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Heinz Joseph Gerber
Gerber Scientific Instrument Company Records,

Extent and Forms of Material: 65.5 cubic feet, including photographs, videotapes and one film (162 boxes)
Creator: Gerber Scientific Instrument Company
Abstract: Records document the Gerber Scientific Instrument Company, Hartford, Connecticut, and its four subsidiaries: Gerber Garment Technology, Inc., Gerber Scientific Products, Inc., Gerber Systems Corp., and Gerber Optical, Inc. Gerber Scientific designs, develops, manufactures, markets and services computer aided design and computer aided CAD/CAM systems. The records include correspondence, memoranda, product literature, trade literature, patent records, instruction manuals, proposals, engineering records, photographs, technical reports, drawings, press releases, and newspaper clippings.
Repository: Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.;; 202-633-3270;
Collection Number: AC0929
Processing Note: Processed by Bob Ageton (volunteer), Jennifer Dannenberg (intern), Adrienne Cain (intern) and Frank Robinson (archives technician), supervised by Alison L. Oswald, archivist, March 2007.
© 2008 by the Smithsonian Institution. All rights reserved.


Information for users of the collection

Conditions Governing Access: The collection is open for research use.
Physical Access: Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves. 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.
Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use: Copyright held by the Smithsonian Institution. Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Reproduction permission from Archives Center: fees for commercial use.
Preferred Citation: [Title and date of item], Gerber Scientific Instrument Company Records, 1911-1998, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, box number X, folder number XX, digital file number XXXXXXXX


In-depth information about the collection

Administrative/biographical history
Scope and content
System of arrangement
Acquisition information
Related archival materials
Access points
Container listing
Series 1
Series 2
Series 3
Series 4
Series 5
Series 6
Series 7
Series 8
Series 9
Series 10
Series 11
Series 12

Administrative/biographical history

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 GERBERcutter 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., were: 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.

1 National Medal of Technology, 1994.

2 W. Joseph Campbell, "High Tech and Low Key as Gerber Scientific Mounts a Recovery Philosophy that Reflects Innovative Founder," Hartford Courant, May 16, 1994.

Scope and content

The Gerber Scientific Instrument Company Records document the company’s designs, development, manufacture, and marketing of computer-aided design and computer-aided CAD/CAM systems. The records are arranged into twelve series and consist of Personal, Corporate Records, Engineering Department Records, Product Literature, Instruction Manuals/User Guides, Proposals, Photographs, Trade Literature, Press Releases and Newspaper Clippings, Patent Records, Lectra Systèmes Litigation Materials, and Audio Visual Materials.

Series 1, Personal, 1949-1997, contains biographical information, correspondence, a list of all patents awarded to Gerber, select speeches, awards, photographs, and documentation on David R. Pearl, President of Gerber Garment Technology (GGT). The biographical information includes sketches, articles, magazine profiles and obituaries about H. Joseph Gerber. The correspondence, 1943-1948, contains letters primarily between Gerber and Abraham Kopplemann about Gerber’s citizenship and invention of the Gerber Variable Scale.

Award information includes the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Honorary Degree (1981), the National Medal of Technology (1994) and nomination documents for the Heinz Award (1995). The National Medal of Technology was established in 1980 by Congress and was first awarded in 1985. The medal is awarded annually by the President of the United States and is the highest honor awarded in the United States for technological achievement. An individual, team up to four individuals, a company, or a division of a company is eligible. The materials here contain program notes, photographs, press releases and correspondence relating to Gerber’s receipt of the award. The photographs consist of black-and-white and color images. There are portraits, head shots, staged shots of Gerber with various Gerber company products and H. Joseph Gerber and company employees at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

The Pearl materials contain three photocopied volumes of diaries kept by David R. Pearl, President of Gerber Garment Technology. The diaries were maintained by Pearl from July 21, 1968 to June 6, 1977, to document Pearl’s and H. Joseph Gerber’s activities concerning the development of the technology and the establishment of a business to market computer-controlled fabric cutting devices. One notebook contains some materials later than 1977. There are diary entries for September 12, 1979, February 1, 1980, and October 29, 1984.

