The Impact of World War II


Students from the Manchester Air Base enrolled in a special program to qualify them as army clerks

In 1940 work commenced at the Manchester Airport as part of a major expansion of the facility to house Army Air Force troops in support of a national defense program designed to secure the east coast against German U-Boat incursions. Although the United States was still technically neutral in World War II, the country’s participation was seen as inevitable by its leaders and mobilization for the war was underway. Troops were moved into the Manchester facility in the spring of 1941. The New Hampshire School of Accounting and Finance soon found itself in a position to take on a cohort of these newly arrived troops who needed training in clerical subjects. On June 20th an article ran in the Union Leader announcing the program:

“Twenty-five enlisted men from the Air Base here will start classes in business training at the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Finance by June 30, it was announced today.

Maj. Carl R. Black, base adjutant, said that the men will spend a half day at the school, the other half at the base, learning Air Corps methods and procedure at the same time they study English, spelling, typing, business arithmetic and general office work.

The training is in line with similar learning opportunities offered by the army to enlisted men, base officers pointed out, and provides opportunity for men to acquire without cost skills useful outside the army.

H.A.B. Shapiro, headmaster of the school, said that the course was planned to cover about four months, that it was expected other classes would be formed for like training when this one graduates.

Classes at the base will be in charge of Capt. Charles E. Turner, base school officer.”

As with the contracts with the state to train disabled students, this arrangement offered the school an opportunity to educate students who’s tuition costs were covered by the government at a time when it could be difficult for individuals to find the funds to pay for their own education. The program was made possible by federal funds made available to the United States Department of Education for the emergency education of defense workers in vocational subjects. The program offered the potential to supply full classes of students on an ongoing basis, especially in the summer months which were a traditional down time for private business schools.


Advertisement promoting the "Army School," even though the program was not open to the public

The class also allowed the school to demonstrate its patriotism and build a reputation for training military students. Advertisements for the school that ran in late June led with “ARMY SCHOOL JUNE 27” even though the cohort of students had already been established and there was no need to fill seats in that program. There was still value in letting the community know that the school was supporting the troops.

Mary Andrews, a recent graduate of the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Finance, was selected to teach the class, and the program ran from June 27th to late November, with students spending a total of 240 classroom hours on typing, 60 on English and 20 on Math. The students worked 6 days a week from 7:45 AM to noon. On December 1, 1941, Harry Shapiro received a letter from John I. Moore, the base commander, praising the program: “…I wish to extend my congratulations to you and your staff for the splendid cooperation which you have accorded members of this command in the clerical school which was concluded recently, I have received very favorable reports from the School office on the quality of work which the men were doing at the school and in the duties which the men are now performing.”

Mr. Shapiro would have had every reason to believe that an ongoing relationship with the base was likely, and that the training of enlisted students would represent a continuing opportunity. Six days later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the day after that the United States declared war on Japan. The United States’ entry into World War II had significant short term impacts on the pool of students who would be interested in training in private commercial schools and the nature of the job market into which graduates would be entering. There were also long term consequences around the government funding of education, a growing economy, and the expectations that students had about the kinds of work they would accept after obtaining education above the high school level.

While federal funding of education for servicemen continued throughout the war, the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Finance was not able to continue the Army clerical school program. The exact reasons are unclear, but a 1942 letter written by a clearly frustrated Mr. Shapiro to U.S. Senator Styles Bridges indicates that the development by the Federal Government of in-house training for military clerical workers was a factor:

“American business schools have been training competent secretaries, stenographers and accountants for over one hundred years, but the U. S. Office of Education is ignoring them completely. For Washington to duplicate these institutions is not in the public interest. Government had been sending its prospective mechanics to established mechanical training schools and colleges. Why ignore business schools?

We are still living in a democratic, capitalist country. If the government takes over the training of commercial students they will certainly be tearing down this democratic, capitalist structure. If the plans contemplated by the Man-Power Commission, and by the U. S. Office of Education were necessary to the war effort, I would be the last to object. Ignoring the facilities that are already in existence, duplicating them in Washington, and probably other large commercial centers, would be an unnecessary waste of man-power effort."


