The Accounting Historians Journal Vol. 14, No. 2 Fall 1987
Harry T. Magill ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
A COMMENTARY ON CPAs IN 1908
The editors of the Journal have chosen in this issue to reprint the comments of two distinguished speakers on the occasion of the annual meeting of The American Association of Public Accountants at the time of that organization's coming of age — its 21st birthday in 1908. Not coincidently this present year of 1987 represents the 100th birthday of the Association, and thus also of the organized profession of public accountancy in the United States.
The Association, of course, was a predecessor of the Ameri-can Institute of Certified Public Accountants, which now repre-sents the bulk of CPAs in the United States in all of the manifold areas of practice. One of the first and major ac-complishments of the new organization was to legitimize its claims to professional status for accountants by persuading the legislature of New York in 1896 to pass a bill "To regulate the profession of public accountants," the first such statute in this country.
Mr. Thos. Cullen Roberts, Secretary of the Association in 1908, and the first speaker, devoted his time to a recounting of the trials, the tribulations, and ultimately the accomplish-ments of the new organization and the men who created it. The Association attained success in obtaining legal recognition through the passage of the New York "C.P.A. Act," suffered failure in trying to establish an institution of higher education for accountants, and along the way experienced some difficulty in attracting and keeping Association members. (At the time of the first annual meeting in 1889, eighteen of the then thirty-two members were in arrears with the payment of their dues.) High ideals motivated the organizers, forming, as they did, "a society or guild for .... mutual benefit and advantage .... by compelling the observance of strict rules of conduct .... and by establishing a high standard of professional attainments . . . . " Mr. Roberts ended with a perhaps overly rose-colored rememberance that during his tenure as Secretary "all mem-bers work(ed) together in perfect harmony."