Accounting historians have not yet realized that there existed another complete accounting system before the formation of the modern accounting system of today which Johnson and Kaplan's Relevance Lost characterizes by the “integration” of cost and financial accounts supported by “inventory costing.” In that earlier accounting system, cost and profit calculations were made in a past particular ledger account or accounts, namely trading account(s), where accounting practices opposed to “inventory costing” and “integration” were used. The historical existence of that accounting system is overlooked by accounting historians. The example of the old Du Pont Company (DPC) this paper presents will bring it to light.

Cost and profit calculation were made in four trading accounts in the double-entry ledger at the old DPC as it was purchased by the new DPC in 1902. One of its trading accounts dated back to 1804 when the old DPC started production of gunpowder. Early cost and profit calculations in that trading account were examined by the new DPC's staff in the early 1940s. They prepared schedules showing the cost data, sales revenues, and profit measurement recorded in the early trading account. These schedules give evidence that the old DPC recorded the costs incurred and used the cost data to compute profit for financial accounting purposes, but in different ways from today's “inventory costing” and “integration.” This old DPC's accounting system resulted from the application of the double-entry system to industrial accounting and was in use throughout the nineteenth century. By revealing the historical existence of that overlooked accounting system, this paper will show that accounting history may be described as evolution of the traditional accounting system made through double-entry bookkeeping in which the trading account was of vital importance and the transition from that traditional accounting system to the modern integrated accounting system supported by inventory costing.

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