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In March, 1897, just eleven years ago, my partner, Mr. Ernest Reckitt, and I organized the first State Association of Public Accountants in Chicago. This society still continues and has a large membership. At almost exactly the same time the late Mr. Charles Waldo Haskinis organized a similar society in New York, while my friend, Mr. Joseph Edmund Sterrett, of this city, organized "The Pennsylvania Association of Public Accountants.” Many similar societies sprang up in quick succession, each of them localized in a large city, and, for the most part, incorporated under state laws.
In 1902 all the state societies then organized were invited by the Illinois Association of Public Accountants to send delegates to a Convention at Washington—the National Capital—to discuss plans to form an organization of professional accountants, which should be national in its scope and purposes, and whose method of control should be modeled somewhat upon the federal government of the United States.
The Convention was well attended and was, from the first, enthusiastically in favor of forming just such a federal body as was proposed by the Illinois accountants. As a result there was then formed a body which had in its membership all the state societies then organized except one; which one was not, at that time, invited to join. This federal organization was handicapped with the following name: “The Federation of Societies of Public Accountants in the United States of America.” With your permission, I will refer to it as “The Federation."
Annual conventions were held in Washington and were attended by representative accountants from all sections of the United States, acting as delegates for their respective societies. Under the auspices of the Federation, many new state societies of accountants were formed, and the movement of organization spread all over the country. Repeated assurances have been given to me, in all sections, that the accountants have benefited by this organized movement.
In September, 1904, the Federation invited the professional accountants from every state to join in holding a Congress of Accountants at St. Louis, under the auspices of the World's Fair. The Congress was held and was a great success. Possibly one of the best evidences of this is that the second edition of the Official Record of the Congress, published at one dollar the copy, has been entirely sold out. Present requests for the Record, which is still in demand, cannot be met.
Soon after the holding of the Congress, a movement was set on foot, afterwards successfully carried out, under which The American Association of Public Accountants, organized twentyone years ago, was amalgamated with the Federation, to the end that there should be but one national organization in our profession. The name, the ancient traditions and the membership of the American Association are substantially all that remain of the old order; while the form of government of the Federation has been adopted with only such alterations as became necessary to meet the changed conditions. All the societies affiliated with the Federation joined the American Association, which now numbers seventeen societies in its membership.
One of the chief advantages of the organization of the profession of public accountancy in the United States is being felt in the growing uniformity of accounting methods, of professional standards and of remuneration; while the greatest benefit of all attaches to securing what is substantially uniform state legislation throughout the country.
Over a dozen states have secured the passage of legislation establishing the degree, or professional designation, of “ Certified Public Accountant,” and the rules, established by the several Boards, and the methods of procedure, under which qualifying examinations are held, are substantially uniform, only differing in details.
It is hard to over-estimate the advantages that will accrue to the future generation of Certified Public Accountants through the successful accomplishment of this organization while the profession is still in its infancy.
Pursuing the theme, chosen for this evening's address, I would ask you
What are you going to do in this Institute, now that you have formed it? It will certainly not be, in any sense, a labor union, for the control of wages.
In associating yourselves together as an organized body politic, you have no grievous wrongs to right; there is no national or state legislation that you must secure; no widows or orphans are crying for redress; no relentless war is to be declared against existing conditions. It is not part of the purpose of this Institute to attack the giant monopolies.
I much mistake the purpose, in the minds of the founders of this Institute, if there is any intention of entering into politics, municipal, state or national. The work of the Institute will be more on the academical order, more of an educational institution. It is pointedly announced on the letter paper of the Institute that this is "a serious association, organized for the study, advancement and promulgation of accounting.”
In every way yours is a peaceful mission, looking to the improvement of your own condition—for charity, the greatest of all good works, begins at home. You are organized to help yourselves and to help one another. Each unit of the organization is to help the other units.
It is not given to each one of you to inaugurate a new movement, to inscribe your name in large bold type on the roll of honor. But it is given to each and every one of you to do something for the betterment of your own and your neighbor's welfare.
