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a position of the highest respect in England, on a par with the learned professions of medicine and law.
To secure membership in the Institute of Chartered Accountants, a man must have served an apprenticeship of five years in the office of an established firm of Chartered Accountants, and must pass no less than three distinct educational and technical examinations, involving considerable study and close application on the part of the student. These provisions are excellent; but to those who cannot comply with the educational qualifications, these conditions seem to be unnecessarily harsh.
That is how it came about, some few years after the Institute was formed, that there was born another organization of professional accountants in England called “ The Society of Accountants and Auditors." This society was incorporated under the general laws of Great Britain. It admits to membership men who can pass a pretty stiff technical examination, even if they have not served an apprenticeship of five years.
The Institute and the Society have been in rivalry for years; at some times most bitter, at other times quite friendly. I am pleased to tell you that just now the tone is decidedly amicable.
Members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, and to a certain extent the members of the Incorporated Society, have emigrated from England to all parts of the world and have carried with them the sound accountancy principles and teachings they learned in England. We have several of them in this country and we count them, or some of them, among our brighest lights.
The Second Institute I would invite your attention to is “The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants," a society originally organized in March, 1897, to foster the interests of public accountants in this state.
Among the present qualifications for full membership, an applicant must be a citizen of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and must have passed the examination prescribed by the State Board for the degree of C. P. A., Certified Public Accountant.
The Pennsylvania Institute is affiliated with the American Association of Public Accountants, and under its auspices will be held the Twenty-first Annual Meeting of the National Association, at Atlantic City in October next. There will be a large gathering and big doings.
Some of the members of the Pennsylvania Institute have devoted a great deal of their time to the advancement of accountancy education in this city. In 1901 certain of the members inaugurated a class of students in accountancy and commercial law, and devoted a large part of their leisure to the work of teaching the students, who were, for the most part, young men occupying positions as bookkeepers, cashiers and clerks in Philadelphia business houses, and who had only their evening hours to devote to study.
These classes were held three nights a week in the offices of one of the large firms of accountants, in the Stephen Girard Building, and out of this early effort grew the Evening School of Accounts and Finance of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. What a far-sighted, useful, and unselfish work this was, few of us realize; though we all know that it was the inauguration of a most important educational movement.
The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants is young and has but a comparatively small membership at this time, for the reason that the class from which its members can be recruited is limited to Certified Public Accountants of this State, practicing in this State.
The Institute has still much useful work before it. Monthly meetings are held, except in the summer season, and topics of moment to the profession are discussed.
Coming now much nearer to your own personal interest, I would mention the third and last similar society, namely, “The Institute of Accounts," of New York City, an organization originally formed in May, 1882, as the “ Institute of Accounts and Bookkeepers."
This Institute, unlike the other two previously mentioned societies, is in no sense a professional guild, but is a scientific body. Like your own society, it is a voluntary association of individual accountants, engaged in various walks of life, who are grouped together in one body for mutual advantages, mainly in an educational direction. The scope of the Institute is suggested in the three watchwords that have been chosen to be included in the Seal of the Institute:KNOWLEDGE-EXPERIENCE-INTEGRITY.
The Constitution of the Institute declares that it is devoted to the study of accounting; to broaden the scope of the science of political economy; to secure a proper recognition of accounting; to originate and circulate the literature of accountics; and, in many other useful ways, to advance the science of accounting. The Institute holds regular meetings on the 15th of each month, and boasts—with good cause, it seems to me- of being the oldest organization of accountants in the United States. The usual program of the meetings comprises a brief business session, followed by a lecture on some accounting or financial subject, after which there is usually a discussion on the subject of the lecture.
Its membership comprises, at the present time, about one hundred and thirty-five accountants, some of whom are Certified Public Accountants, the majority, however, being, like yourselves, in salaried positions. The membership is by no means confined to New York, some of its members being scattered throughout the West and South.
That the membership of the Institute appears so small, for the field it covers, is due to the fact that it has been conducted on somewhat exclusive lines, and that, at no time, has the Council let down the bars.
All accountants, in order to gain admission to the Institute, must pass an Entrance Examination as to general fitness and qualifications; while" Fellowship" in the Institute—the highest grade of membership—is only attained after passing a stiff practical and technical examination.
