As editors of the JofA, we know it’s our job to educate and amuse and engage our readers. But every so often, it’s you who educate and engage us.
Imagine our delight when a reader not only remembered the JofA is about to celebrate its 100th birthday, but took the time to research its history and share some of what it has meant to her. Our thanks to Roberta Humphrey and to all our readers for sustaining the JofA with their insights and feedback and good will for the past 100 years.
Several sources reveal the story of the magazine’s unique creation: The JofA ’s predecessor was The Auditor, an Illinois CPA society publication that began in 1904 and was the first expressly designed for professional accountants. Although Illinois CPAs were its primary audience, it quickly gained popularity at the national level, giving birth to the idea for the JofA . Robert Montgomery, then secretary of the Federation of Societies of Public Accountants (FSPA), is credited with starting the JofA . With minimal funds and no editorial staff at the FSPA, the Accountancy Publishing Company was formed with the FSPA and the Illinois CPA Society as the only common stockholders. Cash was generated by selling preferred stock to the organization’s members. Even the JofA ’s first coeditors received compensation in preferred stock instead of cash.
The Auditor ceased publication in 1905, and the Journal of Accountancy assumed its publication rights and subscription list. With its debut in November 1905, the JofA became the first national journal for professional accountants in the United States.
The first JofA had 98 pages of content, 14 of advertisements and four feature articles. The premiere issue included a “Book Department” and a “Notes From Correspondents” section recapping state society events and state accounting legislation for ten states. It also summarized the most recent annual meeting of the American Association of Public Accountants and published the names of all 601 AAPA members. The list showed nearly 64% of AAPA members were CPAs at a point when only seven states licensed CPAs.
The editorial section explained the JofA ’s purpose and scope, discussing how the need for and recognition of accountants had increased at an enormous rate. States were beginning to establish the CPA designation, and universities were beginning accountancy programs. Based on these occurrences, the accounting profession had four objectives: to be recognized as a learned profession, to establish a body of accounting literature, to establish a legal requirement that all publicly traded companies be audited and to help establish and foster high standards of efficiency and ethics in the profession. The JofA staff planned to support these objectives by presenting articles demonstrating professional thought and broad interest, including solutions to many contemporary accounting problems.
The first JofA requested the accountants’ help, for without their support it would not be effective. Accountants were asked to subscribe, to help promote the JofA and to provide suggestions.
The JofA ’s feature articles have always been the nucleus of the publication. The first issue contained four feature articles that analyzed subjects of high interest in 1905; parts of each article could easily appear in the JofA today. “Education and Training of a Certified Public Accountant” by J. E. Sterrett stressed an accountant was more than a mere bookkeeper. He was the best person to interpret financial statements and give advice. “Duties and Responsibilities of the Public Accountant with regard to New Issues of Stocks and Bonds” by Arthur Lowes Dickinson called for a requirement that prospectuses include a CPA’s certification of the presented earnings and financial position and correctly disclose pertinent information to the investor. “Professional Standards, A Plea for Co-operation among Accountants” by Robert H. Montgomery indicated 1905 U.S. accountants passionately debated the need for professional standards and called for the creation of a professional ethics code. “The Scope of the Profession of Accountancy” by F.A. Cleveland stated that financial information was an integral component of running a successful business. The movement from small, closely supervised businesses to large companies with remote ownership created a need for highly specialized accounting professionals.
At any birthday celebration, it is always interesting to look back at the past. A review of the beginnings of the JofA lends some insight into the 1905 accounting environment. The most surprising finding is that some of those major issues, such as professional standards and ethics, are still germane in 2005. Maybe the old adage is true—the more things change, the more things stay the same. Happy 100th birthday, JofA !