Several authors have suggested that a particular managerial component was needed before cost accounting could be fully used for accountability and disciplinary purposes. They argue that the marriage of managerialism and accounting first occurred in the United States at the Springfield Armory after 1840. They generally downplay the quality and usefulness of cost accounting at the New England textile mills before that time and call for a re-examination of original mill records from a disciplinary perspective.

This paper reports the results of such a re-examination. It initially describes the social and economic environment of U.S. textile manufacturing in New England in the early nineteenth century. Selected cost memos and reports are described and analyzed to indicate the nature and scope of costing undertaken at the mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, in the late 1820s and early 1830s. The paper discusses how particular cost information was used and speculates why certain more modern procedures were not adopted. Its major finding is that cost management practices fully measured up to the business complexities, economic pressures, and social forces of the day.

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