Series 2, Corporate Records, 1968-1999, includes administrative records, an Industrial Projects Eligibility Review, annual reports, shareholders reports, newsletters, New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) materials, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) materials, Gerber Museum documents, and empty Gerber Scientific Instrument Company binders. The administrative documents consist of a corporate history, mission statement, organizational chart, company map, time line and biographies of key corporate personnel. There are two organizational charts: one for the Engineering Organization (software, mechanical and electrical divisions) from 1987 and one for the subsidiary Gerber Garment Technology, Inc. (Gerber Garment Technology (GGT)), dated 1985. Additional organizational charts can be found with the 1968 annual report. The Industrial Projects Eligibility Review was submitted to the Connecticut Development Authority by Gerber Scientific Intsrument (GSI) to facilitate financing for future expansion of the company. A copy of the company’s articles of incorporation are here. The newsletters included in this series are in-house publications for employees only. The newsletter Communiqué, 1960, is in Series 4, Product Literature. The NYSE materials include press releases, photographs, the listing application to the NYSE and printed material about Gerber Scientific, Inc. joining the NYSE in October 1980. Gerber Scientific is traded on the Stock Exchange as GRB. The Securities and Exchange Commission files contain Form S-3, a registration statement and the Annual Report, and Form 10-K for Gerber Scientific, Inc. The Gerber Museum file includes photographs of artifacts and a 1996 memo and fax discussing the establishment of a museum to honor H. Joseph Gerber.

Series 3, Engineering Department Records, 1966-1990, is the largest series and is arranged alphabetically by the engineer’s last name and then alphabetically by subject/topic. The records include the files of: Ed LaGraize, David Logan, Bud Rich, Ron Webster, and Ken Wood. The majority of engineering files belong to David Logan. Logan joined Gerber Scientific Instrument in 1957 as a project engineer. From 1959 to 1961, he was chief engineer and then became Vice President of Engineering from 1961 to 1963. From 1963 to 1980, Logan served as Senior Vice President of Engineering. He holds several patents, primarily in the field of plotting devices and control systems. The engineering files contain technical memoranda, correspondence, drawings, product literature, trade literature, notes, and drawings.

Series 4, Product Literature, 1953-1996, contains informational sheets for a variety of products available from Gerber Scientific, Inc. and its subsidiary companies. Gerber Scientific Intsrument (GSI) creates designs, manufactures and promotes data reduction equipment of many types. Data reduction equipment allows complex mathematical problems to be solved quickly and accurately. Both analogue and digital systems are offered. The bulk of the product literature falls into the following categories: instruments, data reader systems, recorders, special scanning tables, oscillogram amplitude tabulators, standard system scanners, and plotters. The series is arranged alphabetically by name of product with a few exceptions.

Series 5, Instruction Manuals/User Guides, 1953-1980, undated, is divided into two subseries, Gerber Scientific Instrument Company manuals and other companies’ manuals. This series contains instruction manuals, maintenance manuals, and users’ guides for a variety of Gerber Scientific, Inc. products. The Gerber System Model 1434, Ultra Precise Artwork Generator which provides precision photo-plotting on photo-sensitive material is well represented among the manuals. The other companies represented include Bendix Industrial Controls and the KOH-I-NOOR Rapidograph, Inc.

Series 6, Proposals, 1961-1980, consists of bound certified and signed technical and bid proposals completed by Gerber Scientific Instrument Company detailing available and actual estimated costs and pricing data for Gerber products. The proposals were assembled for specific companies such as North American Aviation.

Series 7, Photographs, 1948-1974, undated, is further divided into three subseries: Product and Client Files, 1966-1974, undated; Gerber Scientific Instrument (Gerber Scientific Intsrument (GSI) Corporate, 1948-1970, undated; and Numerical, 1966-1974, undated photographs. The majority of photographs are 8” x 10” black-and-white prints. The product and client file photographs are arranged alphabetically. The Gerber Scientific Instrument (GSI) corporate photographs include photographs of GSI buildings both interior and exterior shots, employees, employee functions such as banquets, annual meetings, tours, stockholder meetings, and trade shows. The numerical photographs are arranged numerically according to the number assigned on the reverse of the photograph. Some of the numerical photographs are identified by product name, but others are labeled unidentified.

Series 8, Trade Literature, 1947-1992, is arranged alphabetically by company name. The trade literature in this series is from competitors.

Series 9, Press Releases and Newspaper Clippings, 1943-1996, is divided into two subseries, Press Releases, 1972-1982 and Newspaper Clippings, 1943-1996. The press releases are arranged chronologically. This series contains information on H. Joseph Gerber, his company and its subsidiaries, and the garment and apparel industry. The newspaper clippings are arranged chronologically and include a wide variety of local Connecticut and United States newspapers and industry specific magazines such as Bobbin and Apparel Industry.

