Guide to the Gerber Fabric Cutter Video Documentation

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.0609
Creators:
Liebhold, Peter
Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.
Dates:
1995-1996
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
2.5 Cubic feet
9 boxes
Repository:
The Gerber Fabric Cutter S-70 is part of a systematic approach to layout and cutting that has revolutionized the needle trades. This video history contains original, master, and reference videos, Dictaphone microcassettes, and tape digests and notes documenting the development, operation and use of the Gerber Fabric Cutter S-70 in three locations: H.I.S., Inc., in Bruceton, Tennessee (Chic blue jeans use of cuter); General Motors in Grand Rapids, Michigan (automotive use of the cutter); and Gerber Scientific Instrument Company in Hartford, Connecticut (Gerber corporate office and invention factory). The video footage documents H. Joseph Gerber, engineers, assembly workers, operators, and other technicians who worked with the cutter at the three locations. The footage from the Tennessee and Michigan sites provides insight into the complexity of introducing a new technology into the workplace and documents operators and managers discussing the effect of the cutter on workflow, quality, personnel, and attitudes towards the job. The footage from the Connecticut site documents the engineers who developed the cutter and provides valuable insight into the invention process. This collection includes oral history audio tapes, original, master, and reference videos, and notes documenting visits to Bruceton, Tennessee, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Hartford, Connecticut.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The Gerber Fabric Cutter S-70 is part of a systematic approach to layout and cutting that has revolutionized the needle trades. It applies numerical control to the sizing of patterns and cutting of fabric. The use of this type of equipment made possible a radical change in the make-up of the cutting room workforce. This video history contains original, master, and reference videos, Dictaphone microcassettes, and tape digests and notes documenting the development, operation and use of the Gerber Fabric Cutter S-70 in three locations: H.I.S., Inc., in Bruceton, Tennessee (Chic blue jeans use of cuter); General Motors in Grand Rapids, Michigan (automotive use of the cutter); and Gerber Scientific Instrument Company in Hartford, Connecticut (Gerber corporate office and invention factory). The video footage documents H. Joseph Gerber, engineers, assembly workers, operators, and other technicians who worked with the cutter at the three locations. The footage from the Tennessee and Michigan sites provides insight into the complexity of introducing a new technology into the workplace and documents operators and managers discussing the effect of the cutter on workflow, quality, personnel, and attitudes towards the job. The footage from the Connecticut site documents the engineers who developed the cutter and provides valuable insight into the invention process.
The collection is arranged into five series: Series 1, Notes, 1995-1996; Series 2, Audio tapes (microcassettes), 1996; Series 3, Original videos (BetaCam SP), 1996; Series 4, Master videos (BetaCam SP), 1996; and Series 5, Reference videos 1⁄2" VHS), 1996.
Series 1, Notes, 1995-1996, includes documentation created by Peter Liebhold in preparation for his site visits to Bruceton, Tennessee, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Hartford, Connecticut. The documentation includes lists of potential interviewees, questions to ask of the employees, and general notes detailing observations at each site. The H. Joseph Gerber interview file consists of a brief tape digest keyed to each of the seven microcassettes, notes from the interview, and the questions asked of Mr. Gerber. The Gerber Scientific Instrument Company file contains a video digest for only three interviews: Ed Roth, Fred Rosen, and Larry Wolfson.
Series 2, Audio tapes (microcassettes), 1995 June, consists of seven Dictaphone microcassettes of oral history interviews with H. Joseph Gerber conducted by Peter Liebhold, Curator, American History Museum and Stanley Leven, Director and Secretary of Gerber Scientific Instrument Company.
Series 3, Original Videos (BetaCam SP), 1996, consists of thirty-eight BetaCam SP video tapes totaling approximately nineteen hours of footage.
Series 4, Master Videos (BetaCam SP), 1996, consists of twenty-six BetaCam SP tapes totaling nineteen hours of footage.
Series 5, Reference videos (1/2" VHS), 1996, consists of twenty-six 1⁄2" VHS tapes for a total of thirteen hours of footage.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is divided into five series.
Series 1: Notes, 1995-1996
Series 2: Audio tapes (microcassettes), 1995 June
Series 3: Original videos (BetaCam SP), 1996
Series 4: Master videos (BetaCam SP), 1996
Series 5: Reference videos (1/2" VHS), 1996