1941 New Hampshire School of Accounting and Finance class photograph showing 24 female and 11 male students

The military mobilization of the 1940s resulted in a significant shift in the demographics of the students at the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Finance. The class of 1940 had consisted of 27 men and 21 women. The next year that shifted to just 6 men and 26 women, 19 men and 32 women in 1942, and 10 men and 23 women in 1943. With the smaller class sizes, graduations became modest affairs. They were held in the school building, with limited audience space. Friends and families of those graduating were invited to listen to the proceeding as they were broadcast on local radio station WFEA.


Advertisement promoting the advantages of a NHSAF education when seeking employment

At the same time, the school’s appeal to students to make them workplace ready found new resonance in an economy that was on the upswing. The New Hampshire State Employment Service reported in August of 1941 that “The problem confronting the Employment Service just now is not finding jobs for the unemployed, something we had to contend with for a decade, but finding really qualified workers to fill the many job openings.” The New Hampshire School of Accounting and Finance was advertising: “Attend the school where demand for graduates is so great that employment is practically assured.” And “Employers Prefer N.H.S.A.F. Graduates.”

At the same time, the faculty and administrators of the school were warry of the fact that a ramp-up in defense manufacturing could make industrial rather than desk jobs seem appealing to potential students. Why spend one or two years training when you could take lucrative employment now? This question was answered in an editorial in the school paper by Harry A. B. Shapiro, William W. Lee, Marie E. Bouchard, and Agnes A. Dlugosz:

“As we look ahead to 1941, and to the years to follow, let’s take a long range viewpoint. During the present rearmament boom, perhaps some of your friends may temporarily earn more money in industrial jobs. But you are preparing for a permanent future – for a key position which will not end when the National Defense “boom” is over. Your business training and experience will become more and more valuable with the passing years. You should be able to retain your position and advance, when other are being laid off.

The training which you are getting will make your services more valuable to your employer, to your country and to yourself in the long span of years ahead.”


Many alumni, both male and female, engaged in military service during World War II. Some sent letters, photographs, V-mail, and other correspondence to the school.


With many male high school graduates enlisting in the service, the school attempted to broaden its audience, promoting its courses to teachers, married women, and college graduates

With the advent of the war, recent graduates of the school enlisted in various branches of the service. Clearly proud of the service of its former students, the school collected article clipping, photographs, and correspondence describing former students’ involvement with the war effort. Letters were also received from active duty personnel who had heard about the school and wanted to study there after the completion of the war.

As the war progressed, the school promoted itself as an option for those who wanted to prepare for patriotic service, offering Civil Service and Military Officer training, as well as: “Intensive, wartime courses and regular career courses for high school and college graduates, teachers, and married women who want to prepare for useful wartime service.” The specific mentions of teachers and married women reflected the need to recruit female students to fill the seats vacated by men. Advertisements from this period frequently led with reference to the school’s “complete secretarial” program, with the accounting program appearing below and in smaller type.


Nearly all our former students who are in military service are assigned to office work

One 1943 advertisement promoted “THREE MONTHS SPECIAL TRAINING IN A COURSE BASED ON OFFICIAL PUBLICATIONS OF THE WAR DEPARTMENT”.  The ad continued: “Nearly all our former students who are in the military service are assigned to office work. Some are Staff Sergeants and Yeomen earning $96 instead of $50 per month.” The implication seems to have been that students could avoid a combat role by training in the administrative skills that the military was looking for in desk workers.

Despite the declining enrollments, evening tuition at the school was set at $10.00 per month. This was higher than the $7.00 monthly rate at Hesser Business College, but the school did not shy away from that fact, stating that tuition was “higher than any other Manchester school, until the other school raised its to ours.” The New Hampshire School of Accounting and Finance was willing to compete on factors other than price.


