Often credited with inspiring the Pfaff's Bohemians, Edgar Allan Poe was born January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. He enlisted in the army on May 26, 1827 under the name Edgar A. Perry. He received an appointment to West Point and entered the Military Academy on July 1, 1830 but was later dismissed after neglecting his duties. Poe received his first recognition as a writer in 1833 when he won a prize of $50 in the Baltimore Saturday Visitor for his story, "A MS.
Henry Jarvis Raymond was born in Lima, New York to a farm family that had migrated from Connecticut. Raymond distinguished himself at the University of Vermont where he was graduated with high honors in 1840. During his college career he developed strict work habits and began submitting pieces to Horace Greeley’s New Yorker. He moved to New York City after college and pursued freelance writing until he earned a job with Greeley. Thus began a lifelong enmity between the two men whose views of the role and utility of journalism differed greatly.
A graduate of the University of New York Medical School, Dr. Daniel Bennett St. John Roosa worked at Broadway Hospital in New York City, the same hospital Walt Whitman occasionally visited to comfort the sick and wounded among his working-class friends during the 1850s and early 1860s. Roosa recalls that "[n]o one could see him [Whitman] sitting by the bedside of a suffering stage driver without soon learning that he had a sincere and profound sympathy for this order of men" (Roosa 30).
Irishman John Savage showed early artistic promise, winning the silver medal of the Royal Dublin Society at art school in 1847. While at school he became involved with the “Young Ireland” movement, which ultimately led to Savage’s early forays into journalism. Savage supported insurrection in actions as well as words and had to flee to the United States as a result, arriving in New York City on November 7, 1848. Shortly after his arrival he met Horace Greeley who hired him as a proofreader for the New York Tribune.
A former teacher, Charles Bailey Seymour moved from London to New York City in 1849. In New York, he began working as the dramatic and musical editor for the New York Times. In 1858, Seymour published the book Self-Made Men. The book, which won him a certain degree of fame, was "a collection of short biographies of British and American subjects that included [Henry] Clapp's old mentor, Elihu Burritt" (Lause 48).
Charles Dawson Shanly emigrated to New York City from Ireland via Canada and was working as the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Public Works in 1857. In New York City during the late 1850s and 1860s, Shanly was productive as a journalist and editor at such publications as Vanity Fair, Mrs. Grundy, the New York Leader, the Atlantic Monthly, and the New York Saturday Press.
The seventh of nine children, Aaron Shattuck was born into a family with a long pre-Revolutionary War history in America. His public school education took place in Lowell, New Hampshire, and soon afterwards he began to paint portraits under the tutelage of Bostonian Alexander Ransom. Shattuck accompanied Ransom to New York City and continued his art education at the National Academy of Design, establishing himself as a portrait painter by 1855. His closest friends at the time were Pfaff’s frequenters Thomas Bailey Aldrich and Fitz-James O’Brien.
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.
Nathaniel Graham Shepherd (also Shepard) was born in New York City and grew up to study poetry there. Little information remains about his early life, but Shepherd was an artistically inclined youth. In pursuit of artistic growth, he moved to Georgia for a number of years to teach drawing. Upon returning to New York, Shepherd made his livelihood in the insurance business while still pursuing poetry in his leisure time.
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.
Born in Connecticut, Stedman’s merchant father died leaving the small child in the care of his mother, maternal grandfather, and lawyer uncle. Stedman’s childhood passed between his grandfather’s New Jersey farm and his uncle’s Connecticut residence. Much of Stedman’s literary education likely came from his mother, who herself was an author of both verse and essay. Stedman’s juvenilia consists of poetry inspired by the Romantics and Tennyson. He attended Yale University but was expelled after a youthful indiscretion.
Remembered as a novelist and poet, Elizabeth Drew Barstow Stoddard was the second of nine children raised in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, a setting she drew on for her novels. She met the man who would become her husband, Richard Henry Stoddard, and after a brief courtship, the couple married in 1852 and settled in New York City. At their home in Manhattan, they hosted gatherings for people interested in literature and culture including Thomas Bailey Aldrich and William Dean Howells (Greenslet 33; Howells "First Impressions" 72).
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 of poetry.
Maurice and Max Strakosch were brothers who emigrated from Austria. Their connection to the Pfaff's circle is tenuous; only two known sources tie them to Pfaff's directly. Furthermore, the sources indicate that contemporaries may have confused Maurice and Max with one another.