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Pfaffs

Walt Whitman memorialized "The vault at Pfaffs where the drinkers and laughers meet to eat and drink and carouse" in an unfinished poem from the early 1860s.

Under the low-hanging ceiling of Charles Pfaff's Manhattan beer cellar, Whitman drew inspiration from what one contemporary called "the trysting-place of the most careless, witty, and jovial spirits of New York,—journalists, artists, and poets."

The Vault at Pfaff's recaptures the spirit of Whitman's antebellum "trysting-place" by bringing together the art and literature of the United States' first self-described bohemians, including digital editions of the three periodicals many of them regularly contributed to: The New York Saturday Press, Vanity Fair, and The New York Leader.

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This image by Frank Bellew is from the February 6, 1864 issue of The New York Illustrated News. It claims to depict the writers and artists at Pfaff's "As they were said to be by a knight of The Round Table,"  a reference to recent criticisms of the New York bohemians in The Round Table by Franklin Ottarson. In another image from the Illustrated News published the same day, the atmosphere at Pfaff's is depicted somewhat differently.