19. April 2009 · Comments Off on eBay Watch: The Accountant’s Glove (1912?) · Categories: Archive 2009

With tax day behind us, I’m crossing over a bit into unchartered waters with this edition of eBay Watch.  Up for auction this week is an early 20th-century baseball glove described to have belonged to a gent named William Andrew Paton, a University of Michigan student, professor, and later, pioneer in the fielding of accounting:

imageAs for the glove itself, here’s a description of some of the markings that may help determine its value:

Here is what I can make out – model appears to be D-53. The ‘D’ is clear and the 53 is there but you have to have turn the glove just right to see it. Above the ‘53’, it appears there is an ‘X’ symbol, possibly 2 baseball bats crossed in an X formation??? While the button is significantly worn, I can make out a large S on one side, very similar to the orientation of the very old Spalding logo. Unfortunately, that’s about all I can decipher from the markings.

I have no clue how much these things fetch, and the markings don’t do much for me. 

The appeal of this item from my perspective is not the age or style of the glove, but the possible owner who’s name appears to be stamped inside: W.A. Paton.

Paton enrolled at Michigan in 1912 after starting undergrad work at Michigan Normal (later EMU) and eventually received a Ph.D in economics in 1917.   He also started his teaching career during this stretch, launching a remarkable post-graduate career.  To this day some refer to Paton as the father of modern accounting.

When Paton died in 1991 folks around the world read his obituary in the New York Times.  The most comprehensive online bio of the man appears ironically on this Ohio State University site and includes a wonderful run-down of the honors Paton received including a building bearing his name on the Michigan campus:

Among the many honors bestowed upon him are the AICPA’s Gold Medal Award (1944), Alpha Kappa Psi Foundation Accounting Award (1953), and the Michigan Association of CPAs’ first Distinguished Service Award. In 1961 the Michigan Association of CPAs established the William A. Paton Award, which honors the candidate with the highest score on the semi-annual CPA examination (in Michigan). In 1955 the William A. Paton Fund for Accounting Scholarships and Fellowships was established at the University of Michigan. On June 11, 1976, a new building was dedicated at the University of Michigan, named the William A. Paton Center for Accounting Education and Research. This structure was financed entirely by former students and other friends. In 1987 the AICPA designated him the Outstanding Educator of the Century. This special, one-time award was given at the AICPA’s 100th annual meeting in 1987.  [Ed. emphasis mine]

In recent years controversy erupted over the plans to demolish Paton’s building to make room for the Stephen H. Ross School of Business.   News that the structure would be destroyed prompted outcry from friends, family, and some of Paton’s former students.  William Paton, Jr.’s letter to the Board of Regents, reprinted by National Review’s website (scroll down midway), runs down his father’s accomplishments and awards and closes with a final plea regarding his dad’s building:

Dedicated in 1976, built and funded entirely by private donations, the Paton Accounting Center was established by legions of former students and other supporters for the express purpose of honoring William A. Paton. To demolish needlessly this fine, modern building would demonstrate a blind disregard for Professor Paton’s achievements, the efforts and intentions of the building’s donors, and the Business School’s proud history. Please reconsider any plans calling for the destruction of the Paton Accounting Center.

In October 2005, the Daily recapped the unsuccessful attempt to save the building, noting that the younger Paton’s efforts “were to no avail”, adding:

On Friday, the regents approved plans for a $145 million renovation of the Business School campus, including the teardown of the Paton Accounting Center and two other buildings.

Today it appears as though the Paton name has been carried on in some form at the Ross School of Business.  The default accounting page writes that “The Department of Accounting is supported by the Paton Accounting Center”.  Perhaps a current student or member of the faculty can share specifically how the Paton name has been carried on within the Ross facilities.

Back to the glove, while we’re not sure if this actually belonged to Dr. Paton, it’d be an unlikely coincidence if there were another W.A. Paton in Ann Arbor during this period.   Another clue from his bio which mentions he “dabbled in sports, especially track and tennis”.   As a final point of evidence, isn’t it like an accountant to properly classify his property with name and location?

That’s pretty convincing to me.  I hope this finds a good home when the auction ends on April 21st.  Bidding sits at $50.00 at the time of this post.

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