The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 12, No. 1 Spring 1985
J. M. Samuels
UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND
THE 1904 CONGRESS OF ACCOUNTANTS: NATIONAL OR INTERNATIONAL?
Abstract: The international accounting congresses, which are held every five years, are numbered under the assumption that the first such international gather-ing was the one held in St. Louis in 1904. In this paper, the question is raised whether this 1904 Congress should be called "international". There are reasons to believe that the main objective of the congress was to raise the status of the profession in the United States, and that the slight international involvement was little more than window dressing.
The 1904 Congress of Accountants, held in the United States at St. Louis, Missouri, is usually credited with being the first interna-tional accounting congress. It is certainly treated as the first, from the point of view of numbering subsequent congresses. It is viewed as an important stage in the recognition of the international aspects of accounting.1 There is, however, doubt whether its organizers ever saw it as an important international event, and whether the international aspects of the Congress were more than window dressing for domestic consumption.
The public accounting profession in the United States only began to develop at the end of the nineteenth century. The 1904 Congress was organized under the auspices of the Federation of Societies of Public Accountants. This body was founded in 1902 and was far from being the only professional accounting body in the United States at that time. There was considerable competition among the different bodies, and the 1904 Congress was designed to raise the status of the Federation in the United States. An invitation to send representatives, addressed to a few professional bodies in foreign countries, can be seen as an attempt to give the Congress and the Federation added prestige.