Haskins & Sells
Haskins & Sells, 37 W. 39th St. (2003)

1895     BUILDING     1920
Haskins & Sells

The company was founded in 1895. They moved to this building in 1920. Haskins & Sells is cited in Thomas A. King's More Than a Numbers Game: A Brief History of Accounting (2006) as "the first auditing firm founded by American accountants."

The founders were Charles Waldo Haskins (1852-1903) and Elijah Watt Sells (1858-1924). Haskins was born in Brooklyn. His uncle was the famous Ralph Waldo Emerson, and his father was Waldo Emerson Haskins, a New York banker & broker. Charles W. Haskins set up his own accounting business in 1886. His entry in Who's Who in America, 1901, reads, "Haskins, Charles Waldo, public accountant; b. Brooklyn, N. Y., Jan. 11, 1852; s. Waldo Emerson H.; ed. public schools and Polytechnic Inst., Brooklyn; m. 1884, Henrietta Sherman, d. Albert H. Havemeyer. Expert under joint comm'n, 53d Congress, to revise methods of business exec. depts. of the U. S., 1893-5; dean New York Univ. School of Commerce, Accounts and Finance, since 1900 ... Has written many papers on accountancy, published by learned socs. and others. Residence: 317 W. 14th St. Office: 30 Broad St., New York."

Haskins' obituary in the New York Times (10 Jan. 1903, p. 9) reads in part, "He was graduated from the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute in 1867 and he completed his studies in Paris. Early in his career he became a professional accountant, and he had the supervision of the accounts of the West Shore Railway when that line was building... In 1893 Mr. Haskins and his partner, Edgar W. Sells, were experts appointed under the Joint Commission of the Fifty-third Congress to revise the accounting system of the United States... He was instrumental largely in 1896 in the passage of an act regulating the profession of public accountant and prescribing a Board of Examiners to be appointed by the Regents of the University of the State of New York, and he became president of the board. Later he founded the School of Commerce of New York University."

Elijah Watt Sells was born in Muscatine, Iowa. He attended Baker University (in Baldwin City, Kansas) but left at age 16 to become a station agent for the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad. He then worked nearly 20 years as bookkeeper and accountant for numerous railroads. His obituary in the New York Times (20 Mar. 1924, p. 19) reads in part, "Mr. Sells was born in Muscatine, Iowa, on March 1, 1858, the son of Elijah Sells, at various times Secretary of the State of Iowa and Auditor of the Treasury Department under President Lincoln... His early accounting experience was gained in connection with various railroad lines as general bookkeeper and traveling auditor. In 1892 Mr. Sells joined the late Charles Waldo Haskins in effecting, under the auspices of a joint commission of the Fifty-third Congress, a revision of the accounting system of the United States Government... In 1895 Mr. Sells entered into co-partnership with Mr. Haskins, as Haskins & Sells, certified public accountants, now with offices in nearly all the principal cities of the United States and in Havana, London, Paris and Shanghai. Following the death of Mr. Haskins in 1903, Mr. Sells was head of the firm and took an active part in its management until a few months ago... Mr. Sells was one of the pioneers of the accountancy profession." A photo of Elijah Watt Sells was included in the publication Empire State Notables, New York, H. Stafford, 1914.

Waldo Emerson Haskins is listed in the U. S. Census of 1870 living at 44 W. 12th St., Manhattan. He is a broker, 41 years old and is living with his wife, Amalia, 39, and two children: Emma, 21, and Charles, 18, both born New York. Charles's occupation is given as clerk. Charles W. Haskins first appears in New York City directories in 1879, where he, like his father, is employed as a broker at 6 Exchange Court and is living at 44 W. 12th St.

Elijah W. Sells is listed in the U. S. Census of 1880 living at 50 Locust St., Dubuque, Iowa. He is 22 years old, and his occupation is "Clerk in R. R." He is the son of Isabell Sells, 59, born Iowa, and he has a sister Lucy E. Sells, age 25. His entries in New York City directories begin in 1896. In this issue he and Charles W. Haskins appear as public accountants, with their business located at 2 Nassau St. The New York telephone directory of 1896 lists "Haskins & Sells Accountants," located at 30 Broad St. The telephone number was Broad 1352.

Haskins & Sells continued at 30 Broad St. until 1920, when their executive offices moved to 37 W. 39th St. The 30 Broad St. location was retained as the location of practice offices. In 1930 the firm left both locations and opened offices at 15 Broad St. and 75 E. 45th St.

In 1952 agreement was reached "to merge the businesses of Deloitte, Plender, Griffiths & Co. with Haskins & Sells in the U. S., under the name Deloitte Haskins & Sells." This quote is from the current (Jan. 2008) Deloitte website. An involved timeline of mergers, name changes, etc. can be found at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. In the Manhattan telephone directory Haskins & Sells continued to be listed until 1978, when the entry became Haskins & Sells See Deloitte Haskins & Sells 1114 Avenue Americas 790-0500.

The architect of 37 W. 39th St. was German-born Frederick Charles Zobel (1873-1943). Notice of his death appeared in the New York Times 21 Nov. 1943, p. 56, stating "Mr. Zobel, who is credited with designing several features of skyscraper construction, worked in New York from 1890 to 1922, erecting commercial structures." Emporis.com lists 17 New York buildings designed by Zobel between 1907 and 1917, but 37 W. 39th St. is not in the list. Two that are in the list, however, (featured here for a number of signs) are 102 Madison Ave. and 141 W. 28th St.

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