Horace R. Givens
WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY
PETER DUFF: ACCOUNTANT AND EDUCATOR
Abstract: Peter Duff, an accountant in Pittsburgh, was the author of several books on accounting and also the founder of a school for bookkeepers and accountants in 1840. The Duff school is significant because of its early beginnings and the fact that the school still operates today, having outlived many of its noted com-petitors.
Hard by the south bank of the Allegheny River, in the city of Pittsburgh, stands a multistoried brick and concrete building which houses a number of different proprietory schools of the type com-monly found in most large cities. One of these schools, however, Duff's Business Institute, has a particular interest for students of accounting history. Duff's is the present-day successor to the Accountant's Institute, a school founded in 1840 by the noted ac-counting writer, Peter Duff. Duff's thus antedates the Bryant and Stratton group by some 13 years and can lay strong claim to being the oldest commercial school still in operation.
Peter Duff,1 the founder, was born in the Canadian province of New Brunswick in 1802, the son of a Scottish immigrant farmer. As a young man, he travelled to Edinburgh, Scotland for the purpose of completing his education. On his return trip home, he brought with him a large stock of mercantile goods which he planned to sell in Canada. However, the ship on which he was sailing was wrecked and his goods lost. Duff took the insurance proceeds, bought an-other stock of merchandise and, this time, made the voyage back to Canada without incident. He was able to sell his wares at a good profit in the city of St. John. Because of the success of this venture, Duff decided to enter upon a career as a merchant and importer. By 1835 he was reputed to be one of the most successful business-men in St. John. He owned several warehouses and ships, and had established a reputation for honesty and ability. However, in that same year a major fire in St. John destroyed Duff's warehouses and his inventory and left him bankrupted.
After settling his affairs to the best of his ability, Duff decided to move to the United States and to seek to rebuild his fortunes. On