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Beginnings

The Roots of the Profession

Haskins, Sells and the Dockery Commission

In 1893, with the United States in an economic decline, government inefficiency became a target of public concern. Representative A. M. Dockery (R-MO) appointed two accountants to investigate: Charles Haskins and Elijah Watt Sells. During the next two years, Sells and Haskins transformed how the U.S. government did business. Department by department, they found ways to simplify work and increase efficiency. Altogether, their recommendations saved the government $600,000 a year while improving work quality. On March 4, 1895, the two opened offices in New York City offering accounting services to the public. In time, Haskins & Sells opened successful offices in Chicago and London and helped lead a young profession to maturity.

Deloitte, Touche and the Development of Modern Accounting

In England, the Industrial Revolution spawned a new type of enterprise that raised capital by selling equity to the public. The Great Western Railway (GWR) was one of the most famous of these early "joint stock companies." When its stock price slumped in 1849, GWR turned to an independent public accountant, William Welch Deloitte, to audit the company. The experience was so valuable that GWR directors recommended compulsory independent oversight. This recommendation was gradually implemented in England, but 84 years passed before the United States adopted the practice. The boom in joint stock companies created demand for people skilled at understanding and solving complex business problems. George A. Touche, a Scotsman, established a London-based accounting company in 1898 to help meet that demand. Two years later, he followed the flow of British capital to the United States, establishing the first U.S. office of Touche, Niven & Company.

 

Forward to: 1900-1930

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