackles. Victor Borge (with his famous punctuation routine) would loose his sound effects for the comma, colon and semicolon. The result would be that "skeeech, boonk-book and ploop-skeeech" would forever be missing from grammar. Do we really need this much efficiency?

It was one thing, when Frank Gilbreth supported the Simplified Spelling movement. Eliminating silent or redundant letters from a word (tho for though, and thru for through) would have saved time typing, reading and made life easier for some of us who tend to spell things phonetically.

The heart of efficiency is in changing or simplifying a task, but still have the same outcome, whether it be assembling a quality product or conveying meaning with pauses in a speech.

However, with quite the opposite approach, the movie industry is actually slowing time down. If you saw last year's hit, The Matrix, you may remember one of the outstanding special effects was where the actors were moving in such detailed slow motion, that they appeared to be floating in mid-air.

This filming system is called "Bullet Time." The description of this system may sound familiar. They used highspeed movie cameras, with the actors moving against a grid background. Then, using the first film, they plot the position of the movement, frame by frame [this is the same as aspects of the Gilbreth method] and installed individual still cameras, along the plotted path of motion. They then reshoot the scene, using both still and movie cameras and spliced in frames from the still cameras to add enhanced clarity to the final version [the use of the still cameras, along the path of motion, was the technique Edward Muybridge first used in taking "moving pictures" of Leland Stanford's horse]. While typical slow motion photography has blurs and looks staged, the clarity of the Bullet Time system was as good as any still shot.

No Stone Left Unturned
Submitted by Dr. Charles Wrege

Editor's Note:

Dr. Charles Wrege, a long-time supporter of the Gilbreth Network, has a unique perspective, in his writings on business and management history; he looks past "common knowledge" and through many hours of hard work, finds little known facts that change the way we look at history. From his dissertation on the Hawthorne Lighting Experiments, to his co-authored book, with the late Ron Greenwood, on Frederick W. Taylor, Dr. Wrege's in-depth research produces new perspectives.

Unlike some writers in our modern age, Dr. Wrege doesn't make up his facts. He finds them through cold, hard research. We are fortunate enough to have him share some of his research methods with us. The following article comes from a list of research sources and part of a cover letter he sent to me. I hope you will join me in thanking Dr. Wrege for sharing his experience with us. Whether you're conducting research for a paper or looking up family history, Dr. Wrege's suggestions will be a valued aid.


"I have finally sat down and written some of the various methods I have used to find old records. There may be many more that I never thought about, but these are the ones I have found useful.

I know nothing of what the Internet may hold, but I don't have much hope that these kind of record sources (except for libraries, etc.) are on the Internet, but I could be wrong. We need more genealogical data on all the management people to ascertain who might have records we don't know about. Naturally, the passage of time makes the job harder each year as people die, houses are sold, basements and attics cleaned out, old houses torn down, etc., but we can only try.

The local state agencies and county agencies may be very difficult to work with when looking for old records, files, etc. Where land is important such as with deeds, this is not so hard; it's police records, city council records, old tax books etc., that are difficult. Local Historical Societies may fall into this category also, as few members really care and are members for prestige purposes only. Good records of local history may be held by people in the town who didn't trust the Historical Society to keep old records secure after they are donated.

Using many of the records I list here requires (usually) "being on the scene" as you may have to do a lot of the work yourself and spend time convincing someone to open a box or a crate or a door or move a pile of books, etc., or hunt through shelves of mixed up documents. Newspaper searches, (except for The New York Times) are difficult, but you can use the New York Times Index to get a hint of where to look in other papers around the same date for information you are seeking. Some old local papers (if Gannett Publications hasn't acquired them) have old card files on news items. Photographs that appeared in newspapers may still be on file, held either by local libraries or state photographic files. In NJ, its New Jersey News Photos which became part of the Star Ledger Newspaper in Newark. But there are similar organizations in other states; one just has to hunt.

Writing large (or small) corporations about old records is seldom successful. Either they don't want to give anything up, or don't care to look or can't look because the records are gone. Only in one case, The Great Natooska Company (paper manufacturers) did this work with me and only because they sent my request to all their divisions and the night manager of Madison Paper Company had old records of his own and called me up early in the morning, did I get old Taylor records from 1890, but this was unusual. * The normal situation is no cooperation, just nice useless letters.

*I was also successful with Midvale Records but this required 8 years of work."

I. "Search Methods and Sources

1. Obituaries

I have always started with obituaries--since different obituaries sometimes contain different bits of information than others. In regard to the Gilbreths, I wonder if the different obituaries in the local Boston newspapers might reveal something. The Boston Public Library has an "Obituary Book" (compiled by a Bostonian, from local newspapers) which I never checked for the Gilbreths since I was searching for other data. It might be worth a try. Look for place of interment.

