The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 9, No. 2 Fall 1982
Hugh P. Hughes
GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY
SOME CONTRIBUTIONS OF AND SOME CONTROVERSIES SURROUNDING THOMAS JONES AND BENJAMIN FRANKLIN FOSTER
Abstract: Thomas Jones and Benjamin Franklin Foster were two early American accounting textbook authors and teachers. Their careers, spanning the middle of the nineteenth century, occurred during a time of relatively little professional ac-tivity and interchange—causing their achievements to appear even more note-worthy. While Jones did not originate the proprietary theory, he was an early advocate of financial statements and not ledger balances as the culmination of bookkeeping. While Foster appears to have made little original contribution, the wide use of his texts appears to have encouraged greater reliance on a theoretical understanding of bookkeeping.
This study describes some accounting contributions of and some controversies surrounding two early American authors and teachers —Thomas Jones (1804-1889) and Benjamin Franklin Foster (1803-1859).1 They were contemporaries and knew each other, Foster having been a teacher in a New York commercial school for about three years of which Jones was director.2 Even by current publica-tion standards, they would be considered prolific authors. Jones' various accounting books bear copyright dates from 1841 to 1875, and Foster's accounting works alone (he also wrote texts on pen-manship and aspects of commercial law) extend from 1836 to 1893.3 Before analyzing their major accounting writings, the accounting and business environment in which they practiced and taught is described.
The Accounting Environment of the United States, 1830-1880
During the time encompassing the careers of Jones and Foster, little professional activity of development occurred in accounting. Movement toward the formation of an American accounting pro-fession was just beginning, in fact, as Jones' career was ending. By way of comparison, three years before Jones died in his mid-eighties, James Anyon, then a young employee and later a partner