Born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Thomas Bailey Aldrich moved with his father to New Orleans, Louisiana at the age of three.
An historical overview of the Pfaff's bohemians, focusing in particular on their engagement with progressive political causes.
Aldrich is mentioned as having edited the New York Illustrated News (62). He is also noted to have brought journalistic credentials to his work on the Saturday Press (79). Indeed, Aldrich was such a committed journalist that he was almost captured as he observed the Battle of Bull Run (109).
Stephen Pearl Andrews was a voice for immigrants, encouraging them to address issues in their new country (25).
Andrews' political views are mentioned as being radical (49). His devout abolitionism even led him to be driven out of Texas by a Houston mob (27). He also aided in establishing the Modern Times community (30).
Friends have remembered George Arnold as having celebrated "in a careless way the pleasures and pains of love, the joys of wine, the charm of indolence, the gayety and worthlessness of existence in the true Anacreontic vein" (50).
Arnold is said to have been part of a group of Saturday Press contributors who mocked Walt Whitman over his Leaves of Grass(53).
Arnold was known for his series of spoofs written for the Saturday Press titled "McArone." This "would-be hero" followed the troubles in Italy in the 1860's, and often recounted fights "from which he 'emerged from the fray, covered with mud, blood, and glory'" (112). By the spring of 1861, "McArone" moved on the cover the war in the United States.
Arnold was part of the group of men who restarted the Saturday Press after the war. But he didn't get to work on it long--less than three months after its revival, he "'slipped out of the World which had been much and little to him, and left behind him many sincere mourners'"(116).
Bellew, a transplanted Briton who came to America to pursue a career in painting, is noted for his particular love of the duck-billed platypus. Bellew persuaded the owner of a new restaurant on Spring Street in New York to name is after the creature. "Gathering regularly there, he and his friends 'talked, sang, joked, drank beer, and smoked church-warden pipes'" (47).
The "Benton brothers" are mentioned as "Pfaffian writers" who had "close ties to New England" (78).
The "Benton brothers" are mentioned as "Pfaffian writers" who had "close ties to New England" (78).
Boughton, an artist who visited Pfaff's, is noted as one of the "pioneering landscape painters" of the time (62).
Briggs, co-owner of the Broadway Journal with Edgar Allen Poe, is said to have written under the names "Henry Franco" and "Ferdinand Mendoza Pinto." (2).
Briggs later established Putnam's Magazine (68).
Brisbane is described as the "long-time leader among the American followers of Charles Fourier," and believed "'the great reforms to be effected in society relate to political economy, that is to credit, the currency, commerce, and banking'" (31).
Brisbane's glass eye is noted to have inspired Henry Clapp to become further interested in Fourierism (120).
Brisbane was a participant in the experimental Unitary Household (66-67).
John Brougham is mentioned as "the Irish-American editor of the Lantern, whose pen danced from editorials to plays and beyond" (59).
Clapp was responsible (along with Fitz-James O'Brien) for introducing his group of literary friends to Pfaff's beer cellar (50).
Clapp was a devout abolitionist, and the Massachusetts "Washingtonian" clubs selected him to represent them at the World Temperance Convention in London in the summer of 1846 (8). However, his strong views on slavery and politics made him a number of enemies in the movement, particularly William Lloyd Garrison (8). Throughout 1848 and 1849, Clapp continued to tour Europe and attend peace conferences (9-10).
While living in London is 1848, Clapp formed part of the "literary Bohemia of that day" (12). After London, Clapp moved to Paris, and "found the French 'more ready, more genial, more witty' than English or Americans" (14). It was here than he began to develop a taste for strong coffee, alcohol, and "spending time with women, without marriage as a goal" (17).
Clapp returned from Europe as an admirer of Fourier, and remained a "'prominent spokesperson for the Socialists'" in the United States (17).
Though Clapp would later "largely be forgotten," Walt Whitman thought his abilities were "'way out of the common'" (18).
Clapp's views on religion were particularly controversial, and he once scoffed "'what is the use of Christianity?'" (96). However, he began as a pious New England man, who rejected the devil and his works (2).
Henry was a twin, and grew up in a large family in Nantucket (2). He held many jobs as a young man, and had much success in maritime and mercantile employment (3).
"Clapp and his circle started their own thoroughly independent and iconoclastic newspaper, the Saturday Press, as an expression of discomfort along the more radical margins of an increasingly successful Republican Party" (64-65). "In promoting what it saw as the best in its field, the Press became an advocate for good journalism and publishing" and received praise from many of its contemporary newspapers (78). However the war took a toll on the paper, and after a short attempt at restarting it in 1865, it was shut down for good (116). Afterwards Clapp became a "'casual writer for City journals'" but no longer held any real journalistic standing. By 1870 he had begun to take some solace in drink, and he died a few years later. Whitman said of him, "he died in a gutter—drink—drink—took him down, down" (116).