Veterans enrolled under the rehabilitation provision of the G.I. Bill

In 1944 the school found a new niche in the education of veterans. With the start of the 1944 school year 8 disabled veterans were enrolled under the veterans’ rehabilitation provision of the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, popularly known as the G.I. Bill. The school had already been approved by the state for the rehabilitative training of disabled individuals, so it was well positioned to meet the needs of returning disabled veterans who needed similar training to become workplace ready.

Before the school year even began the incoming veteran students had created a veterans club. Its purpose was:

“To greet and welcome new veteran business and accounting students to the school; to arrange for student-veterans participation in general school activities, and to sponsor group meetings and social activities for fellow veterans; to form groups to study New Hampshire war and peacetime industries and to make trips to New Hampshire industrial plants; to contact business organizations, accounting organizations, and service groups.”

The focus on socializing and integrating veterans, who tended to be older than other students, helped establish the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Commerce as a welcoming place that was veteran-friendly. This would soon expand beyond work with disabled veterans to the population of veterans in general as the war wound down and servicemen returned home.

Title II, Chapter IV of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act: Education of Veterans provided for a grant of up to $500 per school year paid directly to the veteran to cover the cost of a wide range of educational and vocational training as well as associated costs including living expenses and travel. The passage of this Act represented a significant turning point for private business schools in general and for the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Finance in particular. The broad nature of the choice granted to veterans as to the educational institutions they selected allowed for federal student aid to flow beyond public and nonprofit institutions. The New Hampshire School of Accounting and Finance was not the only area institution that sought to take advantage of the availability of federal funds. New England College in Henniker was established in 1946 specifically to serve those on the G.I. Bill.

While the G.I. Bill was responsible for providing opportunity for many veterans, the broad availability of federal funds also created scandals, fraud, and abuse and led to the development of “fly by night” institutions seeking easy money. While the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Finance was certainly interested in the revenue stream that was provided by federal funding, the school’s 12 year history, focus on credentialed instructors, and track record of getting students to a position of workplace readiness placed it on solid, legitimate footing.


The 1947 class photograph shows the booming enrollment of male students due to the G.I. Bill


Students address envelopes for the U.S.S. Knox bond drive

The effects on the school were significant. In 1946, 21 students graduated, 6 men and 15 women. The next year, 37 students graduated, 34 were men and 3 were women. A news article reported that 75% of the school's student were veterans.

During the war, the school engaged in a number of activities in support the war effort. These were some of the first recorded examples of the school's service to the community, which would become an institutional theme. The school was a subscribing member of the War Emergency Council of Private Business Schools in 1943. Students volunteered at the Freedom House on Merrimack Common one day a week assisting servicemen and selling war bonds and stamps. The school was one of many local organizations that sponsored promotion of the 5th War Loan drive in June of 1944 and the War Bond drive for B-29 bombers in December of 1944. Most significantly, in July of 1944 student volunteers addressed envelopes in support of the bond drive for the U.S.S. Frank Knox, a Destroyer named after the founding editor of the Manchester Leader who later served as Secretary of the Navy. For this service the school received a citation from Orville S. Poland, a representative of the War Finance Committee. After the war, instructor John Gains was made the city chairman of the March of Dimes fund drive in 1949. He enlisted the aid of students who organized a fundraising dance held at the Carpenter Hotel and addressed 16,000 March of Dimes cards.

The post-war period saw the continuation of significant economic growth in the Manchester area and a changing set of expectations around education and employment for those who served and those who pursued higher education. Vocational education was beginning to lose out to Liberal education in the public mind. At the same time, public accounting, which the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Commerce offered as its flagship program, began to lose status among individuals with advanced training. Professional Accounting or Managerial Accounting began to be used as terms for those in the accounting field who were managers, professionals, and executives, not bookkeepers. Management roles were increasingly sought by students who entered private commercial schools.

