American Art Association records, 1853-1924

American Art Association, est. 1883
Auction house
New York, N.Y.

Collection size: 50 linear ft. (partially microfilmed on 7 reels)

Collection Summary: REELS 422-425: Papers retained by Kirby, 1910-1923, including photograph and price files on more than 100 auctions, 1910-1913, 1915-1918, and 1921-1923, with sections from a typescript of the history of the firm describing many of the sales; a correspondence and clipping file, 1910-1923, containing letters from William Merritt Chase regarding the sale of his collection, David Belasco, Joseph Widener, Lockwood deForest, John P. Morgan, and others; an address on the history of the Association delivered by Kirby; and a small file of material commemorating the death of Francis Davis Millet, drowned in the sinking of the Titanic, 1912.

REELS 4478-4484: 28 v. of record books, including 14 v. recording sales of paintings, 1885-1921; "Disposition of Pictures," 1886-1891 (mostly 1887), (1 v.); "Pictures Rec'd and Delivered," July 1881-May 1891 (1 v.); Submissions to New York Water Color Club, 1890-1892 (1 v); Sales by other galleries and auction houses, 1853-1902 (4 v.), representing sales in Paris and the U.S., apparently compiled from printed catalogs; stock book, 1887-1917, of "Paintings," (1 v.), and a stock book for furniture of the American Art Association offices, 1912 (1 v.); and 4 albums of photographs of Stanford White's house and collection, auctioned November 1907.

UNMICROFILMED (7.7 linear ft.): Thomas Kirby's correspondence, speeches, partnership agreements, memorabilia, and notes and manuscript pages from his autobiography and biography (both unfinished); speeches and press releases related to the 1922 opening of the American Art Galleries; files on auctions and exhibitions, 1884-1910, compiled by Rose H. Lorenz to aid Charles De Kay in the preparation of Kirby's biography "Art Under the Hammer" (unfinished), containing correspondence, clippings, price lists, photographs and manuscript pages; financial records of auctions, 1918-1922; memoranda and legal papers; clippings, exhibition catalogs, 1853-1917; and photographs.

Among the photographs are several of Thomas Kirby and 1 of Gustavus, and a group of 62 cabinet photographs taken by photographers in Paris, all but a few of French artists, probably related to the Association's involvement in the late 1890s to early 1900s of sales of paintings by French artists.

UNMICROFILMED (13 linear ft.): ca. 172 volumes and packages, including account books (75 v.); Bric-a-Brac (4 v.), salary lists (5 v.), sales of books, etchings, etc. (4 v.), catalog distribution (3 v.), and address books (128 v.). Also included are 9 v. of ledgers from the Blakeslee Galleries, presumably acquired in 1914 when gallery owner Theron Blakeslee died, and the Association auctioned off the Gallery's paintings.

Biographical/Historical Note: Auction house; New York, N.Y. Formed in 1883 by James F. Sutton, R. Austin Robertson and Thomas E. Kirby. The partnership was created to operate the American Art Gallery and to promote American art. The Association began conducting auctions in 1885, with Kirby as auctioneer. Robertson died in 1892 and Sutton became a special partner in 1895. Exhibited the work of American artists in its American Art Galleries at 6-8 E. 23rd St., N.Y. In 1912, Kirby's son Gustavus joined the Association, and later acquired Sutton's interest and became a full partner. American Art Galleries opened in 1922. The Association was sold in 1923 to Cortlandt Field Bishop.

Material on reels 422-425 was donated in 1968 by Kirby's daughter, Mrs. Thomas B. Waller. The unmicrofilmed material and record books on reels 4478-4484 were originally given to the American Antiquarian Society by Gustavas T.Kirby, son of Thomas E. Kirby, in 1936. The Antiquarian Society placed the record books on deposit at the Archives of American Art in 1972 and subsequently donated them along with the Kirby material January 1978.
An additional 5 items concerning the opening of the Association's new building were donated 1993 by the American Antiquarian Society.

How to Use this Collection

  • Microfilm reels 422-425 and 4478-4484 available for use at all Archives of American Art offices and through interlibrary loan.
  • Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Microfilmed materials must be consulted on microfilm. Contact Reference Services for more information.
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Also in the Archives

Related Materials

Additional auction catalogs also located in: Archives of American Art, American Art Auction Catalog Collection; chiefly reels N141-N221.