There is latent, within the mind of each one of you, some useful force, waiting for an opportunity to bloom forth in good work. This useful force may take the form of some bright idea along the line of your own daily work which heretofore may not have been thought out. It may be that you have in mind some quick way of computing interest on an overdue account, or of averaging an account sales. It may be that you have designed some forms, which, with a slight change in the details, could be adopted with marked advantage to other businesses. It may be that you have thought out a form of bills payable book, so arranged that you can post direct to the Ledger, without journalizing; and which will still serve as a maturity Register. Or possibly your form of making up a Balance Sheet, and the order you have adopted of grouping Assets and Liabilities, may be better than anything that has yet appeared.
All these things you will be ready to talk to your fellow members about, as soon as the opportunity affords, and you find your tongues. Many really valuable suggestions are lying dormant in your minds waiting for an opportunity to be born-waiting to be made use of by you, and by others. The organization of “The Philadelphia Institute of Accounts" affords just exactly this opportunity, and it will not be long before many of you will avail yourselves.
Why, gentlemen, we can all learn. It is only the ignoramus who thinks he knows it all. We can learn something from the most stupid " duffer" in the class. Nobody should hesitate an instant to speak his mind. Any idea is better for being ventilated. Let the brothers hear what you have in mind, whatever it is. A vain theory exploded is often very enlightening.
I know that many of you are devoting a great part of your leisure hours to study, in an effort to better your condition, to broaden and deepen your knowledge of the science of accountancy and business management, and in this way to increase the value of your services to your employers.
To all such I wish to extend my most cordial congratulations. In no way can you better increase your value to your employers and ultimately increase your own income than to make yourselves masters of all that appertains to your daily work.
The theoretical knowledge you acquire at the business college or at the Wharton School of Accounts, or by individual study at home, must be supplemented by actual experience in the practice of those theories. And how better shall you acquire that practical experience than by comparing notes with your fellow members in this Institute ?
I am told that the committee has arranged that there shall be lectures periodically and that some of these shall be given by practicing public accountants, men of wide experience. You will have an opportunity to discuss among yourselves the lectures that you hear, and possibly to put the theories to the test.
The ladder of life is crowded at the bottom and each one is trying to elbow his fellows out of the way, that he may gain a foothold for himself. But there is always plenty of room at the top, and the fellows whom you find up there are ready to offer you a helping hand.
There is generally a fair demand for cheap bookkeepers and clerks, at starvation wages, but there is no demand whatever for mediocrity. Our aim should be to excel, to make the goods we have to sell or the services we have to offer the best goods and the best services that the market affords. In this way only can we hope to gain the highest prizes.
The rewards for industry, intelligence, faithfulness and perseverance vary greatly according to circumstances and the faculty for appreciation manifested by employers; but I feel sure that it can fairly be said that adequate remuneration awaits the delivery of services thus characterized.
The future of “The Philadelphia Institute of Accounts” is going to be just what you gentlemen here to-night, and others who shall join hands with you in this good work, shall make it. Your opportunities are great and the usefulness of the Institute will continue just as long as you maintain the attitude of mutual helpfulness, of which I have spoken.
Looking back over a good many years of work, in much this same line of usefulness, I am able to peer into the future on your behalf and see for you many useful deeds unselfishly done for the good of all; many cares and tribulations for some of you; periods of inertia, periods of excitement, periods of change, and, maybe, periods of conflict.
Some of you will drop out, for one cause or another; some of you will be called away; many of you, I hope, will endure; and those of you who shall meet together, here in the city of Philadelphia, in ten years' time will, I am sure, say that much good has been accomplished by “ The Philadelphia Institute of Accounts."
Firm Changes. Lybrand, Ross Bros. & Montgomery, formerly located at 43 Exchange Place, New York, have removed to 165 Broadway, New York City.
Mr. Raymond G. Cranch, C. P. A., has opened an office at 1505 Arch Street, Philadelphia, and intends to give special attention to the investigation of investment propositions.
Walter V. Buck, formerly Philadelphia manager of the Audit Company of New York, has become a member of the firm of Stone, Latham & Company, of New York, public accountants.
Mr. H. C. Whitehead announces his permanent location for the practice of public accountancy from May 1, 1908, 206 La Salle Street, (Corn Exchange Bank Building), Chicago, Illinois. He will act as the Chicago correspondent of Touche, Niven & Company.
Touche Niven & Company announce the inauguration of a Production Costs Department, which will be in charge of Mr. Ellsworth M. Taylor.