Recognizing the shifting landscape and acting with the nimbleness that a proprietary model allowed for, the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Commerce began offering certificates in Executive Accounting in 1943 to those who had completed a “Pathfinder” course packaged by the Charles R. Hadley Company.


The school's faculty increased to accomodate growing enrollments and curriculum

The school’s faculty had remained small through the early 1940s but began to grown in the middle of the decade. Harold Regan replaced William W. Lee as educational director and field man. He and Marie Bouchard were the main faculty, with a small number of part-time instructors also contributing. Nellie Young joined the faculty in July of 1946 and William Nairn joined in September. Earnest Seavey joined in the fall of 1947, replacing Harold Regan.

It was at this time that the school pursued its first accreditation. The National Council of Business Schools was an independent organization that had established minimum criteria for five standardized courses of study in stenographic, secretarial, and accounting subjects. Local competitors McIntosh Business College in Dover, Hesser Business College in Manchester, and Nashua Business College all offered some mix of the approved courses by 1946. That year the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Finance was listed as having “supported the work of the Council with financial contributions during 1945-46,” indicating that the School saw value in association with the Council, even if it did not yet have all of the elements in place to have its programs approved.

 The NCBS “Standards of Practice” were very specific, including standards for educational and professional requirements for faculty and administrators, standards for facilities (focusing on the number of typewriters per student), ethical standards, the requirement of a catalog, specifically defined “semester hours” (which was the amount of time one would spend in class for a particular subject), and a prescribed curriculum for each of the five courses of study, including what amounted to a course catalog that schools could copy from, with course names, descriptions, semester hours, and courses of study.

The New Hampshire School of Accounting and Finance undertook a significant curricular redesign in 1948 to align with the NCBS standards. Five new instructors were hired: John Gaines (Economics), Arthur Brush (Advertising and Salesmanship), Harold Coffin (Production Control and Time and Motion Study), James Brodie (Merchandising and Business Management), and Paul Vernon (Business Psychology). As was by that point typical, and as required by the NCBS, the new instructors had both college educations and experience in the local business environment. Headmaster H.A.B.  Shapiro stated “Students at the school will thus get both academic training and the benefit of their teachers’ wealth of local knowledge in their fields.”

Catalog issued in accordance with NCBS standards

For the first time the School issued a full catalog rather than a short form pamphlet describing its curriculum. While the accounting subjects were described in the School’s own words, many of the secretarial and newly added subjects’ descriptions borrowed directly from the NCBS-approved course descriptions:

NHSAC description:

Shorthand I (Theory, and dictation to 60 words per minute)

Planned to give the student a thorough knowledge of fundamentals. Emphasis is placed on good shorthand penmanship, accurate proportion and legibility, and mastery of a basic vocabulary. Requires ability to write simple unfamiliar material at 60 words per minute.

NCBS description:

Shorthand I (Theory and Dictation to 60 w. p. m.) 108 Clock Hours – 6 Semester Hours.

The procedure in the first part of the shorthand course is planned to give the student a thorough knowledge of fundamentals. Emphasis is placed on good shorthand penmanship, accurate proportion and legibility, and mastery of the basic vocabulary that includes words most frequently used in business. Credit is given when the student passes a comprehensive theory test, and demonstrates the ability to write simple, unfamiliar materials at 60 w.p.m.

Of particular differentiating note, The New Hampshire School of Accounting and Commerce course descriptions did not include semester hours. While the NCBS documentation indicated that stated semester hours were averages and that students should receive credit when they “meet the speed and accuracy requirements that are prescribed,” the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Commerce rejected semester hours outright. “We recognize the fact that no two students are alike in capability, aptitude, or natural inclination. Therefore, we individualize our students – we study them as individuals and teach them as individuals… Diplomas are granted on the basis of achievement and satisfactory completion of courses of study, not on a time-spent-in-school basis, as is the practice with many schools.”


Advertisment promoting the school's new name and "Complete Business Training"

The school now promoted itself as providing “Complete business training” and was re-named the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Commerce in an effort to communicate the expanded curriculum.