William Winter wrote an epitaph after his death:
Wit stops to grieve and laughter stops to sigh
That so much wit and laughter e'er could die;
But Pity, conscious of its anguished past,
Is glad this tortured spirit rests at last.
His purpose, thought, and goodness ran to waste,
He made a happiness he could not taste:
Mirth could not help him, talent could not save:
Through cloud and storm he drifted to the grave.
Ah, give his memory,--who made the cheer,
And gave so many smiles,--a single tear! (118)
Walt Whitman once said "'You will have to know something about Henry Clapp if you want to know all about me'" (53).
More than anything, Henry Clapp valued humor. He is known to have asked "'What is there here on the earth, or up yonder in the skies, to be so mighty solemn about? Nature herself is half the time on the broad grin. She laughs at us even through her tears" (126).
Ada Clare is mentioned as a southerner who was part of Henry Clapp's circle of bohemians (107).
Clare was born "Jane McElhenney" to a wealthy southern family, but her parents died by the time she was twelve (54). Her first few jobs in new york were writing for papers like Atlas and Spirit of the Times (55).
Clare was described as "an attractive blond" who impressed her companions with "good looks, Southern accent, and genuine charm" (55). In the group at Pfaff's she found acceptance, bypassing the social sanctions against respectable women spending time in a saloon (55). She was also known as a woman who did not pander to male sensibilities—she had strong opinions and was not afraid of speaking out. It was all of these qualities that later earned her the title of Queen of Bohemia (55). "More importantly, Ada Clare's quiet defiance of social standards helped create a safe place for unconventional women of all sorts" (56). She even wrote "stridently and fearlessly on the cultural contradictions facing women" (91).
Clare's house was often open to the crowd at Pffaf's, and her establishment became "'the rendezvous of wits and artistes'" (56).
Ada wrote a column for the Saturday Press called "Thoughts and Things" (77).
Early in 1864 Clare left for San Francisco and wrote for the Golden Era and San Francisco Bulletin. Late in the year she returned to New York (114).
Clemenceau was a newcomer to Pfaff's in the war years.
Congdon was editor of the New Bedford Bulletin when Henry Clapp worked on it.
Danforth was described as a "wild, impulsive, Western woman" who was the estranged wife of a naval officer (57). Danforth was known not to be her real name.
Gurowski was the son of a leader of the 1794 rebellion in Poland (51).
Gurowski's book America and Europe "praised not only 'man's individuality' but also Fourier's associationism." Such an outlook suited the bohemian vision (102).
Gurowski died in the spring of 1866 of typhoid fever in Washington (116).
De Walden is noted as an actor who was present at Pfaff's.
A humorist, Dodge was among the occasional callers at Pfaff's.
Emerson and his transcendentalist colleagues met Henry Clapp willingly, despite the rumors of the "rowdiness of the crowd at Pffaf's (78).
Sol Eytinge was an "original and deeply interesting character" who worked on the New York Illustrated News (62).
The presence of actresses, like Mary Fox, in Pfaff's was so commonplace that little information about them survives (57).
"Regularly turning up at labor and socialist meetings, William Henry Fry, a French-educated musician, Fourierist, and critic for the Tribune, wrote and brought to the stage [...] works of home-grown American opera" (59).
Fry was considered the author of some of the first indigenous American opera (68).
Getty Gay was known to Pfaffians as a "pretty little creature" who had been an actress (58).
By 1851, Horace Greeley's New York Tribune had become an unprecedented publishing success in the United States (17).
Greeley's Tribune and Henry Raymond's Times were rivals within the New York City Press, and the years 1854-1855 saw them facing off on many political issues (one of which was marriage and the so-called "free love club"). Greeley took hits because of his association with Fourierism, and his "abiding faith in the ability of government to foster a more moral society." These personal views were often used as ammunition by Raymond and others to attack Greeley's paper (35-37).
Greeley's Tribune was known to have employed a large number of writers on the edge of radical movements (68).
The "respectable and conservative" Fitz-Greene Halleck would escape his rural Connecticut home as often as he could for a "'night with the bohemians at Pfaff's'" (79).
Halleck made his living as an accommodating clerk to John Jacob Astor (88).
House was born near Boston and became a musical prodigy under his pianist mother's tutelage. Her early death turned him to his father's trade, that of a bank-note engraver. He gained standing in the world of Boston literati, and eventually moved to New York to work as the drama critic for the Tribune (61).
