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 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 Philadelphia, PA in September 1835, Rose Eytinge made her first appearance as an amateur actress in Brooklyn at the age of seventeen (Wilson and Fiske 396). Her first professional appearance was as Melanie in "The Old Guard" in a dramatic stock company in Syracuse, NY under the management of Geary Hough. She soon became "the leading juvenile woman" in the company but quickly moved on to her second professional acting engagement as the leading lady at the Green Street Theatre in Albany, NY (Eytinge 8).
Clara Louise Kellogg was born in Sumterville, South Carolina to a musical family, particularly in her mother, father, and maternal grandmother. In her biography, Kellogg claims that her first musical efforts occurred at the age of ten months, when she attempted to sing in mimesis of her “negro mammy.” The family relocated to Birmingham, Connecticut, where Kellogg continued to demonstrate her interest and talent in singing and playing the piano. After her father, a “dignified scholar,” failed and moved the family to New York in 1857, Kellogg was discovered by Colonel Henry G.
An "American dancer and adventuress," the woman later known as Lola Montez has several different birthdates, but scholar Bruce Seymour argues that she was likely born in 1820 in Ireland as Marie Dolores Eliza Rosanna Gilbert (Seymour 4). The thrice-married Gilbert first debuted in London as "Lola Montez" in 1843 and experienced success in Europe. In 1847, as the mistress of Louis I of Bavaria, Montez was made Baroness Rosenthal and Countess Lansfeld and was able to control the Bavarian government until she was opposed by the Jesuits and ousted by revolution in 1848 ("Montez").
Actor Edward Askew Sothern, who was known as Douglas Stewart in the early part of his career and possibly went by the initials E.A. Sothern in his later years, moved in theatrical circles like many of the Pfaffians, including playwright John Brougham, actress Adah Menken, and theater critic William Winter. Sothern was part of the troupe that theater historian George Odell describes as Laura Keene’s best company. In addition to working with Keene, he also appeared at Barnum’s and at Wallack’s during the 1854-55 season.
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.
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.
Born in small-town New England, Charles Browne began his career as a young contributor to the Boston Carpet Bag, a humor magazine, and later at Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer he adopted the persona of circus showman Artemus Ward. As Ward, he began writing letters from this fictional character whose travels inspired social commentaries, satires, and burlesques.
Born second in a family of nine children in Maine and schooled in Boston, Willis attended Yale and traveled extensively in Europe. His sister was Fanny Fern, a member of the Pfaffian crowd. In 1831 he left Boston to join the editorial staff of the New York Mirror as a traveling correspondent discoursing on matters of taste and fashion. Like his fellow Pfaffians, Willis expressed admiration for the work of Edgar Allan Poe and even claimed an acquaintance with him.
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).