January 18, 2019

#TBT: What a Competent American Accountant Made in 1910

Since you guys care so much about salaries, let's talk about what the average accountant made in the year 1910. This was before the The American Association of Public Accountants (AAPA) changed its name to The American Institute of Accountants, which would become the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in 1957.

From this pretty interesting 200 year history of accounting:

In 1910 the average life expectancy for men was 47 years. Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub. Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone. There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles of paved roads. The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph. The average U.S. wage was 22 cents per hour. The average U.S. worker made between $200 and $400 per year. A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year (That's about $48,544 in 2012 dollars).

This Milwaukee brothel ledger shows us how accounting — at least for hookers — looked back then:

Does that say Listerine? Never mind. (You'll note, however, that Listerine wasn't always used the way we used it today)

While we're comparing, the average banker made $7,700 in 1910, with the average lawyer pulling in $4,100, according to Neil Wynn's From Progressivism to Prosperity. The book says that the average wage for an accountant in 1913 was $30 a week. By comparison, Henry Ford paid his factory workers $5 a week the following year. What the gap is between the "average" accountant and the "competent" one making $2000 a year is unclear.

I'm not sure if any of those facts are supposed to make you feel better or worse, I'll leave that to you.

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