"In many respects, Edward Howard House personified the bohemian ideal as a practicing musician, journalist, and theatrical agent" (61).
Friends remember House as "'a good fellow, handsome, well-bred, winning in manners'" (61).
House was the agent for all Dion Boucicault's plays in the United States (89).
House enjoyed writing on Asian affairs, and though he was a drama critic for the Tribune, he was given the assignment to cover the arrival of the first Japanese embassy in Washington. This event effected him profoundly, and further deepened his love for Asian culture (105).
House was against slavery, and wanted to introduce an anti-slavery dialogue in the Saturday Press, to which Henry Clapp was opposed (109).
Ohioan William Dean Howells visited Pfaff's and recorded his poor impressions of the rowdiness of the crowd there (78).
Edward Howland was part of the Unitary Household experiment. It was here that he met Marie Stevens, the love of his life. Upon their introduction, Stevens's then husband, Lyman W. Case, bowed out of their marriage noting how happy they seemed together. The three remained lifelong friends (66,68).
Howland was a Charleston-born Harvard graduate. An author in his own right, he loved travel, fine books, and literature (68).
Howland sold his massive personal book collection so that Henry Clapp could have funds to start the Saturday Press (77).
Jefferson is noted as a famous actor who was present at Pfaff's.
The Olympic Theater was the home of Laura Keene's Varieties(46).
Laura Keene was known to possess the coolest head in the theater industry. When President Abraham Lincoln was fatally shot during a show at her theater, Keene calmly "moved to the front of the stage [and] asked for a doctor." While Mrs. Lincoln was hysterical, Keene "cradled the President's head as the physicians diagnosed the wound" (115).
Leland is a noted Philadelphia writer who visited Pfaff's when in town, and who would later become the editor of Vanity Fair (52, 53).
Ludlow is known for his experimental attitude toward psychoactive substances, particularly through his published praises of Hashish.
Homer Dodge Martin was among the artists at Pfaff's that pioneered the painting of landscapes, specifically focusing on the Hudson Valley, the Berkshires, animal life, and the West for inspiration.
McWatters was a native Scot and a friend of Henry Clapp's. After moving around, McWatters found work as a booking agent for Laura Keene and others in the theater. Solving some minor mysteries in the theatrical community led to his eventual job as a private detective (28).
Known as "Officer Mac" during his detective days, McWatters founded the Lost Children's Bureau (85).
McWatters managed to occupy many different, seemingly contradictory, roles in society: "Perhaps at no other point in our history could anyone have so seamlessly combined the roles of policeman and private detective, theater critic and social critic, ardent Republican and lifelong labor radical" (85).
Menken began showing up at Pfaff's in 1859, but remained either silent or totally misleading about who she actually was (57).
In 1868 Menken's health failed, and she died in Paris at age 33.
Menken's strikingly good looks got her onto the stage, but left her with a "defensive obsession to demonstrate genuine talent" (58).
After the dramatic resolution of her third marriage, Adah Menken plunged into despair. In a small apartment in Jersey City, she wrote her suicide note. But rather than carry through with it, she chose to reinvent herself, accepting a role to play the male part of Mazeppa in Voltaire's History of Charles XII, King of Sweden. The part was a huge risk and required Mazeppa to be tied naked to a horse and sent into the wilderness. Menken's performance was "remarkable" and is thought to be "inseperable from the dislocations and disruptions of war [...] and the bringing of such commercialized sensuality to the respectable stage" (113).
Menken's health began failing in 1868, and she died in Paris at age 33 (116).
Thomas Nast was a visitor to Pfaff's, and also won fame as the political cartoonist who brought down the Tweed Ring after the war (62).
Thomas Nast's cartoons Americanized Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas, lending a Utopian language to the Christian holiday (125).
As a journalist, Newell mocked the phony romanticism and self-serving patriotism of wartime public life. Newell wrote under the pen name "Orpheus C. Kerr" and "echoed Clapp's forebodings about the legions of office seekers inspired by 'the flesh-pots' of Washington" (112).
A "'man of eccentric vision, physical and mental'" North chose not to follow his father's career in law. With no monetary help from his parents, North took small literary jobs, and became Henry Clapp's "'chum'" in London (12).
North's colleagues said that he was "'full of brilliant projects, hating routine, and bent on reforming mankind on the instant'" (48).
