Julia Grant, Ed., The New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants: Foundation for a Profession (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1995, 302 pp., $55).
Reviewed by Mary E. Harston St. Mary's University, San Antonio, Texas
Researchers and students of accounting history frequently spend considerable time sifting through practitioner journal articles to find sources discussing their particular topic of interest. Grant has assisted those exploring the early history of both the New York and United States (U.S.) accounting profession by compiling a series of articles from 1949 to 1972 from the New York Certified Public Accountant. Because many of the early leaders of the U.S. accounting profession resided and practiced in New York, the material in this book should be of interest to anyone investigating the evolution of the accounting profession in the U.S.
These articles provide clues as to how the nascent profession pursued a "professional identity" both among competitive members within the profession and in a broader sense with the public [Grant, p. xi] . Specifically, the chapters discuss the development of public accounting in New York at the turn of the twentieth century, the accounting educational process, the beginnings of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants (NYSSCPA), and biographies of many accounting leaders practicing during the first half of the twentieth century. With the exception of the biographies, the Committee on History of the NYSSCPA receives credit for authorship. When known, individual authors are noted in an appendix.
The first chapter on the "History of the Profession," assists the researcher in understanding the context of the times by relating anecdotal experiences that portray the personal convictions of the profession's early leaders. The chapter starts with a brief history of the "Early Development of Accountancy in New York State" [pp. 5-14] that intertwines the history of the accounting profession in New York with that of the U.S. accounting profession. The first section is followed by a discussion of "Is Accounting History Important" [pp. 15-20] that probably should be presented as the introduction to Chapter 1. This second section provides not only a framework for the rest of the book, but an excellent bibliography for researchers studying this period of accounting history. The anecdotes, found in the following sections "Public Accountants Practicing in Syracuse, New York, Before 1900" [pp. 21-26] and "Early Accounting Firms in New York City" [pp. 27-45], illustrate the profession's emphasis on personal character and reputation. The articles not only give a brief chronological history of the individual or firm, but describe the type of work performed, the positions held by individuals in existing professional accounting associations and, most important, the perceived reputations of the practitioners and firms. …