chapter  Chapter 3
13 Pages

Accounting Practice at the Turn of the Century

ByStephen A. Zeff

Profound economic and social changes were taking place in the United States. The country had emerged from the Civil War with a predominantly agricultural economy. The transcontinental railroads had been completed only a few years after the war. The industrial development, however, was marred by financial abuses. Over-capitalization and speculation in the securities markets caused panics in 1873 and 1893. Watered stocks of railroads became a national scandal. Monopolistic tendencies provoked concern. And exploitation of the working class brought on the labor unions and the first big, violent strikes. Advertisements by accountants of the late nineteenth century reflect one type of accounting service in that time. Bankers usually employed accounting firms to make examinations and reports on the financial condition and earnings. The chartered accountants were self-confident, since they knew their jobs; they were articulate, and were generally well educated.