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.
Not much is known about Juliette Beach’s early and later life. We know that she and her husband, Calvin were acquaintances of Henry Clapp. The couple may have visited Pfaff's during their occasional sojourns to New York City. We know, also, that Beach was a contributor for the Saturday Press (Loving 568). Much more, however, is known about the controversy over a review of Leaves of Grass, and there has been much speculation surrounding the true nature of Beach’s relationship to the poet.
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.
Albert Brisbane was born into a moderately wealthy landowning family in Batavia, New York. He received most of his education from his mother until, at the age of fifteen, he was sent to a boarding school in Long Island, New York.
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.
The troublesome nephew of a prominent Massachusetts Congressman and Civil War general, Benjamin Butler, George H. Butler was a theater critic and writer. During the Civil War, Butler served as lieutenant in the Union army (New York Times, May 12, 1886, 2). After the war, he returned to New York, where he was an editor for the Arcadian (Record of the Year, vol. 2, 57). Later, he served as a writer and dramatic critic for the publication, Spirit of the Times (New York Times, May 12, 1886, 2).
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.
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).
John Augustin Daly’s widowed mother moved the family to New York City when he was still a child. In New York, Daly quickly developed an affinity for the theatre. As a young man, he participated in amateur theatrical productions where his interests led him to the behind-the-scenes world of production and direction. Before he was twenty years of age, Daly put on a production in a rented hall in Brooklyn: "The details of this performance . . . are an epitome of his later career of alternate success and failure, met with courage, resourcefulness, and unquenchable confidence" (Quinn).
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).
Born in England in 1811, Thomas Blades (Bladies) de Walden made his first appearance on the English stage in 1841, then traveled to New York for his premier on the American stage at Park theatre in 1844 (Wilson and Fiske 158). Identified by William Winter as a regular at Pfaff’s during the Bohemian days, de Walden was active in the New York stage community as both an actor and a playwright (Old Friends 88). Mark Lause also labels de Walden as one of the frequent actors who inhabited the vault at Pfaff’s (60).
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Stephen Ryder Fiske achieved journalistic success at a young age. He was a paid contributor to several newspapers by the time he was twelve and, two years later, became the editor of a small newspaper. He attended Rutgers College until 1860, when he was asked to leave after he was found to be responsible for writing book chapters that satirized the college professors, according to D. W. Miller.
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).