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American Art Association Records

American Art Association  Search this
American Watercolor Society  Search this
Blakeslee Galleries (New York, N.Y.)  Search this
Carnegie, Andrew, 1835-1919  Search this
Crocker, William H.  Search this
Kirby, Thomas Ellis, 1846-1924  Search this
Millet, Francis Davis, 1846-1912  Search this
Parsons, Alfred, 1847-1920  Search this
27.8 Linear feet
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Sales records
circa 1853-1929
bulk 1885-1922
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:
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.
The collection is arranged as 9 series. Folder titles have been retained from the original records, and occasionally devised for clarity.

Missing Title

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:
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.
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.
Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.
The Archives of American Art makes its archival collections available for non-commercial, educational and personal use unless restricted by copyright and/or donor restrictions, including but not limited to access and publication restrictions. AAA makes no representations concerning such rights and restrictions and it is the user's responsibility to determine whether rights or restrictions exist and to obtain any necessary permission to access, use, reproduce and publish the collections. Please refer to the Smithsonian's Terms of Use for additional information.
Art -- Economic aspects  Search this
Art galleries, Commercial -- Economic aspects  Search this
Art, French  Search this
Art auctions  Search this
Art, American  Search this
Artists -- France -- Photographs  Search this
Artists -- United States  Search this
Arts organizations -- New York (State)
Art galleries, Commercial -- New York (State)
Auction houses -- New York (State)
Sales records
American Art Association Records, circa 1853-1929, bulk circa 1885-1922. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
See more items in:
American Art Association Records
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Art
Online Media:

Old songs, with drawings by Edwin A. Abbey & Alfred Parsons

Abbey, Edwin Austin 1852-1911  Search this
Parsons, Alfred 1847-1920  Search this
De Vincent Collection of American Sheet Music  Search this
Physical description:
121 p. : ports ; 31 cm
Call number:
PS593.L8 O44 1888
PS593.L8O44 1888
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries

Autumnal View, (painting)

Parsons, Alfred 1847-1920  Search this
Landscape--Season--Autumn  Search this
Control number:
IAP 62441492
Data Source:
Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museums

The genus Rosa, by Ellen Willmott, F.L.S. Drawings by Alfred Parsons, R.A

Willmott, E. A (Ellen Ann) 1858-1934  Search this
Parsons, Alfred 1847-1920  Search this
Baker, John Gilbert 1834-1920  Search this
Former owner:
Cooper Union Library DSI  Search this
Henry Sotheran Ltd. DSI  Search this
Physical description:
2 volumes, leaves of plates. illustrations (some color) 39 cm
Electronic resources
Roses  Search this
Call number:
Data Source:
Smithsonian Libraries

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