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).
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).
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 Cayuga, New York in 1820, Ossian Euclid Dodge was devoted to both his parents, especially his mother to whom he made a vow never to drink alcohol, a promise he kept his whole life. His father had earned a national reputation as a mathematician having brokered the British government’s disputed claims in Canada. At the age of five, Dodge displayed musical proclivities much to the dismay of both his parents. He went on to become a singer of “moral comic songs which he composed and wrote himself” (Wilson & Fiske 194).
Born the son of an architect in 1812, Charles L. Elliott’s artistic talent was not allowed to blossom until he reached adulthood. His father, "did not encourage the boy’s artistic ambitions and placed him as a clerk in a store" (J. Holt). In 1829, Elliott's father finally relented and allowed Charles to travel to New York City, where he would study to become a painter. In New York, he worked under the guidance of John Trumbull for a brief time before working for six months in the studio of John Quidor.
Boston-born Ralph Waldo Emerson lost his father, a Concord minister, when he was eight years old, leaving the family in difficult circumstances. Greatly influenced by his aunt Mary Moody Emerson, who was deeply committed to the Emerson children’s education, Emerson's interest in writing grew. He worked his way through Harvard, graduating as class poet in 1821. After college, Emerson taught at a young ladies’ finishing school and then entered divinity school. Following the death of his first wife, he resigned from the ministry over doctrinal differences and began pursuing a literary career.
Born in 1819 into an old Quaker family near Philadelphia, Thomas Dunn English attended schooling in Philadelphia and New Jersey. He took his degree at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, where he completed a thesis on phrenology and gained his M.D. in 1839. Even as English continued on to a law degree, completed in 1842, he began writing for the Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and was president of a political club. English would continue this multifaceted career throughout his life.
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).
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).
While William Henry Fry’s presence at Pfaff’s remains unconfirmed, he is listed among the many associates of Ada Clare, the “Queen of Bohemia” (Rawson). A native of Philadelphia, Fry was born into a prominent native American family to parents William and Anne (nee Fleeson) Fry. His father was the publisher of the National Gazette, and his mother was the granddaughter of Judge Plunkett Fleeson. Having displayed musical talent at an early age, Fry taught himself to play the piano after listening to his older brother's piano lessons.
Horace Greeley was born in 1811 near Amherst, New Hampshire, to a poor farming family. Though physically feeble, Greeley had an affinity for books and tried for a printing apprenticeship at the age of eleven. He became an apprentice three years later in Vermont, where he learned the business rapidly and sent most of his earnings to his father. Greeley went back to farm life at the age of twenty before going to seek his fortune (Appleton 734). Greeley fostered this rags-to-riches story, claiming to have arrived in New York City in 1831 with only twenty-five dollars in his pocket.