Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Collection

Collection ID:
Perkins, James Secor
Gilbreth, Frank Bunker, 1868-1924
Gilbreth, Lillian Moller, 1878-1972
bulk 1911-1924
Collection text is in
Physical Description:
5 Cubic feet
19 boxes
5 Cubic feet
19 boxes
The collection consists primarily of glass plate slides (negative and positive), photo prints, and stereographs documenting the work undertaken by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth from 1910 to 1924 in the fields of motion study, shop efficiency, and factory organization. Also included are slides dcoumenting the Gilbreth Family, their travels, residences, and friends. The collection also contains the film "The Original Films of Gilbreth The Quest for the One Best Way," 1968 by James S. Perkins.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The collection consists primarily of glass plate slides (negative and positive), photo prints, and stereographs documenting the work undertaken by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth from 1910 to 1924 in the fields of motion study, shop efficiency, and factory organization. As scientific managers, the Gilbreth's introduced new techniques to analyze work, the workplace, and work practices with the goal of eliminating waste to maximize productivity. The collection illustrates these new techniques and their application to a wide variety of studies. The collection is diverse and provides insight into understanding how Gilbreth approached his studies. Also included are slides documenting the Gilbreth Family, their travels, residences, and friends. The collection also contains the film "The Original Films of Gilbreth The Quest for the One Best Way," 1968 by James S. Perkins.
Series 1, Background Information, 1892-1997, includes biographical materials about Frank B. Gilbreth; copies of some of Frank Gilbreth's patents, 1892-1916; and printed materials, 1907-1997, that contain articles, newspaper and magazine clippings about Frank and Lillian Gilbreth and time and motion study generally. Black-and-white photo prints of Gilbreth or work Gilbreth documented from collections held at Purdue University and Ohio State University are included.
Series 2, Glass plate stereo slides, 1910-1924, consists of approximately 2,250 glass stereo slides photographed by Frank B. Gilbreth and others and intended for viewing through an optical viewing machine. Some are positive black and white, positive color, and negative black and white. The subject matter of the slides covers the work undertaken by Frank Gilbreth from 1910 to 1924 in the fields of motion study, shop efficiency, and factory organization. Many of the images serve as documentation for the studies the couple performed as they were hired by firms in an attempt to provide solutions to the problems of inefficiency. Also included are the Gilbreth Family, their travels, residences, and friends.
The slides are numbered sequentially. For example, a glass plate slide numbered 318949.001 will have a corresponding photoprint 318949.001 in Series 3, Photoprints of glass plate slides. Note: not all glass plate slides have corresponding photoprints. Additionally, there are Office of Photographics Services, Smithsonian Institution negative numbers assigned to many of the photo prints.
Some subject categories include:
Frank B. Gilbreth: working in motion laboratories, on factory inspections, seated in offices, with family and friends, in World War I uniform, watching and monitoring shop operations.
Lillian M. Gilbreth: with family, during university graduation ceremonies, traveling and working with Frank and observing office workers.
Gilbreth Family: family on the road in an automobile, at home seated around the dinner table, in the parlor, in the garden, and with friends and relatives.
Gilbreth ship travel: contains views on steamer voyages to Europe, deck scenes, arrivals, departures, ship officers and crew, and other passengers.
Automobile assembly study: internal and external views of a warehouse/factory, including large piles or rows of metal car frames and other parts.
Benchwork study: images of a male worker standing or sitting in a chair while filing an object secured in a vice at a workbench.
Betterment: images of efforts whcih contributed to industrial betterment (the Gilbreth chair, employee library, and the home reading box).
Bricklaying study: view of men wearing overalls and caps, shoveling, and men laying bicks.
Business and apparatus of motion study: views of lectures, meetings, film showings, demonstrations, charts, drawings, motion models, charts amd some equipment.
Disabled study: views of partially blind World War I veterans, amputees using special tytpewriter, assembling machinery, use of cructhes, and a one armed dentist.
Factory bench work: table-top machines assembly operations, hand tools, orderly arrangement of parts prior to and during assembly and a variety of bench vises.
Factory documentation: various images of the interior and edterior of factories including heavy machinery.
Golfing study: various cyclegraphs of a man swinging a golf club.
Grid boards: back drops used by Gikbreth to isolate and measure worker motions. This includes walls, floors, desktops, and drop cloths divided into grids of various densities and scales.
Handwriting and cyclegraphs: finger lights moving in patterns of script.