Fitz-James O'Brien was a regular at Pfaff's and one of the first Bohemians (along with Henry Clapp) to frequent the place. O'Brien was born to a well-off family and had come to the United States as an assistant to Hezekiah Linthicum Bateman. O'Brien was described as both "quick-fisted" and "generous" and was considered one of the "'cardinals in the high church of Bohemia.'" Though he mostly thought of himself as a poet, he also wrote macabre short stories that rivaled Poe's. His work on Putnam's Monthly Magazine earned him a solid reputation by 1859 (47-48).
O'Brien and Clapp introduced their friends and fellow writers to Pfaff's, making it grow in popularity among their circle of bohemians (49).
O'Brien served in the army in place of Aldrich. On February 15, 1862, he was ambushed by Confederates. As he rode forward to shoot the "'foremost rebel'" he was wounded in his shoulder. The injury claimed his life on April 6, 1862 (110). Though O'Brien's unionist sentiments have been questioned, it is clear that "O'Brien and the circle at Pfaff's left an ample record of a deep dedication to the cause for which he gave his life" (125-126).
A resident of the Ottoman Empire, Christopher Oscanyan came to America and decided to remain in the country. In 1855, he briefly opened a Turkish coffee house on Broadway that failed. Afterwards, he became one of the occasional callers at Pfaff's. He later published a book called The Sultan and His People, and in 1860 was appointed the Ottoman consul-general to the United States (52).
Ottarson is mentioned as a writer who came from the printing trade (86). Ottarson's fellow printers sent him as their delegate to the 1850 national convention, at which he served as secretary. In September of 1851 he attended another convention which led to the formation of the National Typographical Union (88).
Ottarson died in 1884 "'in very feeble condition brought on by hard work and irregular habits'" (118).
Pfaff was a German Catholic from Baden. Shortly after emigrating, he opened a place on Broadway near Amity in 1853, but later settled in a new place at 653 Broadway (49).
Pfaff was known for his quality beer, which "delighted Clapp and O'Brien" (49).
Pfaff was part of the group that restarted the Saturday Press in 1865 (115).
Although Poe was a Southerner and had attended West Point, he "cast away the respectable profession of the sword for a more precarious one with the pen" (52).
William Rose was an American participant at the French Association's celebration of the anniversary of the Paris Uprisings. The gathering took place in New York (24).
Seymour hailed from London. A former school teacher, he became a music and drama critic for the New York Times and attained fame in 1858 with his book Self-Made Men (48).
Seymour attended the Paris Exhibition in 1868, and died the following spring (116).
Shanly was one of the men credited with bridging newspaper row and the stage (60).
Shanly was part of the group that restarted the Saturday Press (115).
Aaron Draper Shattuck was one of the pioneering landscape painters of the Hudson River School (62).
Shaw is described as the "daughter of an Indianapolis clergyman." She won her reputation as Camille on the stage, but led a relatively unsuccessful dramatic career (57).
She was known to be present at Pfaff's, along with other actors and actresses (60).
Stedman was part of a group of men who tormented Whitman over his Leaves of Grass (53).
A former Yale student, Stedman worked on the edges of brilliant New England literary circles before coming to New York in 1856 (79).
Stedman was described as "'a clever writer and somewhat of a Reformer, [who] occupied a large office in the Treasury Department'" (102).
After working as a war correspondent, Stedman joined the wartime civil service in Washington. This was a prelude to his abandonment of journalism for a seat on the stock exchange (112).
Formerly Elizabeth Drew Barstow, she became Elizabeth Stoddard in 1852 when she married Richard Henry Stoddard (51).
Elizabeth and her husband were both great admirers of Edgar Allen Poe (52).
Elizabeth studied at Wheaton Seminary and "not only assisted his literary work but regularly wrote poems, stories, and essays for the periodical press and, eventually, three novels," (58).
Stoddard and Bayard Taylor were quite close, having met when they were "poetry-struck teenagers" (51).
Stoddard married Elizabeth Drew Barstow in 1852 (51).
Richard and his wife were both great admirers of Edgar Allen Poe (52).
Stoddard is said to have particularly hostile to Walt Whitman upon his publication of Leaves of Grass (53).
Strakosch was a musician struggling to open an opera company in the city. He was part of a rival of two other men intending to do the same, yet all would meet at Pfaff's to discuss the hectic life of touring musicians (59).
During the Depression, Strakosch proposed to gradually reduce what he was paying his performers. When one of his rivals, B. Ullmann, heard this, he likened Strakosch's suggestion to the relationship between a peasant and his donkey (89).
Eventually, Strakosch and Ullmann headed for Europe leaving the third member of their rivalry, Max Maretzek, to become the master of New-York based American opera (114).
