Associated Actors and Artistes of America Records
Language of Materials
The Associated Actors and Artistes of America was founded in 1919 as an umbrella organization composed of nine autonomous performing arts unions. The main purpose of the Four A's since its founding has been to represent the affiliates' common interests and to resolve jurisdictional problems. These records include the Four A's constitutions, correspondence, financial records and meeting minutes.
The Associated Actors and Artistes of America (AAAA, also known as the 4A's), chartered in 1919 by the American Federation of Labor, is a New York-based umbrella organization of several autonomous unions representing different types of performing artists, including the Actors Equity Association, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the American Guild of Musical Artists, the American Guild of Variety Artists, and the Screen Actors Guild.
The Four A's was founded out of a conflict between the White Rats Actors Union of America, an old variety performers' union formed in 1909, and the Actors' Equity Association of America, an organization formed in 1913 to represent performers of the legitimate stage, over the acquisition of a charter from the American Federation of Labor. The gradual demise of the White Rats as an industry force led that union to merge with Equity and a number of smaller unions by July 1919, resulting in the formation of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America.
The main purpose of the Four A's since its founding has been to represent the affiliates' common interests, and to resolve jurisdictional problems between and among them, and in regard to individual actors working a range of entertainment sectors. When ethnic and foreign language theater still flourished, the Four A's affiliated included not only Actors Equity, Chorus Equity, and the Grand Opera Choral Alliance, but also the (German) White Rats, the Hebrew Actors Unions, the Hebrew Chorus Unions of New York and Philadelphia, the Hungarian Actors and Artists Association, the Italian Actors Union, the Polish Actors Union, and the Yiddish Playwrights League.
Technological changes in performance industries gave rise to new or growing affiliates including the American Federation of Radio Artists (AFRA), the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the Screen Extras Guild (SEG), and the Television Authority (TVA), which later merged with AFRA to become the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (AFTRA).
The demise of variety fields and the rise of television were the major issues to between the late 1930's and the early 1970's. Variety unions have been historically weak and controversial members of the Four A's, and there were repeated allegations of internal corruption and mismanagement, reflected in the 1960's and 1970's in an investigation of AGVA by the United States Senate, and in an internal 4A's investigation. The Four A's formed a Television Committee as early as 1938, and later the Television Authority, a temporary organization made up of five affiliates: Actor's Equity, Chorus Equity, the American Guild of Musical Artists, the American Guild of Variety Artists, and the American Federation of Radio Artists. The inability of these and other unions to decide upon an acceptable merger strategy led AFRA to extend a merger invitation to the TVA in 1952 and to form a new affiliate, AFTRA.
Thomas Colley, "A Historical Study of the White Rats of America" (Master's Thesis, Wayne State University, 1967), copy in Box 7, Folder 20.
The files are arranged into 8 series:
IV. Financial Records
V. Community Activities
VIII. Unprocessed Materials
Folders are arranged alphabetically or chronologically within each series. Materials in Series VIII have not been arrangement by an archivist.
Scope and Contents
The collection reflects both the day-to-day operations of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America and the larger social concerns that affiliates engaged. The majority of the collection is comprised of the records of American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA) affiliates and other affiliate groups, including several ethnicity-based affiliates. The collection also contains the Four A's constitutions, minutes, financial records, and correspondence of the presidents and other officers. There is a small amount of information on the Four A's community activities.
Conditions Governing Access
Materials are open without restrictions.
Conditions Governing Use
The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives has no information about copyright ownership for this collection and is not authorized to grant permission to publish or reproduce materials from it. Materials in this collection, which were created in 1909-2014, are expected to enter the public domain in 2135.
Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date; Associated Actors and Artistes of America Records; WAG 110; box number; folder number; Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.
Location of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Donated by the Associated Actors and Artistes of America via Harriet Barry (Executive Assistant), 1995. The accession numbers associated with this gift are 1995.023, 1995.024, and NPA 2002.006.
Additional materials were donated by Anne Fortuno, assistant to the President of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America, in 2014. The accession numbers associated with this gift are 2014.145 and 2014.162.
Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements
Due to the fragile nature of the original materials, researchers must use the microfilmed version of Series II: Minutes, Subseries II.A: Microfilm; microfilm call number is R-7420.
Audiovisual Access Policies and Procedures
Audiovisual materials have not been preserved and may not be available to researchers. Materials not yet digitized will need to have access copies made before they can be used. To request an access copy, or if you are unsure if an item has been digitized, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, (212) 998-2630 with the collection name, collection number, and a description of the item(s) requested. A staff member will respond to you with further information.
About this Guide
Photographs were separated from this collection during initial processing and were established as a separate collection, the Associated Actors and Artistes of America Photographs (PHOTOS 072). In 2013, the photograph collection was reincorporated into the Associated Actors and Artistes of America Records (WAG 110).
Accretion 2014.162 and 2014.145 were consolidated into one record carton but kept in the order in which they were received. These materials were added to Series VIII. Unprocessed Materials in accordance with previous arrangement and description decisions. Original order is unknown: a previous archivist had removed the materials from their housings and divided them into separate folders. The accession number has been written on the front of the folders for these materials to indicate their provenance.
Other decisions regarding arrangement, description, and physical interventions for this collection prior to 2019 are unknown. In 2019, materials were rehoused in new acid-free folders and boxes in preparation for offsite storage.