Though many details about his early life are in dispute, scholars agree that Arnold was born in New York City and that his father may have been the Reverend George B. Arnold. The family relocated to Illinois and then to Monmouth County, New Jersey where Arnold enjoyed a country upbringing. Though he apprenticed himself to a portrait painter in New York in 1852, Arnold soon determined that literature would be his true calling.
Son of Benjamin Franklin Butler and Harriet Allen (an alleged descendant of Oliver Cromwell), William Allen Butler was born in Albany, New York, on February 20th, 1825 (“William Allen Butler”). Butler received most of his education in New York City. Practicing law was, it seems, in the Butler bloodline; his obituary claimed that Butler’s “family was one of lawyers” stating that most of his siblings were connected to the profession (“William Allen Butler”).
Born in Massachusetts to a family of merchants and seamen, Clapp traveled to Paris to translate the socialist writings of Fourier. In Paris, Clapp abandoned his ardent sympathy for the temperance movement and embraced the leisurely café life of the city. Upon returning to New York in 1850, he sought to recreate this atmosphere, spending hours at Charlie Pfaff's beer cellar, drawing a crowd of journalists, painters, actors, and poets to cultivate an American Bohemia in which participants admired and discussed the work of Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and Washington Irving (Martin 15-7).
Born in Southbury, Connecticut, Horace Francis Clark received his education from Williams College. In 1837, after being admitted to the bar, Clark worked as a lawyer in New York City "where he was prominent in financial, political, and railroad circles." In 1856, he ran for a seat in Congress. His bid was a success, as was his reelection campaign ("Clark"). At the end of his political career, Clark returned to the world of law but quickly dismissed it in favor of business opportunities within the growing railroad industry.
Born in 1819 into an old Quaker family near Philadelphia, Thomas Dunn English attended schooling in Philadelphia and New Jersey. He took his degree at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, where he completed a thesis on phrenology and gained his M.D. in 1839. Even as English continued on to a law degree, completed in 1842, he began writing for the Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and was president of a political club. English would continue this multifaceted career throughout his life.
Born and raised in England, Thomas Butler Gunn first worked as an illustrator for the famous British satirical journal Punch. In 1849, Gunn moved to New York City, where he quickly found work drawing for the city’s comic papers, including the New York Reveille, Nick Nax, the New York Picayune, the Lantern, and Yankee Notions (Faflik xiii, xiv). He also took up writing and editing. In 1857, he published the Physiology of New York Boarding-Houses (New York: Mason Brothers), a humorous description of boarding-house life.
Robert Shelton Mackenzie was born June 22, 1809 in Limerick, Ireland. Mackenzie began his newspaper career editing a county journal in Hanley, Staffordsville, England. After writing for various papers and contributing several biographies to the Georgian Era, Mackenzie was appointed the English correspondent for the New York Evening Star in 1834, possibly making Mackenzie the first European correspondent to any American paper (Baugh).
Born in County Cork and raised primarily in Limerick, Ireland, Fitz-James O'Brien moved to New York City in 1852. Descending from an Anglo-Irish landholding family, O'Brien received his inheritance (estimated at £8000) at about the age of 21. Between 1849 and 1851, it is believed that O'Brien edited a failed literary magazine called The Parlour Magazine of the Literature of All Nations and squandered his inheritance (Wolle 21). Leaving England almost penniless, O'Brien immigrated to America and made the U.S.
Charles Pfaff's obituary in the New York Times characterizes him as the proprietor of the famous Bohemian "chop house" at 647 Broadway that flourished between 1860 and 1875 ("In and About the City," 2). Born in Baden, Switzerland likely in 1819, Pfaff first arrived in New York in the early 1850s "part of a wave of German immigrants" (Blalock; Martin 18). According to scholar Justin Martin, "Herr Pfaff was a round little man with shaggy eyebrows and chubby fingers. His Old World manner and thickly accented English gave him a courtly and discreet air" (18).
Actor Edward Askew Sothern, who was known as Douglas Stewart in the early part of his career and possibly went by the initials E.A. Sothern in his later years, moved in theatrical circles like many of the Pfaffians, including playwright John Brougham, actress Adah Menken, and theater critic William Winter. Sothern was part of the troupe that theater historian George Odell describes as Laura Keene’s best company. In addition to working with Keene, he also appeared at Barnum’s and at Wallack’s during the 1854-55 season.