Cheaper by the Dozen was written as a biographical novel by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. It was originally published in 1948 and, after becoming a bestseller, was adapted into a feature film in 1950. Several different movie adaptations were created in the following years. The sequel to the book, Bells on Their Toes, was published in 1950.
Altogether, Cheaper by the Dozen tells the story of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth and their huge, crazy family of fourteen people, twelve kids total. From Dad’s outgoing, lively personality to Mother’s more sensible ways, the Gilbreth clan is always up to something, getting into mischief, and always having an entertaining time. The name of the book came from an old family joke: When the Gilbreths would all be riding in the car together, sometimes, when the stoplight was red, people would ask, “‘How do you feed all those kids, Mister?’ Dad would ponder for a minute. Then, rearing back so those on the outskirts could hear, he’d say as though he had just thought it up, ‘Well, they come cheaper by the dozen, you know.’” And then Mr. Gilbreth would drive away.
The novel became a national-bestseller, and has over three million copies in print. The Gilbreth story is based on the real life Gilbreths and their lives back in the early 1900s. Their tale has found a key to many people's hearts, and is still a treasured book today.