Ladders: include step ladders and painters' ladders shown in use near shelving.
Light assembly study: wide variety of images ranging from cyclegraphs of women working, to the factory floor as well as tools and machinery.
Materials handling study: different angles of an empty cart, a cart oiled high with boxes, and a man pushing a cart illustrating different body positions.
Military study: illustrate work on the Army foot meausring machine, gun parts, men holding a rifle.
Motion models: images of simple wire motionmodels.
Needle trade study: views of textile machinery and workers.
Office study: various shots inside of an office with tables, desks, drawers, files, and typewriters. Some of the images are cyclegraphs of femal and male workers performing tasks, such as writing, both tin the context of an office as well as in front of a grdidded background. There are several close-ups of an organizer containing penciles, paperclips, pins and rubberbands.
Packing: methods of placing and arranging goods in boxes, such as soap packing.
Panama-Pacific Exposition 1915: contains views of statuary, fountains, and architecture of the exposition held in San Francisco.
Pure light cyclegraphs: no workers or grids visible only finger lights in motion.
Rubber stamping study: hand movements and access to ink pads and stamps.
Scenic views: views of buildings, landscapes, street scenes, and fountains from around the world documenting Gilbreth's travels.
Shoe making study: laboratory studies of shoe assembly operations with an emphasis on workers access to component pieces.
Shop machinery: various shots of machines and workers working with machines.
Signage: include organizational flow charts, shop floor plans, route maps, office layouts, numbering systems, exhibit display boards illustrating Frank Gilbreth's efficiency studies and techniques.
Stacking: views of the art and science of stacking boxes, clothing, equipment, containers, and vertical storage without shelves.
Stock bins: consists of storage pips, paper, other raw materials, shelves, and corridoe shots.
Storage: images illustrate contrast between old techniques and new.
Surgical and dental studies: thester views of surgeons, assistants, nurses, hand motions in grasping, placing surgical instruments, dental work and self inspection of teeth.
Tool cribs: storage of hand tools in shops with an emphasis on easy access and easy inventorying.
Typing study: various views of femaile s under observation using Remington typewriters.
Series 3, Photoprints of glass plate slides, 1910-1924, consist of black and white photoprints of the glass plate slides depicting the fields of motion study, shop efficiency, and factory organization. Also included are the Gilbreth Family, their travels, residences, and friends.
Series 5, Stereographs,1911-1914,
Series 6, Audio Visual Materials, 1968, 2000, and undated, is divided into three subseries: Subseries 1, Audio visual documentation, 1968 and undated; Subseries 2, Moving Images, 1968 and undated; and Subseries 3, Audio Recordings, 1980, 1990,. 2000 and undated. The series contains several formats: 7" open reel-to-reel audio tape, 1/2" VHS, Beta Cam SP, DVD, audio cassette, one inch audio tape, and 16 mm film.
Subseries 1, Audio visual documentation, 1967-1968 and undated, consists of supplemental documentation for the film, "The Original Films of Gilbreth The Quest for the One Best Way." Specifically, there are brochures and other printed materials detailing what the film is about and how copies may be obtained. This subseries also contains a copy of the book Cheaper by the Dozen, 1948. The book was written by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and tells the biographical story of Frank Bunker Gilbreth and Lillian Moller Gilbreth, and their twelve children. The book was adapted to film by Twentieth Century Fox in 1950.
Subseries 2, Moving Images, 1967, consists of one title, "The Original Films of Gilbreth The Quest for the One Best Way." The film materials consist of the film's production elements: 16 mm black and white negative A-roll; 16mm black-and-white negative B-roll; and the optical track negative. Each is 800 feet in length.
The film presents a summary of work analysis films which were taken by Frank B. Gilbreth between 1919 and 1924 showing a number of industrial operations from which the motion study was developed. Demonstrates motion and fatigue study, skill study, plant layout and material handling, inventory control, production control, business procedures, safety methods, developing occupations for the handicapped, athletic training and skills, military training, and surgical operations as researched and developed by Gilbreth. Points out that Gilbreth created entirely new techniques on how to improve industrial efficiency, while at the same time significantly improving conditions for the workers. The film was produced by James S. Perkins in collaboration with Dr. Ralph M. Barnes and with commentary by Liilian M. Gilbreth and James S. Perkins. The film was presented on December 3, 1968 at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Annual Meeting in New York. The formats for this title include: 16 mm, Beta Cam SP, and DVD. Additionally, there is a one inch audio tape recording for the film.
