Little is known about Nat Bloom outside of his affiliation with what was known as the "Fred Gray Association," a group of young men at Pfaff's whom Ed Folsom and Ken Price characterize as "a loose confederation of young men who seemed anxious to explore new possibilities of male-male affection" (Re-Scripting 62).
Fred Gray, the son of prominent New York doctor Dr. John F. Gray and Elizabeth Hull-Gray, was born in New York in 1840. His two siblings died before they reached adulthood. Gray enrolled in William’s College in Massachusetts in 1858, studying science and medicine and eager to follow in his father’s esteemed footsteps. He studied in Germany at the University of Heidelberg from 1860 to 1861, but left before finishing his degree to serve in the Union army (Blalock 52).
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.