In the old days, before the enactment of state legislation establishing the C. P. A. degree, The Institute of Accounts used to issue engraved certificates to its fellow members, upon their passing the technical examination, granting such Fellows the right to style themselves “Certified Accountants," but of recent years the granting of this title has been discontinued.
It is not at all commonly known that this pre-existing charter right of the Institute, to confer this title, was what led us to adopt the long and clumsy designation of “Certified Public Accountants.” Now, although the Institute has abandoned the issuance of its home-made diplomas, we have to bear up under the burden of a three-word name for the rest of our lives; this for the reason that so many states have secured legislation establishing the designation of C. P. A. that it is now too late to make a change, even if we would.
The Institute of Accounts of New York is reported to be in a healthy condition and I feel sure will be glad to offer the helpful hand to its younger sister in the Keystone State.
The organization of the Institute of Accountants, in New York, has been of much advantage to its individual members, and has doubtless added its influence to the general uplift we have all felt. For all further particulars I would refer you to Colonel Henry Harney, of New York City, who is, and who has been, the President for so many years that the memory of man runneth not to the contrary.
One of the questions which the Council of The Philadelphia Institute of Accounts will have to face at some future time, not far distant, is this: “Shall there be an entrance examination?" Just now the bars are down; the door is wide open; for it is publicly announced that “Membership is open to every person in any way interested."
Another question, which the Council must face at an earlier date, is this: “Shall membership be confined to the male biped ?"
Never before, in the history of education, has there been manifested such eagerness to learn. Realizing, after he has got into business and begun his battle with life, how much he missed, through inattention during his school days, many a young man is now. eager to devote his leisure to study. In other cases opportunities have been lacking—young men have been obliged to earn a living from an early age and their educational shortcomings are no fault of theirs. Many of these are devoting three and four nights a week to class studies, while others are working, even harder, at home, ruining their eyesight and shattering their nerves, in an attempt to better their educational equipment. May success crown their efforts !
After that what comes? Just at this time there is no well recognized diploma which an accountant or bookkeeper in the employ of a financial, mercantile or manufacturing house can secure, and which he can offer to a prospective employer, as a gauge of his efficiency. Business college diplomas are to be had by little boys and young girls, after a few months' schooling, but there is no certificate which can be called “A Man's Size."
This is doubtless one reason why we find so many young men, and some men who are no longer young, studying and planning to take the examination of the Pennsylvania State Board of Examiners of Public Accountants—established by the law of 1899—commonly known as the C. P. A. Examination. A certificate signed by the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is, assuredly, a valuable business asset and is an unimpeachable guarantee of efficiency.
And this seems to lead us, logically enough, to look briefly at what organization has done for those who are engaged in accountancy work in the wider field-I refer to the public accountant.
Twenty, or even twelve years ago, the public accountant was little known in the business community of the United States, and was understood by very few in this country; although, as I have said before, he has been recognized for many years as a professional man in Great Britain. With a few isolated exceptions notably the late John Heins, and the late John W. Francis, both of Philadelphia—there were very few public accountants outside of New York City. In 1887, twenty-one years ago this coming summer, there was organized in Manhattan, and incorporated under New York laws, an association of individuals named “The American Association of Public Accountants."
At first this society seemed to fill all the needs of our profession, for the reason that, while most of the members practiced in New York, an accountant in any part of the country could become a member. A few did.
All the meetings were held in Manhattan (they had to be) and the governing body, called the Board of Trustees, was made up entirely of New York accountants. This condition continued for many years, but was not relished by the long-distance members. The accountant practicing in Oregon or California could not eat the meat and drink the wine served at the annual dinner, held in New York City; but his name was on the list of members, and he held a certificate. He never met his fellow members and knew nothing of their doings; but he paid his dues. There were several times when the old American Association nearly went to pieces. There seemed to be nothing to live for. Briefly statedthere was nothing doing!
In 1896 several of the New York accountants got together and secured the passage of a law at Albany, authorizing the Regents of the University of the State of New York to examine professional accountants and to grant to those who met all requirements a certificate authorizing them to style themselves “Certified Public Accountants," and to use the initial letters C. P. A. after their names.