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.
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.
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).
Very little is know about Anne Deland’s early life. We do know that she was originally from Georgia and eventually made her way to New York to begin her career on stage (Lause 57). We also know that in 1857 she starred as Desdemona during a production of Othello in Newark and that Laura Kenne recruited Deland into New York City’s dramatic scene (57). Supporting this migration, Odell speculates that Laura Keene's company's performance of House and Home was the first appearance of Anne Deland (218).
Born in New York, John S. Du Solle moved to Philadelphia with his family in 1814 ("Colonel John Stephenson du Solle"). He is often remembered as the editor of the newspaper Spirit of the Times and as a friend of Edgar Allan Poe. He married his wife, Sarah Ann Ford, in December 1833 ("Colonel John Stephenson du Solle"). In November 1839, he pruchased the Saturday Evening Post with George Graham, who later became known for his publication, Graham's Magazine, which Poe both wrote for and help to edit (Thomas and Jackson 286).
Mary Fox (nee Hewins) was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1842, a precocious child with an affinity for the fields of literature and drama. She ran away to join a circus as a child, but left after two weeks to embark with a theatrical company ("Mary Fox"), making her first acting appearance in Troy, New York. She later appeared at Laura Keene’s Varieties in New York (Wilson & Fiske 521), and was one of several actresses who accompanied Ada Clare to Pfaff’s (J. Browne 157).
Getty Gay, born Gertrude Louise Vultee, was an actress as well as a major contributor to the Saturday Press (Gunn 11.162, 14.16-7). Although not much is known about her artistic career, the obituary of Henry Clapp calls Gay "a talented bit of womanhood" (7). A. L. Rawson connects Gay to the scene at Pfaff’s through Ada Clare and Charles Gayler: “Ada [Clare] was never without a woman companion, and one of them was Getty Gay, who was pretty, bright and witty. Her lithe and petite figure and sweetly sad face were ever welcome among the Pfaffians” (103).
Born to a family of tradesmen in New York City, Charles Gayler began his career as a teacher before he moved to Ohio and worked as a journalist and editor. While there, he developed an interest in politics that led him to write songs and speeches for Whig Presidential candidate Henry Clay in the 1844 election. In 1846 he married Grace Christian, with whom he had eight children. While one source suggests that his wife was actress and fellow Pfaffian Getty Gay (Rawson 103), Thomas Butler Gunn indicates that Gay was Gayler’s mistress (10.34).
Edward Howard House, also known as “Ned,” was born near Boston and became a musical prodigy under his pianist mother's tutelage. Her early death turned him to his father's trade, that of a bank-note engraver. He gained standing in the world of Boston literati, and eventually moved to New York to work as the drama critic for the Tribune (61). As a contributor to the Saturday Press, House wanted to create a dialogue supporting his anti-slavery beliefs, but Editor Henry Clapp opposed it (Lause 109).
Adah Menken, an actress "not known for her talent, but rather for her frenetic energy, her charismatic presence, and her willingness to expose herself," was born in a suburb of New Orleans (Richards 192). Adah’s given name was probably Adah Bertha Theodore, but conflicting accounts of her early years and parentage (many generated by herself for publicity purposes) make it difficult to say with certainty.
Harry Neill was born to a Presbyterian minister in Philadelphia (Gunn, vol. 18, 54). Henry Clapp’s New York Times obituary describes Neill as “a gifted Philadelphian” ("Obituary" 7). Neill was a journalist whose work was published in Vanity Fair and other contemporary periodicals. He also wrote under the alias, Inigo (T. Miller 37). Before moving to New York in his early 20s, Neill's work appeared in Philadelphia's Bulletin and the Evening Journal.
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.
Also known by the alias “Bayard," Franklin J. Ottarson was a successful New York journalist, editor, and civil servant. Born in Watertown, New York, Ottarson learned the trade of the printing business in a Whig newspaper (possibly the Whig or the Tribune Almanac) (Brockway 172). Under the editorship of Horace Greeley, Ottarson was part of the “very strong” Tribune staff of 1854 along with Bayard Taylor (Brockway 141). Ottarson is perhaps best remembered for his editorship, first at the Tribune and later at the New York Times.
Described as a "golden woman of poetical tendencies," Shaw was born to an Ohio clergyman (Kendall 305). Shaw married young but divorced and was shunned by her family as a result (Lawson 104). Though her first marriage to Dr. LeBaum failed, Shaw did remarry in 1863 to Captain Henry Bogardus. Shaw who was "brillant, beautiful, but eccentric" worked as an actress throughout the country, including cities such as New Orleans and St. Louis (Kendall 305).
Born in Connecticut, Stedman’s merchant father died leaving the small child in the care of his mother, maternal grandfather, and lawyer uncle. Stedman’s childhood passed between his grandfather’s New Jersey farm and his uncle’s Connecticut residence. Much of Stedman’s literary education likely came from his mother, who herself was an author of both verse and essay. Stedman’s juvenilia consists of poetry inspired by the Romantics and Tennyson. He attended Yale University but was expelled after a youthful indiscretion.
Remembered as a novelist and poet, Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard was the second of nine children raised in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, a setting she drew on for her novels. She met the man who would become her husband, Richard Henry Stoddard, and after a brief courtship, the couple married in 1852 and settled in New York City. At their home in Manhattan, they hosted gatherings for people interested in literature and culture including Thomas Bailey Aldrich and William Dean Howells (Greenslet 33; Howells "First Impressions" 72).
Richard Henry Stoddard's early years were rather Dickensian. After his sea-captain father was lost at sea, Stoddard endured a life of poverty that led him to move with his mother to New York City in 1835. There he worked at a number of odd jobs before being employed, at age eleven, in an iron foundry. An autodidact who read voraciously in his youth, Stoddard published his first book of poems, Footprints (1849), after befriending Bayard Taylor--who introduced Stoddard to his future wife, Elizabeth Drew Barstow, herself an author of both fiction and poetry.