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Horace N. Gilbert Papers

Identifier: 10011-MS

Scope and Contents

The Horace Gilbert papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, published papers, course lecture notes and special wartime (World War II), and postwar working documents.


  • 1923-1987


Language of Materials

English, Russian, & German


The collection is open for research. Researchers must apply in writing for access.

Publication Rights

Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Caltech Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and, unless explicitly stated otherwise, is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.


When Horace Nathaniel Gilbert, Professor of Business Economics, was first brought to the California Institute of Technology in 1924 by Robert A. Millikan, his mission, as outlined by Millikan, was " give a course which would help the graduates of Caltech who were going into industry to know something about it." (Horace N. Gilbert, Oral History with Mary Terrall, Archives, California Institute of Technology, February 1978, p. 9.) That course, Economics 100, taught by Gilbert for many years, was one of the most popular offered by the institute. Open to graduate students, the course aimed at bridging the gap between engineering and business, and it relied heavily on the case method of instruction.

Born in Yakima, Washington, on June 15, 1901, Gilbert received the AB degree in 1923 from the University of Washington and the MBA with distinction from Harvard in 1926. He taught industrial business policy and industrial business economics at Harvard's Graduate School of Business before coming to Caltech in 1929. He remained at Caltech until his retirement in 1969. He returned to Harvard as a visiting lecturer in 1940-1942, where he taught industrial management and mobilization, using aircraft companies as case examples. From 1942 to 1945 he was the principal production supervisor for the Air Materiel Command of the US Air Force. In 1945 Gilbert became bombing analyst for the US Strategic Bombing Survey, then industrial economic advisor for the American High Commission for Germany under John McCloy (1949-1951). He later traveled extensively to developing nations and socialist countries, studying their economies and methods of industrialization.

Gilbert died on December 16, 1990. He was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Economic Association, and the National Association for Student Affairs. He received an honorary DBA from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in 1971.


7.5 linear feet (18 boxes)


The correspondence, manuscripts, published papers, course lecture notes and special wartime (World War II) and postwar working documents of Horace N. Gilbert (1901-1990) form the collection known as the Horace N. Gilbert Papers in the Archives of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Gilbert was professor of business economics at Caltech from 1924 until his retirement in 1969. During World War II he worked for the US Air Force in materiel production. In the postwar period he aided the rebuilding of European industry by serving as economic advisor to the American High Commission for Germany.


The collection is organized into six series: 1. Correspondence and Documents, 2. Manuscripts, 3. Wartime papers, 4. Postwar, Special Advisor to Air Materiel Command, 5. Pamphlets and Articles by Gildert and Others, 6. Supplementary papers.

Series 1-4 form the original portion of the Gilbert papers. The correspondence series (Series 1) documents Gilbert's association with people at Caltech, especially the institute's presidents Robert A. Millikan and Lee A. DuBridge, and Dean Earnest C. Watson. There is professional correspondence with colleagues off campus, persons in government, and prominent individuals such as Herbert Hoover, Jr., and William O. Douglas. Correspondence with organizations is also included. The manuscripts section (Series 2) contains files on Gilbert's book, An Introduction to Business (1929), texts of talks, articles, and course notes, especially for Gilbert's celebrated Economics 100. Series 3 and 4 contain material on Gilbert's role as advisor to the military during World War II on procurement and mobilization, especially for the Air Materiel Command of the US Air Force. This type of advising work continued in the immediate postwar years, along with involvement in the rebuilding of European industry, especially in Germany.

Series 5 contains a small amount of printed material representing publications by Gilbert, mainly from the 1940s. It was reorganized during the revision of the papers after 2001.

The last series, Series 6, represents supplementary material from 1986 through 2001, and it has a mixed character. It contains significant correspondence with Gilbert's Harvard Business School colleagues in the period 1936 to 1940, well past his departure from Harvard for Caltech. Caltech material relates to committees and to programs of the Humanities Division (now Humanities and Social Sciences), principally the business economics course, in which Gilbert played such a major role; and to the Carnegie-sponsored program on defense and arms control. The latter group of materials may be compared with the papers titled Carnegie Program: Science and Government, donated by Professor David Elliot. There is some overlap between the two collections, but the Gilbert papers contain reports and transcripts not included in the Elliot donation. Notable among the papers on professional and civic activities are those relating to the American Universities Field Staff (AUFS) to which Gilbert contributed through the 1970s and 1980s. Also, files on trips to observe Russian (later Soviet) industry in 1931 and 1958, notably absent from the original donation, are present in the supplement.

Acquisition Information

The bulk of the Horace N. Gilbert papers were originally donated by Professor Gilbert himself in 1977 and supplemented by him in 1986, 1988 and 1989. A box containing biographical material, a few publications, correspondence, and files on the Carnegie Program in Science and Government was found in the Millikan Library at Caltech and was transferred to the Archives in June 2001.

Related Material

An important related collection is the Records of the Carnegie Program: Science and Government. Pertinent interviews conducted under the Caltech Oral Histories Project are Horace Gilbert with Mary Terrall (1978); and David Elliot with Carol Bugé (1986).

Processing History

Processed by Carol Finerman and Charlotte E. Erwin, 1980. Revised November 2003.

Original processing was done in 1980 by Carol Finerman. After receipt of the 2001 supplement to the Gilbert papers, it was decided to begin a reorganization of the collection and to bring the bulk of the supplementary material into one section, in spite of its mixed character and occasional overlap with series in the original donation. An exception is Series 5, Pamphlets and Articles, the contents of which were fully rearranged and to which two new files (14.9-10) were added. A few pieces of correspondence were interfiled into Series 1. Otherwise, the supplementary material stands alone. The revision of the collection and finding aid was completed by Charlotte E. Erwin in 2003.

Finding Aid for the Horace N. Gilbert Papers, 1923-1987
Processed by Carol Finerman and Charlotte E. Erwin.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the California Institute of Technology Archives and Special Collections Repository

1200 East California Blvd.
MC B215-74
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