History of the AA

From Plastic Tub

Despite numerous anecdotal and oral histories of certain AA events and periods, there has never been a comprehensive overview of the movement as a whole, including those mysterious antecedents which suggest that the movement is much more than a literary and artistic phenomenon as it is usually presented in the universities and popular press.


The popular, exoteric origin story of the AA conforms to the general outline which follows: A young Stimso Adid, invalided out of the Royal Marines, immigrated to New York City in December of 1939. There he took a room at a boarding house located at 27, 27th Ave., where he studied anthropology and spent a lot of time among the small North African community of the city. One day in the Spring of 1940 he received a curious visitor. A distinguished-looking young WASP about his age appeared at his door bearing a letter from Adid's mother. The man was Stimes Addisson. He had received the letter by mistake, for he lived at 27, 27th St. The startling coincidence led to conversation, and the pair, who hit it off, talked late into the night.

Addisson was also a student at the NYU, and the pair found that they had many other common interests and shared opinions in the fields of aesthetics, morality and philosophy. They were also both highly amused to learn that each of them shared a near obsessional appreciation of fine men's pants. By 1941 their marathon discussion had begun to coalesce; they codified their ideas and began to refer to them collectively as Accidental Associationalism, or AA. It was during this period that the symbols of AA so widely known began to reveal themselves: the pancake, the noodle, the sausage, etc.

The AA was never established as a formal organization, even after they had launched the "movement" in the Summer of 1942 with the journal Reticent 27. Although the magazine was a legitimate registered business, the AA it represented was never an official club or society with a tax classification or meeting hall. Instead the Reticent 27 served that purpose. (Some scholars, such as Milkweed, have argued that the magazine itself was the organization, because it served as a source of employment for participants and represented the official "party line".) By this time the group included William Flintrock, Jonathan Trenchwheat, Wilhemina Forkes and Jorge Suarez. Science fiction writer Alfred Bester took part in some of their early sessions, claiming to be Ray Bradbury. This was disputed hotly until after Bester's death, when his personal correspondence revealed that he had indeed been in contact with key AA'ers and had distanced himself not out of any dramatic estrangement but because he was never really a true believer, despite remaining sympathetic to the AA until his death.

For some reason the AA attracted the animosity of almost everyone in the artistic community. Vilified by "respectable" people and the bohemian communities alike, the young AA partisans faced difficult times. They were honored when in 1943 John P. Merriweather formed the League of Gnomes in response to their activities. Among the politicos, the leftists called them fascists and the right-wingers, anarchists. In fact, Addisson played to both crowds and enjoyed taunting them with provocative editorials. It was during this period that he was attacked in the street outside his apartment and, if not for the fact that William Flintrock happened to stroll up at the right moment, he might have been seriously injured.

The group was especially united at this point. By the end of ten years however, infighting, especially among the next generation of AA membership, had thoroughly broken the circle. The splits and schisms reached a crucial point by 1965. This was the date of the ridiculous 3rd AA International Conference at which delegates, citing irreconcilable differences, decided to officially split the movement into Associationalism and Accidentalism. Adid was not even present, but the Accidentalist faction claimed him as their patron saint and most obnoxiously insulted Addisson. Constant propaganda and psychological warfare by the League of Gnomes exploited and exacerbated the developing schisms within the AA and are now acknowledged to have played a part in this ridiculous rupture.


After 1965, Adid withdrew from public involvement in the movement. Although publicly he and Addisson were thought to be estranged and bitter, they were still friends. They were both despised and reviled in the factionalist excess of their protégés and went to great pains to downplay and inflame the conflict, whichever seemed more necessary at the time.

Perhaps the single most important event in terms of hastening the AA's wider cultural exposure were the events concerning the destruction of Wee-Wee on February 14, 1970. Wee-Wee was a floating rumpus room constructed in 1968 and used by the AA as a locale for all manner of fêtes and conclaves. Although never proven, The League of Gnomes was suspected of burning it to the waterline. As the incident occurred in international waters, however, no U.S. law-enforcement agency took an interest in the case.

On Halloween Day, 1970, Flintrock, Verna Cable, Nevid Kessar, Cappy Trowbridge and Jonathan Trenchwheat were arrested while attempting to dynamite the Gnomes Grotto in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The charges were later dropped when the "dynamite" was found to be loaded with tiny handbills depicting the unopened head of Guvernor Morris.

This odd and spectacular interest caught the nation's eye. Major newspapers and magazines, including Time, featured hysterical, alarmist and inaccurate portraits of the events and participants. Addisson was harassed by the IRS and the FBI. Adid was nearly deported. Although no one went to jail over the incident, a long shadow was cast and the participants found it advisable to "chill out" as Mazzistow Carrington put it.

It is thought that this series of events led to the cessation of public activity by both the Gnomes and the AA by the end of 1971. This is not to say that their warfare ceased, but it was definitely carried out in a less public manner.

At this point in our tale it should be apparent even to the most casual reader that the AA and the Gnomes were more than dueling artistic visions. The violence, the covert operations, the various fronts and shadowy figures suggest a more convoluted tale. But what, exactly?


From 1971 onwards, there was no sustained AA group activity. Individual members collaborated on various projects and met frequently, but there were no major conferences or joint publications. Each AA'er pursued their individual projects along their personal trajectory. Incidentalism stems from this period.

All this changed however, with The Second Advance. In 1994 Tim Wilson and Steven Adkins, intrigued by the AA and surprised by its obscurity and relative critical neglect, began to publish their own compositions and historical essays in a second series of Reticent 27. Soon after this publication commenced, the pair began to receive anonymous death threats which although investigated by Tampa police, were never satisfactorily explained and they ceased as abruptly as they began, with no apparent action made to make good on the sinister promises.

This second generation of AA'ers was initially limited to Adkins and Wilson. Although current Plastic Tub contributor David Payne was present at this time, it was not until the Plastic Tub project began (2004) that he became an active participant in the movement. The fourth current diehard is Steven Vogeler.

Historical Antecedents