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).
Born in Norwich, England as a farmer's son, Boughton emigrated to Albany, New York with his family at the age of three. At age nineteen, and without the benefit of formal training, he sold his first painting, The Wayfarer , at the American Art Union exhibition. In 1858 he exhibited Winter Twilight at the New York Academy of Design. His influences included Edward May, with whom he studied during a visit to Paris, and Édouard Frère. In 1862 two of Boughton's paintings were exhibited in the British Institution.
Born and raised in rural Cambridge, MA, Winslow Homer was the son of Charles Savage Homer and Henrietta Maria Benson Homer. Homer’s talent for painting manifested at a young age, and at twenty-one he opened his first studio in Boston (Johns). Largely self-taught, he started to publish illustrations in Harper’s Weekly in 1858. One year later, he moved to New York City and opened another studio, taking night classes at the National Academy of Design. It is around this time that Homer most likely became involved with the Pfaffians.
Born in Albany, Homer Dodge Martin displayed a skill for art from a young age. Martin was a self-taught landscape painter. In 1857, when he was only 20, he began to exhibit his work in the National Academy of Design. He moved to New York City in 1863 and eventually took up residence in the Tenth Street Studio from 1865-1882 (The National Cyclopedia 53; Tenth Street Studio 133). For Martin, a man filled with Bohemian sensibilities, there is scattered evidence that he was a member of Pfaff’s.
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.
Born on Long Island and raised in Brooklyn, Walt Whitman spent his childhood and early adulthood amid the sights and sounds of New York City and its environs. As a young man Whitman worked as a journeyman printer for several New York newspapers, before ultimately becoming a journalist and editor in his own right. Before committing himself to poetry, Whitman also worked intermittently as a schoolteacher, a carpenter, and a writer of sensational prose fiction.
The unofficial biographer of the Pfaff’s crowd, William Winter was born in coastal Massachusetts, and his mother died when he was young. Winter attended school in Boston; he also went to Harvard Law School but decided not to practice ("William Winter, 19). By 1854 he had already published a collection of verse and worked as a reviewer for the Boston Transcript; he befriended Pfaffian Thomas Bailey Aldrich after reviewing a volume of his poetry. He relocated to New York in 1856 "because he believed [the city] offered the best field for writers" (Levin 153).