2. Death Certificates

Sources are usually the Board of Health. These reveal (sometimes) odd facts. For example, Dr. Ernest Southard (who worked with the Gilbreths) died in a hotel in NYC in 1920. Death certificate revealed body was to go to the "New Jersey Crematorium" but it went to Boston so Dr. Myrtle Canavan could remove the brain--she removed Frank Gilbreth's brain also, in 1924.

3. Cemetery Records

Depend on the cemetery. Some charge $25 for a search (which usually is checking card files) but some of the larger ones, like the Laurel Hill Cemetery, in Philadelphia are helpful and provide any records they have--free--and they are extensive records including newspaper clippings, letters, etc. Ask cemetery for names of current owners of plot so you can contact them about possible personal papers, etc. they may hold. Large cemeteries have plot diagrams that show who is buried in plot--often these include other relatives, in large older plots where many family members are buried. For example, F. W. Taylor and his wife Louise are buried in his father, Franklin Taylor's plot along with other family members. Other family members may have records, etc.

4. Court Records

Wills are the obvious records kept in probate courts, but there may be other records such as lawsuits against individuals, records of court appointed monitors to settle claims, letters of Administration (if the deceased died intestate), indictments for crimes (these are extensive, especially in New York City), etc.

5. Deeds and Other Records of Land Holdings

One never knows what deeds may reveal--for example, the deeds to F.W. Taylor's estate, Boxly, in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, show that Louise Taylor, not Frederick Taylor, actually owned the land. Deeds of this land also reveal restrictions on building a new dwelling which forced Taylor to build a new home, not remodel the old home on the property.

6. Atlas and Land Maps

These were common in the 19th Century, but as the land holdings began to change rapidly they fell into disfavor. These old maps are useful in revealing more than one land holding by an individual and give a clue to his wealth. For example, Taylor's uncle, Caleb Taylor owned 30 farms in Bristol Township and Taylor's Aunt Sarah held land in Bucks County and Falls Township, all eventually owned by Taylor and his sister.

7. City Directories

These were important before telephone books. They reveal not only addresses, but also occupations. Some are very extensive like Gopsill's Philadelphia City Directory, which was over 1,000 pages.

8. Corporation Records

Usually held by the Secretary of State Office. These are extensive, but useful in that they show successive changes in the corporation. These records differ by state. Some states, like New Jersey and Michigan, require a partial list of stockholders, others, like Pennsylvania, do not. The corporation records may include correspondence. {footnote: All of the Gilbreths' company titles seem like a gold mine to me, for new data}

9. Records of Organizations, Charities, Etc.

In regard to the Gilbreths in Boston, the records of the various medical societies where Gilbreth gave talks (for Ernest Codman and Ernest Southard) on surgery and scientific management may be useful. Include records of the Boston Psychopathic Hospital or The Permanent Charity Fund of Boston. Gilbreth worked with Ernest Codman and Ernest Southard (also Dr. Myrtle Canavan) at Boston Psychopathic Hospital. There may be records of the money donated for his work. Also, any Dental Societies--remember his work with Dentists like his sister?

10. Trade Publications

In the early 20th Century there were a large number of Trade Publications that might prove useful: The Bricklayer, The Contractor, Engineering Magazine, Factory, Industrial Engineering, etc. New York Public Library has the best collection of such publications. See their Directory of Holdings of The New York Public Libraries to 1970. [editor's note: Also, see if your state has a central library. The California State Library, in Sacramento, has an excellent collection of trade and organizational publications. Since only the legislature and staff can take out volumes, when you discover a missing issue, it's yet another reason to mistrust politicians.]

11. Holdings of Manuscript Collections, Rare Book Room Collections, Map Room Collections, Business and Industry Collections, etc.

The names can vary, but these collections can have a large number of manuscripts, etc., not found elsewhere. The holdings of the manuscript division of The Library of Congress are huge. If possible, checking the boxes stored in their warehouse is the best, as the material held in may boxes may not be cataloged. An example is the William C. Whiney papers that include 62 volumes of correspondence, boxes of loose papers, etc. The Library of Congress also holds the Bishop Charles Brent papers that include the Inquiry records, but the Inquiry records are not listed under Brent's name, you have to find them in the file boxes by searching.

12. Papers Held by the National Archives

The National Archives holds many useful records for management history. Federal Court records (useful for patent suits), Military records (see Jacket Files of individual soldiers). Various government agencies: U.S. Public Health, Munitions Board, Emergency Fleet Corporation, Dept. of Commerce, Works Progress Administration, etc. These records are extensive but some may have been "cleaned up" to save space. Obtaining "finding lists," one has to secure a relationship with National Archives personnel to get real data, not just what they want to push on to you as all they have, which may (or may not) be true.

