Friday, May 16, 2014

New acquisition: Cash Book of William Coombs Thompson

This beautifully bound cash book provides a glimpse into the daily activities of William Coombs Thompson (1802-1877). Thompson, who read law in Boston and then spent his later years in Worcester, practiced for the bulk of his career as a lawyer in Plymouth, New Hampshire. That's where he was working during the almost five-year period covered by this book (March 1833-December 1837).  Reading the entries feels like time-traveling back to the 19th century.  There's the expected income from clients for drafting and serving writs and preparing deeds, but there are also expenses for bushels of oats, loaves of sugar, and apples (for his horse?).  His entries in the debit column for March 30, 1833 include an expense for powder & shot!

As you can see from the attached image, the book is arranged with credits on the left side and debits on the right. If I'm correctly understanding his system (by no means a given), Thompson used the terms in way we think of them now when looking at a bank statement--credits are money received (left) and debits are payments made (right).  This seems unusual to me, as I believe the terms are used in the opposite way in traditional accounting/bookkeeping speak. Traditional bookkeeping also typically puts debits on the left and credits on the right.  Corrections and clarifications from those more knowledgeable than me are always welcome!

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