Paving the Way for the NYSSCPA: The Institute of Accounts

Article excerpt

Editor's Note: 1997 marks the 100th anniversary of the incorporation and founding of the New York State Society of CPAs, the first state society of CPAs. The following provides additional background into the formation of that society and the profession as it is known in the United States today.]

There were many accounting and bookkeeping organizations in the United States during the 1890s; most of these organizations were little more than trade guilds or benevolent organizations. Shortly after the passage of the first CPA law in 1896, a need developed for an organization comprised solely of CPAs; thus, the first organization in the U.S. to require a CPA for joining the club was established in January 1897-the NYSSCPA. The Institute of Accounts appears to have been instrumental in the formation of the society: Four of the five original incorporators (Henry Harney, FJ. MacRae, S.E. Sargent, John Hourigan) as well as the first president (Charles Haskins) and vice-president (John Hourigan) were key members of the institute. For the first few years, many of the important players remained active in both societies. In addition, two of the first three members of the New York State Regents Board of Examiners (Charles E. Sprague and Charles W. Haskins) were members of both organizations. All three examiners from July 1899 to June 1900 were members of the NYSSCPA and the institute (Haskins, Loomis, Kittredge). The two organizations worked in harmony, and the society was strongly supported in Accountics, the official journal of the institute. The Institute of Accounts

The organization, "The Institute of Accountants and Bookkeepers of the City of New York," whose name was officially changed in 1886 to "Institute of Accounts," should not be confused with the American Institute of Accountants which was the predecessor of the AICPA. The formation of the Institute of Accounts, established 15 years before the organization of the NYSSCPA, was one of the earliest recorded efforts to establish the accounting profession in the U.S.

The establishment of the Institute had been advocated and promoted by editorials in The Book-Keeper, the oldest accounting journal in the U.S., first published in 1880. The constant letters and editorial calls in The Book-Keeper were an indication of the need for an organization of accountants and bookkeepers in the country's largest city, New York, during the latter part of the 19th century.

The first meeting with the goal of forming an organization of accountants and bookkeepers in New York was held April 11, 1882, at the Astor House. A complete report on the meeting was printed in The Book-Keeper on May 9, 1882. A committee consisting of Thomas B. Conant, Edward T. Cockey, and Selden R. Hopkins was appointed and charged with setting forth the prospectus and objectives of the association. The committee presented six objectives for such an association including elevating the moral and intellectual status of each and every member of the profession, advocating the proficiency of its members, and serving as a mutual organization providing death and sickness benefits to its members.

With these objectives, the committee as reported in the same issue of The Book-Keeper, believed that the institute's name would become "synonymous with professional skill and practical proficiency." The institute considered itself an educational and professional organization guided by the motto, knowledge, experience, and integrity. The institute was officially incorporated on July 28, 1882, and Selden R. Hopkins, the editor of The Book-Keeper, who had so zealously pursued its formation in his journal, was credited for it.

To become a member, an applicant needed practical experience as a bookkeeper or an understanding of accounting, and had to pass an examination before a committee appointed by the institute not only as to his knowledge of accounts, but also as to his moral standing and integrity in the community. …