Dale Buckmaster UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE
Stuart W. Bruchey. Robert Oliver and Merchantile Bookkeeping in the Early Nineteenth Century (New York: Arno Press, 1976, pp. iii, 120, $10.00).
Reviewed by Robert Bloom The College of William and Mary
Originally an M. A. thesis at John Hopkins University (1946), this book is based on the accounting records and business letters of Robert Oliver, a mercantile capitalist. Bruchey uses Oliver's records and letters as a springboard to illuminate the characteristics of mercantile capitalism and the development of accounting practice in the early 1800s.
Ledgers and journals were prepared by the Oliver family. Bruchey observes that each cargo shipment was recorded in a separate "Adventure" ledger account, an umbrella account which constituted a record of the revenues of the cargo and the costs of the journey, and was subsequently closed to Profit and Loss upon completion of the voyage. Occasionally, Adventure accounts were charged at more-than-cost for goods shipped. Bruchey concludes that ". . . it is conceivable . . . changing prices . . . were used as a guide to the value of goods at time of export." Secondly, perhaps ". . . price information from abroad served as the basis for cost-plus evalua-tions of exportable goods." Additionally, ". . . the answer is to be sought in the consideration that business ties with particular agents or particular supercargoes were stronger and longer than those with others. Long and mutually successfully relations give rise to mutual confidence. In such cases, it may be an invoice written at cost was adjudged no risk."
Ship accounts were also maintained. ". . . the Ship account represented an investment distinct from investments in adventures. The cost of a ship could not logically have been charged to any one Adventure account; a ship was the vehicle for numerous ad-ventures."