Series 10, Patent Records, 1911-1985, contains copies of patents, correspondence with patent attorneys and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, patent search results, and other legal filings associated with the patenting process. The materials are arranged chronologically with the name of the equipment or instruments being patented noted.

Series 11, Lectra Systèmes Litigation Materials, 1968-1990, contains documents that mainly deal with Lectra (France), but there are documents about patent infringement for Lectra (Japan) and Lectra (United Kingdom). The materials consist of depositions by David Pearl, then president of Gerber Garment Technology, and David Siegelman, then Vice President and General Manager for Lectra Systèmes, Inc., in the United States. Confidential progress reports, memoranda, correspondence, competition reports, drawings and sketches, notes, and other documents summarize events in the litigation history.

Lectra Systèmes was formed on November 12, 1973 at Bordeaux-Cestas (France) by two visionary engineers, Jean and Bernard Etcheparre. They developed a computer system, the LECteur-TRAceur 200, which automatically calculated and plotted all sizes of an item of apparel. The Lectra Systèmes litigation materials document Gerber Garment Technology’s claim that Lectra infringed upon Gerber’s line of cutting machines. The specific patents being infringed are United States patents: 3,955,458; 4,205,835; and 3,765,289. In September 1986, Lectra introduced a new line of cutting machines that cost roughly half as much as Gerber’s top-of-the-line competing system. Gerber Garment Technology filed suit in the United States and France as Gerber Garment Technology, Inc. v. Lectra Systems, Inc. Civil Action No. 1:86-cv-2054CAM. In 1992, Lectra Systems, Inc., appealled the judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District infringement of Gerber's U.S. Patent No. 3,955,458 ('458 patent) and denied Lectra's claim that Gerber's U.S. Patent No., 4,205,835 ('835 patent) is unenforceable.

Series 12, Audio Visual Materials, 1986-1998, includes 3⁄4” U-matic, 1⁄2” VHS, audio cassettes, BetaCam SP, and one Super 8mm color, silent camera original reversal film. The majority the of audio visual materials cover interviews with H. Joseph Gerber, the National Technology of Medal ceremony, and sales and marketing footage for various Gerber products.

System of arrangement

The records are arranged into twelve series.
Series 1, Personal, 1949-1997
Subseries 1, Biographical Information, 1949-1997
Subseries 2, Correspondence, 1943-1949, 1966, 1985, 1989
Subseries 3, List of Patents, 1951-1995
Subseries 4, Speeches, 1980, 1984, 1986, 1992, 1995, undated
Subseries 5, Awards, 1981-1995
Subseries 6, Photographs, circa 1980s, 1994, undated
Subseries 7, David R. Pearl, 1968-1984
Series 2, Corporate Records, 1968-1999
Subseries 1, Administrative, circa 1977-1995
Subseries 2, Industrial Projects Eligibility Review, undated (contains articles of incorporation for Gerber Scientific)
Subseries 3, Annual Reports, 1968-1999
Subseries 4, Shareholders Reports, 1990-1995, 1997, 1998
Subseries 5, Newsletters, 1969-1996
Subseries 6, New York Stock Exchange, 1980 October
Subseries 7, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), 1983-1992
Subseries 8, Gerber Museum, 1996
Subseries 9: Gerber Scientific Instrument Company binders (empty), undated
Series 3, Engineering Department Records, 1966-1990
Subseries 1, Ed LaGraize’s Files, 1978-1990
Subseries 2, Dave Logan’s Engineering Files, 1966-1990
Subseries 3, Dave Logan’s Competitors Files, 1966-1982
Subseries 4, Bud Rich’s Files, 1967-1980
Subseries 5, Ron Webster’s Files, 1963-1992
Subseries 6, Ken Wood’s Files, 1976-1980
Subseries 7, Ken Wood’s Case Study of Model 1434, 1966-1989
Series 4, Product Literature, 1953-1996
Series 5, Instruction Manuals/User Guides, 1953-1980, undated
Subseries 1, Gerber Scientific Instrument Company, 1953-1979
Subseries 2, Other Companies, 1962, 1980
Series 6, Proposals, 1961-1980
Series 7, Photographs, 1948-1974, undated
Subseries 1, Product and Client Files, 1966-1974, undated
Subseries 2, Gerber Scientific Instrument Corporate, 1948-1970, undated
Subseries 3, Numerical, 1966-1974, undated
Series 8, Trade Literature, 1947-1992
Series 9, Press Releases and Newspaper Clippings, 1943-1998
Subseries 1, Press Releases, 1972-1998
Subseries 2, Newspaper clippings, 1943-1996
Series 10, Patent Records, 1911-1985
Series 11, Lectra Systèmes Litigation Materials, 1968-1990
Series 12, Audio Visual Materials, 1986-1998