John Swinton was the elder brother of fellow Pfaff's customer William Swinton. John learned the printer's trade in Illinois. He supported himself through a course of classical instruction at Williston seminary in Massachusetts. He traveled extensively and returned to New York in 1857 to write for the Times while studying medicine (51).
Swinton went to Washington to work on the war effort, and wrote to Whitman that it was "refreshing" (112).
Swinton served on several newspapers, even eventually opening his own in 1883 called John Swinton's Paper. In 1894 Swinton wrote a book-length defense of Eugene V. Dens and the Pullman Workers which was republished the following year as A Momentous Question: The Respective Attitudes of Labor and Capital (119).
Swinton was Scottish-born and educated in Canada and at Amherst College. He worked at the Edgeworth Female Seminary in North Carolina before going to New York. In 1858 he joined the staff at the New York Times. In the following year his pieces were published for Putnam's Monthly as Rambles among Words: Their Poetry and Wisdom (50).
A writer for Putnam's, William Swinton "went to the seat of the war for the Times and became so conversant in military matters that his discussions of them incurred the displeasure of General Grant" (110).
Taylor went to Europe and the Middle East in 1851. He lectured when he returned, and eventually worked at the Tribune (51).
Taylor and Richard Henry Stoddard were friends, and met while they were "poetry-struck teenagers" (51).
Taylor was a great admirer of Edgar Allen Poe (52).
"Antebellum social standards required a dehumanization, which Mortimer Thomson caricatured as 'lazy, shiftless Northern white men'" (88).
Thomson is noted as being one of the more conservative bohemians. He mocked self-deceptions about the American past. In his spoof on Longfellow's Hiawatha, Thomson declared his intention to "'slaughter the American Eagle, cut the throat of the Goddess of Liberty, annihilate the Yankee nation...'" (94).
Thomson's pen name was "'Q.K. Philander Doesticks, P.B.,'" which stood for "'Queer Kritter, Philander Doesticks, Perfect Brick'" (48). He had gained fame by "going to Niagra falls and writing self deprecating letters back to the Tribune" (49). He was also known as a popular humorist.
Clemens was a Pfaff's visitor after the war.
Charles Farrar Browne created the persona "Artemus Ward" while editing the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Soon after he moved to New York and worked for the Saturday Press and Vanity Fair. "'He was a pure Bohemian, thoroughly good-natured, incapable of malice towards any one, with a capacity for gentleness and tenderness.'" He also attained fame on the lecture circuit (54).
The bohemians often chose to do battle over "questions of culture rather than electoral politics." Artemus Ward in particular offered a crisp focus on the absurdity of race (92).
By his death in 1867, Ward had gained a net worth of almost $100,000, which was enough to support his aged mother and open an asylum for old and disabled printers (116).
Webb is noted as a war correspondent who spent time in New York at Pfaff's.
President Lincoln's assassination deeply impacted many of the bohemians, including Walt Whitman, whose "O Captain! My Captain!" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed" articulated the national grief (115).
Whitman was an old friend of Henry Clapp's, and he remains the most famous of the old bohemians. By 1881, the seventh edition of Leaves of Grass was quite large and "did well enought to allow Whitman to purchase a home in Camden, New Jersey. After a long and very well-documented old age, he died on March 26, 1892" (119).
Whitman "embodied the importance of Pfaff's for the future of American letters." He began making his way into Pfaff's when he was nearly forty years old, and had attained enough of a reputation by then to inspire a mixture of jealousy as well as respect. Even into his old age, Whitman spoke of how important Pfaff's had been to him, saying "'You will have to know something about Henry Clapp if you want to know all about me'" (53).
When Henry Clapp arranged to have a woman from upstate review Whitman's work, Whitman said "'the girls have always been my sturdiest defenders, upholders'" (87).
"Walt Whitman fondly remembered Edward "Ned" G.P. Wilkins as [...] 'noble, slim, sickish, dressy, Frenchy--consumptive in look, in gait, weak-voiced...'" But, according to Whitman, he was also "'a pungent and strong writer'" (59-60).
Winter was one of the men at Pfaff's who was quite willing to join in tormenting Walt Whitman over his Leaves of Grass (53).
In late 1859, Harvard graduate William Winter showed up in New York city and was "drawn into Clapp's paper as 'sub-editor'" (79).
Upon Henry Clapp's death, Winter wrote a touching epitaph. However, since the lines were not approved by his only living relative, they were not ascribed on his gravestone (118).
Newspaperman Frank Wood won success in 1863 with his play Leah the Forsook (59). It is because of this play that Wood is referred to as one of the men in new York that "bridged Newspaper Row and the stage" (60).
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015