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.
While not much is known about Henry Clapp, Jr.'s brother George, his obituary provides several important biographical details about his life and career. According to the obituary, George Clapp came to New York before the Civil War and remained there until his brother's death in 1873, when he returned to Boston. Clapp remained in Boston until 1885, when he returned to New York, "miserably poor," to work as a used bookseller among his "established clientele." Two of these men, J.H. Johnston and Nathan Appleton, are quoted remarking upon Clapp's character and skill as a bookseller.
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).
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.
Irishman John Savage showed early artistic promise, winning the silver medal of the Royal Dublin Society at art school in 1847. While at school he became involved with the “Young Ireland” movement, which ultimately led to Savage’s early forays into journalism. Savage supported insurrection in actions as well as words and had to flee to the United States as a result, arriving in New York City on November 7, 1848. Shortly after his arrival he met Horace Greeley who hired him as a proofreader for the New York Tribune.
Born to a musical family in London, Henry Cood Watson followed suit. He first made his singing debut at the Covent Garden performing Weber's "Oberon" in Novemeber 1829. While still in London, Henry Watson laid the foundation for his career working as both a composer and musical critic ("Watson" 391).
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).