A graduate of the University of New York Medical School, Dr. Daniel Bennett St. John Roosa worked at Broadway Hospital in New York City, the same hospital Walt Whitman occasionally visited to comfort the sick and wounded among his working-class friends during the 1850s and early 1860s. Roosa recalls that "[n]o one could see him [Whitman] sitting by the bedside of a suffering stage driver without soon learning that he had a sincere and profound sympathy for this order of men" (Roosa 30).
Richard Henry Stoddard's early years were rather Dickensian. After his sea-captain father was lost at sea, Stoddard endured a life of poverty that led him to move with his mother to New York City in 1835. There he worked at a number of odd jobs before being employed, at age eleven, in an iron foundry. An autodidact who read voraciously in his youth, Stoddard published his first book of poems, Footprints (1849), after befriending Bayard Taylor--who introduced Stoddard to his future wife, Elizabeth Drew Barstow, herself an author of both fiction and poetry.