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.
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 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).
Henry Wheeler Shaw was one of the "brightest and most popular humorous men of the day" (J. Derby 239). He was best known as a talented "humorist, a homespun philospher [sic], and a conscious literary artist. One of his chief strengths was originality; in such a graphic epigram as ’when a feller gits a goin down hil, it dus seem as tho evry thing had bin greased for the okashun,’ even the deliberate misspellings fade into the background behind the compelling image" (Kesterson). At age seventeen, Shaw began a ten year exploration of western portions of the United States.
An active theater critic, comedian, and actor, Mark Smith was also a member of an exclusive subset of the Pfaff’s cadre which called itself “The Bees.” This group was composed of actors, writers, dramatists, and artists devoted to the theater who "met regularly for dinner and conversation" (T. Miller 44). The club was formed in 1856, and had rooms on the south side of East Houston Street. Their motto was "Honey Soit." John Brougham was the president, and members included Fitz-James O’Brien, Ned Wilkins, Henry Clapp, Jr., and Smith himself.
Wallack’s Lyceum was located in Broadway near Broome Street. Its productions included original works by Pfaffians John Brougham, Stephen Ryder Fiske, and Fitz-James O’Brien. The Lyceum, run by James W. Wallack, was at one time the leading theater in New York City.
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).