Born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Thomas Bailey Aldrich moved with his father to New Orleans, Louisiana at the age of three. He remained there until age thirteen, when his father's impending death prompted Aldrich's return to New Hampshire and his mother's household (Parker). At age sixteen, Aldrich started working as a clerk for his uncle, Charles Frost: "While working over the books of the firm, his mind was often busy with themes outside of the commission house, all leading towards a literary career" (Hemstreet 218).
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.
A group of intimate friends smaller than the group of bohemians at Pfaff's. The club was formed in 1856 and had rooms on the south side of East Houston Street. Members were "actors, writers, and artists" who "met regularly for dinner and conversation" (Miller 44). John Brougham was the president; other members included Fitz-James O'Brien, Ned Wilkins, Henry Clapp, Jr., and Mark Smith. Their motto was "Honey Soit". O'Brien describes them as a gay, lively, and witty crowd who were feared by the theatrical world because of their clever ridicule of plays (Wolle 131-32).
Frank Bellew was born in India, possibly to Captain Francis-John and Anne Smoult Temple (Colburn 1374). While growing up, Bellew also lived in France and England before moving to New York City in 1850. Once in New York, he worked as a caricaturist and illustrator for numerous publications including Yankee Notions, The Lantern, the New York Picayune, Nick-Nax, Vanity Fair, Harper's Weekly,Harper's Monthly, and Scribner's Monthly.
Born November 13th, 1833 in Maryland, Edwin Booth had an affinity for the acting world; he was named after the actors Edwin Forrest and Thomas Flynn, and his father, Junius, was a British actor who took Edwin with him on theatrical tours of the United States. Father and son developed a close relationship, although "to see to it that that erratic genius [Junius] did not break his engagements, murder someone, or commit suicide during his times of intoxication and half-insanity was a heavy responsibility for the fragile youth and made [Edwin] grave, serious, and melancholy beyond his years.
Born in Ireland, John Brougham originally pursued a surgical career at the Peter Street Hospital in Dublin. A change in fortune resulted in his decision to move to England and become an actor in 1830. He was associated with London's Tottenham Street Theatre, the Olympic Theatre, and became manager of the London Lyceum in 1840. Brougham produced over 100 works and is remembered for his comedic playwriting and acting.
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).
Ada Clare (whose given name was Jane McIlheny) was born in South Carolina. As Thomas Gunn, a contemporary of Clare, describes she "made an attempt – several attempts – to become a tragic actress, but despite any amount of puffery on the part of fellows who knew her (or wanted to know her in a scriptural sense) failed. She had money and aspired for 'fame' only" (Gunn vol. 11, 160). She received a small inheritance upon her parents' deaths, which she used to travel to Paris.
Described as one of the "Knights of the Round Table" of the "lions of Bohemia," Georges Clemenceau was a great French statesman who served twice as Premier in 1906-1909 and again in 1917-1919 ("In and About the City"). As a young man, Clemenceau studied medicine before traveling to the United States in 1865.
Born April 7th, 1821 in New-Bedford, Massachusetts, Charles Taber Congdon began his journalistic career early in his life by cleaning the floors of the New Bedford Courier and delivering papers. Describing this period of his life, Congdon states that “a considerable portion of my infant untidiness was of printer's ink” (Congdon 10).
Curtis was born in Rhode Island and educated in Massachusetts along with his older brother James, an influential figure in his life. When Curtis was a teenager, the family moved to New York City where he began a clerkship. Due to his growing interest in the Transcendentalist Movement, Curtis, along with his brother, resided for two years in the utopian community at Brook Farm. William Winter claims that Curtis already had the "Brook Farm ideal" in mind when he arrived there: "the ideal of a social existence regulated by absolute justice and adorned by absolute beauty" (Old Friends 228-30).
Little is known of Jennie or (Jenny) Danforth despite the fact that she is mentioned frequently as one of the women who followed Ada Clare to Pfaff’s. Justin Martin places Jenny as one of the “other women” who “became part of the Bohemian circle at Pfaff’s and that she may have had a romantic tie to Fitz-James O’Brien (67-8). Wolle also mentions that O’Brien and Danforth were involved in an affair, but the true nature of their relationship is unknown and is merely speculation (130).
Boston-born Ralph Waldo Emerson lost his father, a Concord minister, when he was eight years old, leaving the family in difficult circumstances. Greatly influenced by his aunt Mary Moody Emerson, who was deeply committed to the Emerson children’s education, Emerson's interest in writing grew. He worked his way through Harvard, graduating as class poet in 1821. After college, Emerson taught at a young ladies’ finishing school and then entered divinity school. Following the death of his first wife, he resigned from the ministry over doctrinal differences and began pursuing a literary career.
Born in Albany, Abraham Oakey Hall lost his father to yellow fever at the age of three and entered the public school system. He excelled in journalism from an early age, and his earnings from contributions to various periodicals helped him pay for his education at the University of the City of New York. By 1844 Oakey had received a B. A. and an M. A., followed by a semester of study at Harvard Law School. His studies at Harvard were cut short, possibly due to a lack of money, and he went to work at Charles W. Sanford’s New York City law office (Carman).
Matilda Heron was born in poverty in Labby Vale, Draperstown, Ireland in 1830 and came to the U.S. as a child. Matilda came to Philadelphia in 1842 with her parents and two sisters, Fanny and Agnes, where she took lessons from Peter Richings of the Walnut-street Theatre.
Born into an anti-slavery family of eight children, Howells aided his family by setting type in his journalist father's printing office. Though he never finished high school, Howells would later receive honorary degrees from six universities as well as the offer of Ivy League professorships. Howells published frequently in the Saturday Press (Belasco 252) and was one of the “foremost writers of fiction” in novel form. Percy Holmes Boynton puts him in the company of such writers as Mark Twain, Bret Harte, and Walt Whitman in being “scrupulously careful writers” (49).
George Jones was born in London in 1810 and immigrated to Boston at the age of six. He made his first appearance on stage in 1828 at Boston’s Federal Street Theatre, and became manager of the Marshall Theatre in Richmond in 1839. That same year, Jones’ first wife Melinda gave birth to Avonia, who would become a popular actress. “In 1833 he was installed Count of Sertorli of the Holy Roman Empire, of the First Commander of the Imperial Order of Golden Knight and Count Palatine, and thereafter always wore in public the insignia of his knighthood” (“Queries and Answers”).
Growing up in Poughkeepsie, New York, Fitz Hugh Ludlow began sampling various drugs at the age of sixteen. He went to Union College in Schenectady, New York, where he continued to experiment with drugs, especially hashish (Martin 51-2). His most well-known work, The Hasheesh Eater (1857), was written in the tradition of Thomas De Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) and was based on his personal experiences under the influence of the drug.
Characterized as an "eccentric literary man not without a spice of genius," William North was born in England and eventually settled in New York City (W. Rossetti 48-49). In England he established a periodical North's Magazine, and in New York he began publishing sensational stories like "The Living Corpse" which appeared in Putnam's in 1853 and was later reprinted in the Saturday Press.
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.