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Heinz Joseph "Joe" Gerber was born in Vienna, Austria, on April 17, 1924. In 1940, Gerber escaped the Nazis and immigrated to New York City and then to Hartford, Connecticut, with his mother Bertha Gerber, a dressmaker. Gerber's father, Jacob, is presumed to have died in a concentration camp. Gerber attended Weaver High School and graduated in two years (1943). He attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, on a scholarship and earned a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering in 1947. As a junior at RPI, Gerber developed the Gerber Variable Scale, his first invention. The earliest version of the variable scale was fashioned from an elastic band removed from a pair of pajamas. Gerber created a rubber rule and scale that could flow with a curve, expand, contract, and turn a corner. The scale allows for direct reading of curves, graphs, and graphical representations, giving direct numerical readings of proportions, spacing and interpolation. The Variable Scale became the building block of what would become Gerber Scientific Instrument, Inc.
With financial assistance from Abraham Koppleman, a newspaper and magazine distributor in Hartford, Gerber and Koppleman formed a partnership and incorporated Gerber Scientific Instrument Company in 1948. Gerber served as president, Koppleman as treasurer, and Stanley Levin as secretary. The manufacture of Variable Scale was jobbed out and the distribution was conducted from Hartford. Gerber also worked as a design analytical engineer for Hamilton Standard Propellers of United Aircraft and for Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Shares of Gerber Scientific Instrument Company were eventually sold to the public in 1961, and in 1978, the company changed its name to Gerber Scientific, Inc. In the 1960s and 1970s, Gerber developed the first series of precision, computer-driven cutting systems for the apparel industry called the Gerber Cutter. The cutters introduced automation to the garment industry. In 1967, Gerber realized that the U.S. garment industry, due to a lack of automation, was faced with increasing overseas competition. Gerber's solution was to engineer the Gerber Fabric Cutter S-70, a machine that cuts apparel quickly and effectively while using less cloth.
Gerber holds more than 600 United States and foreign patents. Many of his patents relate to the United States apparel industry. In 1994, Gerber was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Clinton for helping to revolutionize the optical, garment, automotive, and other industries. His pioneering achievements include:
-a generation of data readers (electromechanical devices that converted graphical
-data directly into computer readable format);
-projection systems that interactively converted information from aerial;
-photographs for use in computers;
-devices that plotted digital output data from computer cards or tape;
-digital numerically-controlled drafting machines which verify the accuracy of the cutting path of numerical machine tools;
-a photoplotter (drafting machine configured with a unique light source to directly draw high accuracy layouts of printed circuit board masters on photographic film or glass with light beams);
-and systems with laser technology to draw at high speeds. (1)
Subsequent subsidiaries of Gerber Scientific, Inc., are: Gerber Garment Technology, Inc., (GGT); Gerber Scientific Products, Inc. (GSP); Gerber Systems Corp. (GSC), and Gerber Optical, Inc., (GO). GGT makes computer-controlled cutting and design equipment for apparel, automotive, aerospace and other industries. GSP produces systems for sign-making and graphic arts industries. GSC makes production systems for printing, industrial machinery and other industries. GO makes equipment for the optical-lens manufacturing industry. (2)
In 1954, Gerber married Sonia Kanciper. They had a daughter, Melisa Tina Gerber, and a son, David Jacques Gerber. H. Joseph Gerber died on August 9, 1996, at the age of 72.
Sources
(1) National Medal of Technology, 1994.
(2) W. Joseph Campbell, "High Tech and Low Key as Gerber Scientific Mounts a Recovery Philosophy Reflects Innovative Founder," Hartford Courant, May 16, 1994.

Administration
Processing Information
Processed by Alison L. Oswald, July 1997; revised May 1998 and June 2008.
Author
Alison L. Oswald
Immediate Source of Acquisition
This collection was created by the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation with American History Cuartor Peter Liebhold, Division of Work and Industry.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions. Researchers must use reference copies of audio-visual materials. When no reference copy exists, the Archives Center staff will produce reference copies on an "as needed" basis, as resources allow. Series 3, Original Videos, 1996, is located off-site; please inquire.
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research use.
Preferred Citation
Gerber Fabric Cutter Video Documentation, February 1995-1996, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Preferred Citation
Gerber Fabric Cutter Video Documentation, 1995-1996, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
Gloves must be worn when handling unprotected photographs and negatives.

Related Materials
Materials in the Archives Center
The Gerber Scientific Instrument Company Records, 1911-1998 (AC0929)
Materials in the Division of Work and Industry, National Museum of American History
Early model Gerber variable scale. See accession 1994.3104.01.
Gerber Cutter, Model 70. See accessioon 1995.0229.01.

Custodial History
Custodial History
This videohistory was transferred to Archives Center on July 8, 1997 from the Division of History of Technology, now the Division of Work and Industry.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Inventors -- 1940-1990 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Machinery -- 1940-1990 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Videotapes -- 1990-2000 Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Work -- 1940-1990 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Factories -- 1940-1990 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Fabric cutters -- 1940-1990 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Inventions -- 1920-2000 -- United States Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Industrial factories -- 1940-1990 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Automation -- 1940-1990 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Cutting machines -- 1940-1990 -- North Carolina -- Connecticut -- Michigan Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Computerized instruments -- 1940-1990 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gerber, H. Joseph (inventor) Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Gerber Company. Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu
http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives