A Finding Aid to the American Art Association Records, circa 1853-1929, bulk circa 1885-1922, in the Archives of American Art
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
AAA.amerarta
Creators:
American Art Association
Dates:
circa 1853-1929
bulk 1885-1922
Languages:
English
Collection is in English.
Physical Description:
27.8 Linear feet
Repository:
The American Art Association records measure 27.8 linear feet and date from circa 1853-1929, with the bulk of the material dating from circa 1885-1922. The records include auction and sales files, general financial and legal files, inventory and stock records, client files, printed materials, photographic materials, artwork, and the personal papers of founder Thomas Ellis Kirby.

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
The American Art Association records measure 27.8 linear feet and date from circa 1853-1929, with the bulk of the material dating from circa 1885-1922. The records include auction and sales files, general financial and legal files, inventory and stock records, client files, printed materials, photographic materials, artwork, and the scattered personal papers of founder Thomas Ellis Kirby.
Auction files contain a wide variety of materials regarding auction schedules, auctions, gallery sales, and estate sales. The files primarily contain correspondence, sales statements and ledgers, estate inventories and appraisals, and photographs. Of interest is a handwritten letter from Andrew Carnegie concerning the Second Prize Fund Exhibition.
Records of sales are documented in named files, sales ledgers, client account books, and Blakeslee Gallery sales ledgers. Files are found for specific art collections and estates. Sales ledgers list sales transactions of the Association by collection, department, genre, or named auction and provide the most detailed sales information, often noting title or subject, size, owner, lot number, date, purchaser, and price, and sometimes an index of artists. Other ledgers document consignment and exhibition sales, as well as sales conducted by other galleries or auction houses, both in the United States and in Europe. Exhibition sales documented include those of Alfred Parsons and Frank Millet in 1903, the American Watercolor Society in 1902, and the American Painters and Illustrators in 1905, and others. Client account books provide itemized costs accrued by individuals or estates over the course of a sale or purchase. Many of the ledgers contain name indexes.
General financial and legal files primarily consist of cash and expense ledgers documenting daily, monthly, and yearly costs and expenses related to the production of auction and sales catalogs, costs associated with leasing spaces and equipment, shipping and crating, employee sales commissions, art department expenses, book department expenses, and other costs. Legal files contain scattered forms and contractual documents, as well as correspondence and documents related to two lawsuits.
Inventory and stock records document the Association's inventory through a series of stock books and inventory cards that include sales and provenance information.
Client files consist of cards divided into clients interested in art and clients interested in books. They also include some information on specific client sales and purchases. Also found are numerous client address books. Printed materials include auction catalogs, clippings, and newspapers.
Photographs depict works of art and materials sold and collected. Of interest is a collection of cabinet photographs of French artists collected when the American Art Association was actively involved in the auction sales of thousands of paintings by French artists. Also found are four photo albums depicting auction items for a 1907 auction, prepared for the American Art Association by William H. Crocker. Several unsigned prints, sketches, and drawings are found in the artwork series.
Thomas Ellis Kirby's scattered personal papers include an address book, scattered family and biographical materials, correspondence with clients and associates, writings and speeches, legal material, auction records, and photographs.

Arrangement
Arrangement
The collection is arranged as 9 series. Folder titles have been retained from the original records, and occasionally devised for clarity.
  • Series 1: Auctions, circa 1885-1922 (1.9 linear feet; Boxes 1-2, BV23-24)
  • Series 2: Sales, circa 1884-1923 (8.1 linear feet; Boxes 2-6, 20-21, BV25-39)
  • Series 3: General Financial and Legal Files, circa 1883-1923 (9.3 linear feet; Boxes 6-11, BV40-62)
  • Series 4: Inventory and Stock Records, circa 1887-circa 1922 (0.8 linear feet; Box 11, BV63-65)
  • Series 5: Client Files, circa 1895-circa 1922 (2.1 linear feet; Boxes 11-13)
  • Series 6: Printed Materials, circa 1853-1923 (1.1 linear feet; Boxes 13-14, 21)
  • Series 7: Photographic Material, circa 1885-circa 1922 (0.8 linear feet; Boxes 14-15, 21-22)
  • Series 8: Artwork, circa 1888-circa 1900 (0.1 linear feet; Boxes 15, 22)
  • Series 9: Thomas Ellis Kirby Personal Papers, circa 1861-1929 (3.6 linear feet; Boxes 15-19)

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
The American Art Association was an art gallery and auction house based in New York City, New York, formed in 1883 by James F. Sutton, R. Austin Robertson, and Thomas E. Kirby. It was the first auction house in the United States.
The Association was founded to promote American art and exhibit the work of American artists in its American Art Galleries in New York City. In its first year of operation, the Association exhibited Thomas B. Clarke's collection of American paintings as a benefit for the National Academy of Design. After the successful management of the public sale of the George I. Seney art collection in 1885, with Thomas E. Kirby as auctioneer, the Association continued conducting auctions and managing estate sales. Austin Robertson died in 1892 and Sutton became a special partner in 1895. In 1912 Kirby's son, Gustavus T. Kirby, joined the Association as a general partner and later also acquired Sutton's interest and became a full partner. The Association was sold in 1923 to Cortlandt Field Bishop, and merged with the Anderson Auction Company to form the American Art Association-Anderson Galleries, Inc, in 1929. The firm was taken over by Parke-Bernet Galleries, Inc., in 1938.

Administration
Existence and Location of Copies
Portions of this collection are available on 35 mm microfilm reels 422-425 and 4478-4484 at the Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the material described in the container inventory does not reflect the arrangement of the collection on microfilm.
Processing Information
A portion of the papers received a preliminary level of arrangement upon receipt and were microfilmed onto reels 422-425 and reels 4478-4484.
Multiple accessions were merged and archivally processed and a finding aid prepared by Anna Rimel in 2015 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Institution's Collections Care and Preservation Fund. The Archives of American Art has implemented accelerated processing when possible to increase information about and access to more of our collections. For this collection, accelerated processing included arrangement to the series, subseries and folder levels, adhering to the creator's original arrangement as much as possible. Generally, folder contents were simply verified with the original folder titles, but items within folders were not arranged further. All materials were rehoused in archival folders and boxes for long-term stability, but staples and other fasteners have not all been removed.
Author
Anna Rimel
Sponsor
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Smithsonian Institution Collections Care and Preservation Fund.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
A portion of the American Art Association records were donated in 1968 by Thomas Ellis Kirby's daughter, Mrs. Thomas B. Waller. The remaining records were donated by the American Antiquarian Society in 1978 and 1993.

Using the Collection
Conditions Governing Access
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
Conditions Governing Use
The American Art Association records are owned by the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Literary rights as possessed by the donor have been dedicated to public use for research, study, and scholarship. The collection is subject to all copyright laws.
Preferred Citation
American Art Association Records, circa 1853-1929, bulk circa 1885-1922. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Art -- Economic aspects Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art galleries, Commercial -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sales records Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art galleries, Commercial -- Economic aspects Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art, French Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art dealers Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art auctions Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art, American Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Auctions Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Auctioneers Occupation Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Drawings Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Prints Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Artists -- France -- Photographs Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sketches Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Art -- Societies, etc. -- New York (State) -- New York Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Artists -- United States Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Parsons, Alfred, 1847-1920 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
American Watercolor Society Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Blakeslee Galleries (New York, N.Y.) Corporate Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Carnegie, Andrew, 1835-1919 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Crocker, William H. Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Kirby, Thomas Ellis, 1846-1924 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Millet, Francis Davis, 1846-1912 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives of American Art
750 9th Street, NW
Victor Building, Suite 2200
Washington, D.C. 20001
https://www.aaa.si.edu/services/questions
https://www.aaa.si.edu/