13. Local Historical Societies

These can be of great use since they can hold records not found anywhere else; old letters, tax books, photographs, etc. Some are very cooperative and well organized, others are on a part time basis usually run by people more interested in "belonging" rather than doing.

14. Local Museums

These are usually organized around an industry or subject matter, but can have curators who know a great deal of local history, data on families, etc."


We have some noteworthy dates this spring.

April 1st is the anniversary of the founding of Gilbreth Construction. Frank always felt April Fools Day was an appropriate date to start his first company.

April 5th marks the birthday of a close friend and supporter of the Network, Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. We wish her a very Happy Birthday.

May 24th marks the day, 122 years ago, when Lillian Moller was born in Oakland, California.


Despite my personal penchant for the Gilbreths, it never ceases to amaze me when it comes to the everlasting popularity of Cheaper by the Dozen. I was recently informed that the book has now be translated into French, which includes new illustrations. Viva les Gilbreths!

Also, while still in the early stages of making arrangements, the book will later be translated into Korean.


There is yet, another recent article about Lillian Gilbreth, entitled The First Lady of Engineering. SWE, the magazine of the Society of Women Engineers, published their 50 anniversary issue in Jan.-Feb., 2000, which included the Gilbreth article, written by Anne M. Perusek, SWE Editor, with reflections by many others, including our own Dr. Gerald Nadler, Jill S. Tietjen, P.E., and Gina Ryan, Executive Dir. & CEO, of SWE, as well as many others.

It's a wonderful article full of history and fascinating stories. You can ask about copies or reprints through their web site ( or by calling (212) 509-9577.


Got that tax refund burning a hole in your pocket? Have we got the deal for you. If you have 1,250.00 in British pounds ($1,968.75, US), you can own one of the early copies of Field System. Bernard Quaritch Limited, of Britain, is offering a 1908 copy of the book. This is an early version, privately printed and is of the era where the books were numbered and issued to employees.

While this is the first published writing of the Gilbreths, and a wonderful collectors item, I think Mr. Quaritch is a bit optimistic. I've followed the prices of Gilbreth and Taylor books and this price is a bit out of line. I've seen advertised, a first edition of Taylor's Principles of Scientific Management (the one he had privately printed) and it was at the bargain of $700.00. However, in a way, it's a tribute to the Gilbreths in that Mr. Quaritch thinks the Gilbreths' first book is worth almost 3 times as much as Taylor's.


In the last issue of The Quest we posed two questions:

"What kitchen device did Dr. Lillian Gilbreth help invent?"

A) Pull-Out Bread Board
B) Ginsu Knife
C) Foot-Operated Trash Can Lid
D) SOS Pads

The answer is C) the Foot-Operated Trash Can Lid.

This design has seen varying popularity in kitchens over the past few decades. While it may come and go in kitchens, it has become the mainstay in doctors offices, for contaminated materials and similar applications in other industries.

"What two Therbligs are included in The Quest's masthead?"

The symbol on the left side of the masthead is "Search,"denoted as an eye looking to the side. The opposite side contains "Find," an eye looking straight ahead. These two symbols were originally the idea of Dr. William Jaffe. We think they're very appropriate for The Quest.

Since no one responded with the correct answers, I get to keep the million dollars.

Gilbreth Books--Update

Last Fall, we told you of the opportunity to help preserve the two recent Gilbreth books, published by Engineering and Management Press (of IIE). They are discontinuing operations and are offering these books at a discount. It is an excellent opportunity to own or donate these books to your library before they disappear.

Michael Grossman, IIE's Publisher, has extended the IIE membership discount to Network members. When ordering, simply notify them you are a member of the Gilbreth Network.

You can order the books as follows:

As I Remember

Managing on Her Own

Shipping is $4.50 for the first item and $1.00 for each additional item.

You can order by phone by calling 1-800-494-0460, or fax at 1-770-441-3295

Note: Mr. Grossman has been trying to secure a new publisher for As I Remember. He has had contacts with a number of publishers, including hte Purdue University Press and the University of California Press. Thus far, there has been no positive response from any house. If you have any suggestions or contacts with a publsiher who handles this type of book, please contact Mr. Grossman at

Other Gilbreth Material

"The Films of Frank B. Gilbreth" (video) is available for $40.00 (including US) postage from:

James Perkins
Perkins Associates
Cypress Village
13848 Silkvine Lane
Jacksonville, FL 32224

UMI, The company which reprints students' masters and doctoral papers, is making the microfilm of the Frank B. Gilbreth papers available. The cost is $310.00 for the four reels. They also have doctoral dissertations on the Gilbreths by Brian Price, Laurel Graham, and Jane Lancaster. Contact them at:
UMI Sales
300 N. Zeeb Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48106
(800) 521-3042