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PricewaterhouseCoopers Donates Accounting Archives to Columbia

By Ulrika Brand

From the PricewaterhouseCoopers archives: Columbia's first accounting professor, Robert H. Montgomery, seated second from left in this photo of the First International Congress of Accountants in St. Louis, 1904.

PricewaterhouseCoopers has donated to Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library the archives of its two predecessor firms, Price Waterhouse (founded in 1890) and Coopers & Lybrand (founded in 1898 as Lybrand, Ross Bros. & Montgomery). This addition to Columbia's already significant holdings on the subject will create one of the nation's largest accounting archives.

The gift consists of about 160 boxes of material relating to the history of the firm, including photographs, printed materials, business papers and clippings that document the activities of the firms and their partners. Many of the Coopers & Lybrand papers were created by a partner, George O. May, who wrote extensively on the history of his profession. The gift will include a $100,000 stipend to be used to archive, maintain and create an online search aid for the collection.

Samuel A. DiPiazza, Jr., PricewaterhouseCoopers' U.S. chairman and senior partner, announced the gift. "We felt that Columbia's Rare Book and Manuscript Library was the right place to house our archives," he said. "We consider it a jewel of a library, and it has a collection that already includes material from Robert H. Montgomery, one of the founding partners of Coopers & Lybrand, as well as archives of other major American companies, such as Random House and W.R. Grace and Company."

Jean Ashton, director of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, said, "We are delighted that PricewaterhouseCoopers has generously bestowed this major gift. It will be a tremendous resource to scholars of business history and will significantly augment our holdings on the subject. It complements our collection of books on the history of accountancy, including manuscripts and ledgers, donated in 1926 by professor Montgomery, and results in one of the largest accounting archives in the country."

Montgomery taught the first course in accounting at Columbia in 1910 and became a full professor in 1919. The materials from the Montgomery collection were featured in a 1987 Rare Book and Manuscript exhibit entitled "The Origins of a Great Profession."

Stephen Penman, George O. May Professor of Business at the Business School, said, "The accounting profession is changing dramatically at this moment. This archive documenting the history of these two major accounting firms will be of great value not only to academics and researchers, but also to journalists exploring the standards of the accounting profession and historical development of those standards over the years."

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library, on the 6th floor of Butler Library, is home to more than 600,000 rare books in some 20 book collections and 26 million manuscript items. A series of exhibitions feature special collections throughout the year and are open to the public Monday, 12:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. The public may call 212-854-5153 for information on current exhibitions.

PricewaterhouseCoopers is the world's largest professional services organization, with a staff of 150,000 in 150 countries.

Published: Oct 20, 2000
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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