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).
Remembered primarily as a naturalist writer, Burroughs grew up on a dairy farm in rural New York state, the seventh of ten children. Burroughs' reading of Emerson's essays is remarked upon as "the first great galvanizing contact for the young writer" (J. P. Warren). At the start of his literary career, Burroughs published in Henry Clapp's Saturday Press.
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).