The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 19, No. 2 December 1992
Loren A. Wenzel MANKATO STATE UNIVERSITY Stanley D. Tonge UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA - DULUTH
Peter L. McMickle MEMPHIS STATE UNIVERSITY
AN ANALYSIS OF THE TOWN OFFICER (1791-1815): THE EARLIEST AMERICAN TREATISE ON MUNICIPAL ACCOUNTING?
Abstract: Recent research has produced the earliest known treatise on Accounting written by an American. Samuel Freeman's The Town Officer  is significant in that it recommended double-entry fund accounting for municipalities. The paper analyzes and compares Freeman's objectives of "a plain and regular Method" to modern mu-nicipal accounting concepts as articulated by the GASB. Additionally, the entries and the accounts recommended by Freeman are analyzed and compared to modern municipal accounting evidenced in current textbook material. These analyses show The Town Officer to be a significant contribution to accounting literature not only for its 1791 publication date, but also for the similarity of its content to present day municipal accounting objectives and requirements.
Accounting historians have continually searched for the first accounting books published in America. Bentley and Leonard  list William Mitchell's New and Complete System of Bookkeeping by an Improved Method of Double Entry, Phila-delphia, 1796, as the first work on accounting by an American author. Potts [1976, p. 49] identified Mills' 1878 book entitled Public Accounts ... as "The first known American treatise deal-ing with public sector accounting." Recent research [McMickle, Wenzel, and Jensen, 1986] has led to the discovery of The Town Officer, first published by Samuel Freeman in 1791. This previ-ously unrecognized work which predates the aforementioned
The authors thank the two anonymous referees and Leo Ruggle for their helpful comments. We are also grateful to Colin Meier and Dianna Brandenburg for their assistance on this project.