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 Massachusetts to a family of merchants and seamen, Clapp traveled to Paris to translate the socialist writings of Fourier. In Paris, Clapp abandoned his ardent sympathy for the temperance movement and embraced the leisurely café life of the city. Upon returning to New York in 1850, he sought to recreate this atmosphere, spending hours at Charlie Pfaff's beer cellar, drawing a crowd of journalists, painters, actors, and poets to cultivate an American Bohemia in which participants admired and discussed the work of Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and Washington Irving (Martin 15-7).
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, Charles Godfrey Leland Leland received his early schooling in Massachusetts and Philadelphia, where Bronson Alcott was one of his teachers. He contributed short poems to newspapers before the age of fifteen. After graduating from Princeton in 1846, Leland traveled to Europe and spent two years studying in Germany. In 1848 he participated in uprisings in Paris before returning to Philadelphia to study law.
Born in County Cork and raised primarily in Limerick, Ireland, Fitz-James O'Brien moved to New York City in 1852. Descending from an Anglo-Irish landholding family, O'Brien received his inheritance (estimated at £8000) at about the age of 21. Between 1849 and 1851, it is believed that O'Brien edited a failed literary magazine called The Parlour Magazine of the Literature of All Nations and squandered his inheritance (Wolle 21). Leaving England almost penniless, O'Brien immigrated to America and made the U.S.
Walt Whitman mentions Stanley as one of the people who frequented Pfaff’s: “Our host himself, an old friend of mine, quickly appear’d on the scene to welcome me and bring up the news, and, first opening a big fat bottle of the best wine in the cellar, talk about ante-bellum times, ’59 and ’60, and the jovial suppers at his then Broadway place, near Bleecker street. Ah, the friends and names and frequenters, those times, that place. Most are dead--Ada Clare, Wilkins, Daisy Sheppard, O’Brien, Henry Clapp, Stanley, Mullin, Wood, Brougham, Arnold--all gone.
William Allan Stephens was a co-founder of Vanity Fair. Henry Clapp’s obituary mentions that "when the Saturday Press went the way of all journals that are too smart to live, Mr. Clapp, with Mr. Stevens [sic] and others, started the best imitation of Punch that we have had in this country-- Vanity Fair. Around this nucleus gathered the circle so widely known as ’The Bohemians,’ of whom Mr. Clapp was the head and exponent" (“Obituary” 7).
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 in Auburn, NY, Frank Wood's literary career began around 1858. During this year, he wrote for one of the publications of Frank Leslie. He would become the first editor of Vanity Fair, before going on to be a contributor to the Pfaffian newspaper, The Saturday Press (Winter, Brief Chronicles, 337). It was not until 1863, though, that scholar Mark Lause argues that Wood gained success in the literary world with his play, Leah the Forsook (Lause 59).