Students who completed that “complete training” were rewarded with a diploma in Senior Accounting and Business Administration, paralleling the NCBS’ language of “Higher Accounting and Business Administration” with the first students completing the program in 1950. This comprehensive program required 10 accounting courses, four of which were required in the first year:

Elementary Accounting I and II, Payroll Accounting, Accounting Principles

 In the second year, students took:

Constructive Accounting (System Building), Intermediate Accounting, Advanced Accounting and C.P.A. Problems, Cost Accounting, Income Taxes, and Auditing and C.P.A. Problems

In addition, students had to take:

Business Mathematics, English I and II, Business Law I and II, Spelling and Vocabulary Building, Filing and Indexing, Office Machines, Psychology, Economics, Business Organization and Management, and Current Business Problems.

 The following "electives" were required:

Advertising, Clerical Procedure, Merchandising, Penmanship, Public Speaking, and Salesmanship.

The development of this program also led to the creation of Certificates for those who did not complete all of the required courses or clock hours. Gertrude Shapiro explained:

“We figured out how many credits in different areas they had completed and then they received the appropriate diploma. If you didn't complete the required courses, you could earn a Certificate for what you did complete. In reviewing records, I am amazed at how accurate we were. Today, it is easier because we use credit hours. However, the two systems are directly comparable.”

With the curricular changes and massive influx of veteran students funded by the G.I. Bill the school entered a boom period, moving from a low of 21 graduates in 1946 to 50 by 1948. Again, the male to female ratio had shifted radically, with 45 men and 5 women issued diplomas in 1948.


YMCA House Basketball League, NHSAC student Charles W. Riley at left

During the 1949-1950 basketball season, the New Hampshire School of Accounting and Commerce fielded its first teem about which we have significant information. The team played in the Manchester YMCA house basketball league and was also “seeking games with teams in this city as well as outside Manchester.” The team was captained by James Kelley. All of the participants were current students and seven out of nine were veterans.


1952 NHSAC commencement. Harry A.B. Shapiro, seated 5th from the left, looking much older than his 48 years. Gertrude Shapiro, seated 3rd from the right, who in just one month would need to decide the fate of the school.

While the school was undergoing a period of increased enrollments, its Headmaster and owner’s health was in decline. Harry Shapiro had suffered from a heart condition and other serious medical problems throughout his life, and those conditions were taking a significant toll. Before his death he had spent 30 days in a Boston hospital after a heart attack. It was at this time that Gertrude Shapiro, Harry Shapiro’s wife, took on a growing role with the school.

Gertrude started helping at the school on a part time basis at least as early as 1943 and was employed full time there by July of 1946. She described her early work with the school as follows:

“Before ’52 … I started to work very seriously at the school knowing that your father [Harry A. B. Shapiro] was not well … I, at that time, began to realize that maybe I was needed down there… there were times when we had no bookkeeper…I don’t quite remember, Ann, if I was there by myself, I think sometimes I might have been…running both the business office and helping him…”

She assisted with bookkeeping, collecting payments from students, and answering the phone. As time passed and Mr. Shapiro’s health worsened, it became clear that Gertrude would need to take on more and more responsibility. She recalled Mr. Shapiro saying “Gert, you had better learn as much about the business as you possibly can.”

As the 1950s began, enrollments were again on the decline. The G.I. Bill, which had fully funded the education of a significant number of students, was set to expire. July 25, 1951 was the cut-off enrollment date for those who served in World War II, whose benefits expired 4 years after the end of the war which was officially set at July 25, 1947. At the same time, a new conflict in Korea was drawing away college-age males from the pool of potential students. The school graduated 60 students in 1948, 49 in 1949, and 35 in 1950.

On Wednesday, September 10, 1952, Harry A. B. Shapiro stayed home from the school to rest because he was not feeling well. Late that night, at the age of 48, he passed away on his couch of a heart attack. He left a wife with minimal academic training, a son in college, a daughter in high school, and a school on a shaky financial footing.