Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America

Archives related to: Salomon, William, 1852-

titleAmerican Art Association records, 1877-1924 (bulk 1910-1924)
repositoryThe Frick Collection and Frick Art Reference Library
collection titleThe American Art Association records document a selection of auction sales run by the gallery, as well as Thomas Kirby’s relationship with those who sold their works through the AAA. Records date from 1877-1924, with the bulk dating from 1910-1924. The collection includes correspondence, approximately 1,000 photographs, handwritten and typed notes, fragments of a typescript on the American Art Association, pages from auction sales catalogues, newspaper and periodical clippings, and several sales catalogues.

The records are organized in three series:
I. Auction Sales, 1910-1923
II. Correspondence and Notes, 1877-1924, and
III. Clippings, 1881-1924.

The bulk of the collection concerns specific auction sales conducted by the American Art Association. Files contain inventories of the works, often with prices and names of buyers; black & white photos of the works and several of the exhibition installations; correspondence; sections of a typescript on AAA; handwritten notes regarding the sales; pages from sales catalogues; and clippings. Documentation of 70 sales ranges from a single typescript sentence to multiple folders of correspondence, inventories and hundreds of photographs of the items for sale. An additional 150 auction sales are represented in the files only by cursory handwritten notes. Some of the most heavily documented sales include "57 Paintings Belonging to Ichabod T. Williams" of February 3-4, 1915, "Charles of London, Italian, French & English Furniture, Tapestries, Rugs, Paintings, Porcelains, etc." of November 15-20, 1920 and "Palatial Mansion & Contents Collected by William J. Saloman" April 4-7, 1923.

Also of note in the records is correspondence between Kirby and Arthur B. Emmons regarding several auctions in which works he owned were sold, 16 letters to Charles De Kay from correspondents other than Thomas Kirby, handwritten notes on George Inness, biographical comments on Thomas Kirby, and several letters concerning the controversy over the authenticity of the painting "Blue Boy" at the William H. Fuller Sale of February 25, 1898, including a letter from Francis Davis Millet. A few clippings and letters document Kirby's career prior to his affiliation with the American Art Association.

Historical Note:
Thomas E. Kirby (1846-1924), with his partners James F. Sutton and R. Austin Robertson, founded the American Art Association (AAA) in 1883, one of the premier art auction houses of its time. Known for his “million dollar voice,” Kirby conducted the sales himself, and is credited with creating the style of modern art auctions, instituting an atmosphere of elegance and style, and enforcing standards in order to counteract the negative reputation held by auctioneers of the day. Kirby’s son Gustavus joined the firm in 1912 and became half owner in 1915, upon the death of James Sutton. The galleries, located on East 23rd Street on Madison Square South, moved to 30 East 57th Street in 1922. In 1923, Kirby sold AAA to Cortlandt Field Bishop, who contracted Hiram Parke and Otto Bernet to run the auction house. In 1929 it merged with the Anderson Auction Company.

The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives.

Call Number
extent3.75 linear feet
formatsPhotographs Financial Records Correspondence Clippings Notes
accessThese records are open for research under the conditions of The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives access policy. Contact the Archives Department for further information at
record link
record source
finding aidFinding aid available in the repository.
acquisition informationThe records were a gift of Mrs. Thomas W. Waller (Wilhelmina), granddaughter of Thomas Kirby, in 1956. These records are just a portion of those donated; an additional 12 linear feet of scrapbooks containing auction sales newspaper clippings have not yet been processed. Mrs. Waller also donated books and sales catalogues, which have been integrated into the Library’s collection. The bulk of the American Art Association's records (an additional 50 linear feet) are located in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
updated05/12/2022 11:09:51