We’ve all heard more than our share of jokes about accountants, suggesting without much subtlety that we’re a pretty boring group. For example: “Why did the accountant cross the road? Because he looked in the file and then repeated what was done last year.” LOL? Not so much.
The reality is that accountants are a pretty cool bunch who have, over the years, contributed a whole lot more to society than just the double-entry bookkeeping system. So, on this International Accounting Day, let’s pay tribute to a few of the unsung members of our noble, if nerdy, profession. Hats off to:
1. Matthaeus Schwartz, the Accountant Who Invented Fashion: The first fashion magazine ever published is generally believed to be Le Mercure Galant, first published in Paris in the 1670s. But over 100 years before that, Italian-born accountant Matthaeus Schwartz blazed the trail, publishing the first known fashion book ever, comprised of 137 water color paintings of his own outfits from all periods of his life. Schwartz worked for the Fugger family, German merchants who were among the wealthiest European families of the time. He was a fashion innovator who pushed the conventions of appropriate dress to their limits, both to satisfy his own tastes and to obtain social and political prestige. It worked—he was made a noble in 1541. We’re guessing he did not own even a single pocket protector.
2. Walter Diemer, the Accountant Who Invented Bubble Gum: Philadelphia-born Walter Diemer was an accountant at Fleer, a U.S.-based chewing gum manufacturer. Occasionally, to take a break from crunching numbers, Diemer liked to experiment with gum innovations on the factory floor. One day he stumbled on a recipe for a gum that could be blown into bubbles and didn’t stick to the face. How it occurred to Diemer to even try blowing bubbles we don’t know, but clearly he was in no hurry to get back to his ledgers. He colored the gum pink because red was the only food coloring on hand (most bubble gums are pink to this day as a result), packaged a trial run using a taffy machine, taught the salesmen how to blow bubbles, and helped his company realize sales of the new product, Dubble Bubble, in excess of 1.5 million dollars in year one. Go, Walter! Way to both create the profits and tally them.
3. Kenny G., Already cool and Still Decided to be an Accountant: Jazz musician Kenny G. had established a national reputation and was touring professionally when he decided to go back to school at the University of Washington and earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He graduated magna cum laude and speaks highly of the skills he gained in understanding his own finances and managing his investments. Plus, if playing smooth jazz to adoring crowds worldwide ever loses its appeal, he has a really cool career to fall back on.
4. Gwen Jorgensen, the Accountant Who Won Olympic Gold in 2016: Gwen Jorgensen was on staff in the tax department at Ernst & Young’s Milwaukee office when she took up serious training for triathlon competitions. She ultimately took a leave of absence from her accounting job to train full time and saw that hard work pay off in the form of Olympic gold at the 2016 Games in Brazil. Jorgensen says accounting taught her lessons that pay off in triathlon too: don’t procrastinate, be flexible, and invest fully in your work. All tax accountants may feel like they’ve run a marathon every spring, but here’s to one who literally does—better than anybody.
So the next time someone tells you a “boring accountant” joke, think of the cool company you’re keeping and stand proud. And while we’re at it, hats off to you, accountants everywhere. From keeping our clients on the right side of the tax code to ensuring their reporting is accurate to – well, sure, inventing bubble gum, it turns out we’re pretty awesome.
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Happy International Accounting Day!