Although 19th century America offers a natural experiment in government accounting practices and voluminous original records still exist, a review of the literature on the period's state and local government accounting finds few secondary articles and almost no contemporary literature before 1875. After that, reformers, decrying the municipal accounting practices of their time, wrote profusely so that some secondary studies of that literature exist. The governmental financial records of the 1800s varied in quality from excellent to scandalous and would, if properly sampled and described, not only fill the gaps in our knowledge of 19th century government accounting and fiscal policy, but would also allow study of the causes and effects of many alternative measurement and reporting structures.

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