3C Computer Control Company
AFTAC Air Force Tactical Command
AVCO Avco Corporation
BPI Bits Per Inch
CAD Computer-Aided Design
CAM Computer-Aided Manufacturing
CAMSCO Camsco, Inc.
CDC Control Data Corporation
CGT Computer Graphics Terminology
CIS Computer Information Systems
CPI Computer Peripherals, Inc.
CRT Cathode-Ray Tube
DMACC Defense Mapping Agency?
DMS Data Management System
DNC Distributed Numerical Control
DV Digital Voltmeter
ETB Engineering Technical Bulletin
FBT Fused Biconic taper (fiber optic connector)?
GA Graphix Advantage 9sign-design software)
GADC Gerber Automatic Digitizer Control
GADT Graphic Arts Data Terminal
GADRS Gerber Analogue Data Reduction System
GCD Gerber Coordinate Digitizer
GCT Gerber Cutting Technology
GDA Gerber Digitizing Accessory
GDDRS Gerber Digital Data Reduction System
GDC Graphic Data Corp.
GDS General Data Stream?
GE General Electric
GGT Gerber Garment Technology, Inc.
GLACD Gerber Large Area Coordinate Digitizer Model
GLF Gerber line Follower
GM General Motors
GO Gerber Optical (lens making)
GOAT Gerber Oscillogram Amplitude Tabulator
GP Gerber Plotter
GPDRS Gerber Projection Data Reduction System
GPTPOD Gerber Paper Tape Punch Output Device
GSC Gerber Systems Corporation (electronics and printing industries)
GSI Gerber Scientific Instrument Co.
GSIC Gerber Scientific Instrument Co.
GSM Gerber Sewing Machine (e.g. GSM-80)
GSP Gerber Scientific Products, Inc. (sign making)
GSS Gerber Symbol Services
GST Gerber Systems Technology, Inc.
HP Hewlett Packard
HIP Human Interface Processor
IDS Interactive Design System
IBM International Business Machines
IME Industria Macchine Elettroniche (a company of the Edison group)
LDI Laser Digital Imaging
LRL Least Recently Loaded?
MSI Medium-Scale Integration (digital/electrical engineering)?
MUTOH Mutoh, Inc. (apparel and sign-making company in Japan)
NASA National Aeronautical and Space Administration
NC Numerical Control
NCR National Cash Register
NEC Nippon Electric Corp.
OEH Optical Exposure Head
OEHF Optical Exposure Head Model F (for flash)
OEHI Optical Exposure Head Model I (for incandescent)
OEHM Optical Exposure Head M 9
OEM Original Equipment Manufacturer
OLF Optical Line Follower
OMR Optical Mark Reader
OMS Operations Management Software
PC Plotting Control
PCN Personal Computer Network
PDI Peripheral Dynamics, Inc.
PG Pattern Generator
PSCB Power Supply Cabinet Model B
PSCD Power Supply Cabinet Model D
PSCF Power Supply Cabinet Model F
PWM Pulse Width Modulation
SCR SCRipt (file extension name)? or Standard Context Routing?
SMD Servo Motor Driver
SSP Storage Service Provider? Service Switching Point?
TRW Thompson Ramo Woolridge
VP Verifier Plotter


Some materials in French, Italian, and Japanese.

Acquisition information

This collection was donated by David Gerber, son of
H. Joseph Gerber, on December 23, 2006.

Related archival materials

Additional materials documenting H. Joseph Gerber in this repository may be found in the following collection: Gerber Fabric Cutter Video Documentation, February 1996 (collection number 609). This videohistory documents the inventor, engineers, assembly workers, operators and other technicians who worked with the computer-controlled fabric cutter.

Access points

Automation -- 1960-1990
Fabric cutters -- 1960-1990
Computerized instruments -- 1960-1990
Machinery -- 1960-1990
Machine-tool industry

LaGraize, Ed
Lectra Systèmes
Logan, David
New York Stock Exchange (NYSE)
Pearl, David R.
Rich, Bud
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
Webster, Ron
Wood, Ken

Business records -- 1950-2000.
Correspondence—20th century
Legal documents
Marketing records




Last Update: 19 Aug 2008

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