Subseries 3, Audio Recordings, 1980, 1990, 2000 and undated consist of a Smithsonian radio program titled "Inside the Smithsonian, Cheaper by The Dozen," from 1980 and an recording of Ernestine Gilbreth Casey discussing Gilbreth Family photographs from 2000. Hosted by [Ann Carroll?], "Inside the Smithsonian, Cheaper by The Dozen," featured Fred and Bill Gilbreth discussing their parents Frank and Lillian, Gilbreth, and the book Cheaper by the Dozen. The radio program coincided with the 100th Anniversary of the American Society of Mechancial Engineers (founded 1880)of which Lillian Gilbreth was the Society's first female member and showcased a single case exhibition at the Museum of History and Technology (now the National Museum of American History) titled "Frank and Lillian Gilbreth: Motion Engineers." Inside Smithosnian Radio was a weekly program produced by the Office of Telecommunications. The recording of Ernestine Gilbreth Carey was recorded on July 9, 2000 and documents Ms. Carey's identification and discussion of Gilbreth Family photographs. David Ferguson assisted in the discussion. A hard copy index to the photographs Ms. Carey discusses is available.

The collection is arranged into six series.
Series 1: Background Materials, 1892-1997
Subseries 1.1: Frank B. Gilbreth, undated
Subseries 1.2: Frank B. Gilbreth patents, 1892-1916
Subseries 1.3: Printed Materials, 1907-1997
Series 2: Glass Stereo Slides (Positive), 1910-1924 and undated
Series 3: Photo prints of glass stereo slides, 1910-1924 and undated
Subseries 3.1: Photo Print Books, 1-9, undated
Subseries 3.2: Photo prints (duplicates), undated
Series 4: Stereo Autochromes, undated
Series 5: Stereograph Cards, 1911-1914
Series 6: Audio Visual Materials, 1968, 1990, 2000 and undated
Subseries 6.1, Audio visual documentation, 1968 and undated
Subseries 6.2: Moving images, 1968 and undated
Subseries 6.3: Audio recordings, 1980, 1990, 2000, and undated

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Frank Gilbreth is best known for his work on the efficiency of motion. Working with his wife and professional partner Lillian Moller Gilbreth, he applied modern psychology to his work with management. His innovative motion studies were used on factory workers, typists and the disabled. Gilbreth established the link between psychology and education to be succesful management.
Frank Gilbreth was born in Fairfield, Maine on July 7, 1868. His parents, John and Martha Bunker Gilbreth were New Englanders. John Gilbreth ran a hardware business, but died when Frank was only three. Bearing the responsibilty of raising her children alone, Martha moved the family twice in search of quality education for her children. Ultimately she decided to school the children herself. In 1885, Frank graduated from English High School in Boston. Despite gaining admission into the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Frank opted to enter the work world immediately as a bricklayer's apprentice with Whidden and Company, building contractors in Boston.
Smart and skilled, Gilbreth worked his way up in the company. He learned the trade quickly and soon was promoted to supervisor, foreman, and finally to the position of superintendent. To further his edcuation, he went to night school to study mechanical drawing.
At the age of 27, Gilbreth embarked upon his first business venture. He started his own contracting firm. His firm developed a fine reputation for quality work at a very rapid pace. He invented tools, scaffolding, and other contraptions to make the job easier. His company goals included the elimination of waste, the conservation of energy, and the reduction of cost. His work included canals, factories, houses, and dams. His clients came from all parts of the United States, and he performed some work in England.
In 1903, Frank Gilbreth met Lillian Moller (1903-1972) and married her on October 19, 1904. Lillian graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a BA (1900) and MA (1902). She later earned a Ph.D from Brown University (1915), earning a dissertation titled The Psychology of Management. Lillian's academic work, large family and integral role in Frank's consulting business kept her busy. Her contributions to the business led to a greater understanding of an individual's welfare in the work world. This becamme a key idea to increasing productivity through scientific management techniques.
Working together, the couple became leaders in the new field of scientific management. They published books, gave lectures, and raised tweleve children together: Anne, Mary (1906--912), Ernestine, Martha, Frank Jr., William, Lillian, Frederick, Daniel, John, Robert and Jane. Some of Gilbreth's books include Fields System (1908); Concrete System (1908); Bricklaying System (1909; Motion Study (1911); and Primer of Scientific Management (1911). Gilbreth co-authored with Lillian: Time Study (1916); Fatigue Study (1916); Applied Motion Study (1917); and Motion Study for the Handicapped (1919).
