Looking Back: The Journal in 1905

The October 2005 issue will mark the Journal of Accountancy’s centennial anniversary—100 years of covering the trends, events and people who breathe life into the profession. In 1905, when the JofA was launched, Teddy Roosevelt was bringing Russia and Japan to the table for peace talks, Albert Einstein was developing his first theory of relativity and the world’s fastest train sped from New York to Chicago in 18 hours. At peace and relatively prosperous, the nation was changing rapidly from an agricultural economy to an industrial one. And the nascent accounting profession was quickly organizing itself to serve the needs of the burgeoning business community.

In October, we’ll celebrate the profession’s accomplishments over the past century and identify key trends that will lead us into the future. In the issues leading up to it, we’ll publish excerpts from past editions that are as interesting and insightful today as when they first appeared.

Here’s one from the inaugural issue in 1905 that provides some food for thought on how the accounting world has changed and how much it has stayed the same.

“W i thin the last decade accountancy has made rapid strides. Several states have formally recognized it as a profession by providing for examinations leading to the degree of certified public accountant. Five of the largest American universities have organized instruction in accountancy. A large number of the most important railroads and industrial corporations subject their books to periodical audit by public accountants. Banks, trust companies and insurance companies have more recently adopted the same plan as a guarantee of security to depositors and policyholders, and the best method of protecting against fraud. Manufacturers are calling upon the public accountant to install cost systems, banks are requiring borrowers to secure accountants’ certificates to the statements submitted as a basis for credit, and states, municipalities and public institutions in constantly increasing numbers are engaging the services of the profession to introduce system and order into their affairs. These indications of the growing appreciation of accountancy are the source of gratification and encouragement to its members; and there is no reason to doubt that they will receive even more substantial recognition in the future.

Looking Back
The Journal in 1905

“Much, however, still remains to be done before accountancy can take the stand on the plane of medicine and law. Every state must grant legal recognition to this new profession, not merely by establishing boards of examination and registration, but by according the recognized public accountants certain privileges and some protection of their relations with their clients. The universities must be brought to a clearer recognition of the importance of accountancy instruction, both as a branch of professional training and as an indispensable element of general education. Other means of education must also be devised for the benefit of those whom circumstances exclude from the advantages of a university education. A body of accountancy literature must be developed. The corporation laws of the United States must be modified to require compulsory audit and publicity of corporate accounts. Above all, the accountants themselves must improve and firmly maintain those standards of professional efficiency and ethics which already exist, and without which the dignity and value of their calling as a learned profession cannot be maintained.

“To the attainment and the realization of these ideals, the Journal of Accountancy will be devoted. Its pages will contain the best thought of the profession on the intricate problems which they are called upon to solve, and will also present the literary work of men eminent in their various branches of business on accountancy subjects…The Journal of Accountancy will represent in the best and broadest sense, the interests of the accountancy profession, and its editors invite and expect in return the co-operation and support of every public accountant in the United States.”


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