It wasn't long before Gilbreth moved away from construction. Together with his wife, they focused on the link between psychology and motion. With her strong psychological background, and his interest in efficiency, the Gilbreth's opened the School of Scientific Management in 1913. The school was in session for four years. Numerous professional attended the school, and soon the Gilbreth's had established a reputation as consultant's to the new field of scientific management.
In 1912, Frank won a contract with the New England Butt Company in Providence, Rhode Island. There he installed his system of scientific management in a factory setting for the first time. Contracts with the Hermann-Aukam handkerchief manufacturing company in New Jersey and the Auergessellschaft Company in Germany followed. Using motion study, Gilbreth studied and reoganized the factories, attempting to find "the one best way" to do work.
Gilbreth traveled to Germany to continue his work was a scientific manager. He visited factories and hospitals, working to improve procedures and eliminate waste. Using micro-motion study and the chronocyclegraph procedure, he analyzed and dissected motion, discovering therblings, the seventeen fundamental units of any motion. World War I slowed Gilbreth's progress abroad, so he focused his consulting business on firms n the United States.
After World War I, Gilbreth's business thrived. in 1920, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers instituted its Management Division, something Gilbreth had been demanding for years. He was now a famous American engineer, gaining financial rewards as as professional honors.
Frank Gilbreth died suddenly of a heart attack on June 14, 1924, still in the middle of three contracts. He was honored after his death in 1944 by the American Society of Engineers and the American Management Association with the Gant Gold Medal. After Frank's death, Lillian moved the family to California where she continued to work on efficiency and health in industry issues. She was a respected buiness woman and was hired by several companies to train employees, study working conditions, and reduce fatigue. She lectured at several universities (Newark College of Engineering and the University of Wisconsin), and joined the faculty at Purdue University in 1935 as the first woman professor in the engineering school.
Frank and Lillian Gilbreth often used their large family (and Frank himself) as guinea pigs in experiments. Their family exploits are lovingly detailed in the 1948 book Cheaper by the Dozen, written by Frank Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.

Alison Oswald
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The collection materials were donated by several individuals: New Jersey Institute of Technology (1975); Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr., (1980); Ernestine Gilbreth Carey (1995); Daniel B. Gilbreth (1998); and James Secor Perkins in 2001.
Processing Information
Processed by Theresa Worden (intern) and Alison Oswald, archivist, October 2010.
Custodial History
The glass stereo slides were transferred to the Archives Center from the Division of Work and Industry, National Museum of American History in 2007.
Existence and Location of Copies
Series 2: Glass Stereo Slides, boxes 3-9 were digitized in 2021. Contact the Archives Center for information at or 202-633-3270.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research but the films are stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Series 2: Glass Stereo Slides are restricted. Boxes 3-9 were digitized in 2021. Researchers must use digital copies. Contact the Archives Center for information at or 202-633-3270.
Preferred Citation
Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.

Related Materials
Material in Other Institutions
Purdue University, Archives and Special Collections
Frank and Lillian Gilbreth papers, 1869-2000
The Gilbreth Papers documents the professional and personal lives of Frank Gilbreth and Lillian Gilbreth. The collection consists of personal papers, letters, correspondence, photographs, and other memorabilia that Lillian Gilbreth collected during her life regarding her youth, marriage, family, and career.
Collection of materials related to Lillian Gilbreth, 1964-2006
One folder of items relating to the life of Lillian Gilbreth, and her family, collected by her granddaughter, Lillian (Jill) Barley and Nancy Weston. Materials include clippings relating to the Lillian Gilbreth postage stamp (1984); obituaries and memorial programs for Peter Barney, Ernestine Carey, Lillian Gilbreth, Anne Gilbreth Barney, Charles Carey, and Frank Gilbreth Jr.; programs and photographs relating to Lillian Gilbreth's visit to Athens in 1964; and biographical information on Lillian Gilbreth.
Cornell University, Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives
Frank Gilbreth Papers on Microfilm, Collection Number: 5424 mf
Selected papers pertaining to industrial engineering. Original materials are held by Purdue University. Microfilm copied purchased from Purdue University in April 1968.

Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Videotapes Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Motion study Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Machinery industry Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
BetaCam SP (videotape format) Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Motion pictures (visual works) -- 1930-1950 Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Machine shops Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Industrial management Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Industrial films Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Industrial engineering Topical 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