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.
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).
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).
Ada Clare (whose given name was Jane McIlheny) was born in South Carolina. As Thomas Gunn, a contemporary of Clare, describes she "made an attempt – several attempts – to become a tragic actress, but despite any amount of puffery on the part of fellows who knew her (or wanted to know her in a scriptural sense) failed. She had money and aspired for 'fame' only" (Gunn vol. 11, 160). She received a small inheritance upon her parents' deaths, which she used to travel to Paris.
Born the son of a Polish count, de Gurowski’s strong political opinions led to his expulsion from the Gymnasia of Warsaw and Kalisz, and later led to his imprisonment. His estates were confiscated because of his objections to Russian influence in the region. At the University of Berlin he studied philosophy under Hegel and later graduated from the University of Heidelberg in 1823. In Paris he studied with Charles Fourier, working on the notion of Pan-slavism which he developed in his book on the subject La Verite sur la Russie (1835).
Charles Constant Delmonico is identified as one of the “friends of Henry Clapp in the city of New York,” but not necessarily as a Pfaffian (“Current Memoranda” 714). His family’s restaurant Delmonico’s was referred to in the Saturday Press piece “Sixes and Sevens.”
Caleb Dunn was born into an old Westchester family in Port Chester, NY around 1835. He went on to study law and was admitted to the bar but decided against pursing the law profession. Instead, Dunn became involved in the world of newspapers, which according to his obituary in the New York Times "was more to his liking." Throughout his lifetime, Dunn held several prominent positions of leadership at newspapers in New York including being associated with Horace Greeley's Tribune, as well as serving as the editor of The Sun for a period of time.
Edgar Fawcett was born in New York in 1847 to prosperous merchant Frederick Fawcett and Sarah Lawrence Fawcett. After obtaining a public school education in New York, he entered Columbia College, where he became known as a man of letters despite his faulty academic record (Harrison). He was a member of the Alpha Zeta chapter of the fraternity Chi Psi, for which he served as Poet and Chairman in 1867 (Sloan 64). Monetarily supported by his family, Fawcett indulged in the "elegant leisue" of literature in various forms, including poetry, essay, and drama.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Stephen Ryder Fiske achieved journalistic success at a young age. He was a paid contributor to several newspapers by the time he was twelve and, two years later, became the editor of a small newspaper. He attended Rutgers College until 1860, when he was asked to leave after he was found to be responsible for writing book chapters that satirized the college professors, according to D. W. Miller.
Charles Desmarais Gardette was born in Philadelphia in 1830 to an aristocratic family and received his M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1851 (Rawson). Soon moving from medicine to journalism, he published in the Evening Journal and Record of Philadelphia, as well as the Evening Post of New York. His work includes fiction, poetry, and essays. Like some of his compatriots at Pfaff’s, including Aldrich, Nast, Shanly, and Arnold, Gardette tried his hand at writing for children, publishing the didactic Johnnie Dodge, or, The Freaks and Fortunes of an Idle Boy in 1868.
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.
Fitz-Greene Halleck was born in Guilford, Connecticut to a family descended from the earliest Pilgrim Fathers. Halleck completed New England schooling at the age of fourteen, after which he served as a clerk to kinsman Andrew Eliot for six years. Eliot sent him on business to New York in 1808, where he met his future employers Jacob Barker and John Jacob Astor. He could join the Connecticut militia and open an evening school for clerk-related matters before returning to the city in 1811 at the age of twenty-one (Wilson).
Charles Graham Halpine was born in Oldcastle, co. Meath, Ireland to Reverend Nicholas John Halpin and Anne Grehan. Although originally educated for the medical and law professions at Trinity College in Dublin, the early death of his father caused Halpine to take up journalism. Immigrating to the United States in 1851 (Boarse), he initially supported himself by working in advertising and later as the private secretary to P. T. Barnum (Monoghan). He would later become a well-known poet and journalist most recognized under the name Miles O’Reilly.
Edward Howland was born in Charleston, South Carolina and was educated at Harvard. He is remembered as an "elegant scholar" who sold "his choice library he had spent many years and a fortune to collect" to help Henry Clapp launch the Saturday Press (Rawson 106). Howland was in charge of the business side of the publication (Miller 26) and is also listed among the “friendly contributors” who “were glad to furnish articles for nothing, being friendly toward the establishment of an absolutely independent critical paper” (Winter 294).
Known in the New York journals as "the Literary Policeman," George S. McWatters was a New York City police officer who occasionally visited Pfaff's and there earned the respect of the bar's bohemian patrons (McWatters xix). A.L. Rawson writes, "McWatters was a genial and kind-hearted policeman, and fond of children. When Ada [Clare]'s boy came he named him 'the Prince,' and the title was at once accepted by the coterie. . . . The coterie [at Pfaff's] helped to get him appointed on the 'force,' where he served until retired for long and faithful service" (107).
Characterized as an "eccentric literary man not without a spice of genius," William North was born in England and eventually settled in New York City (W. Rossetti 48-49). In England he established a periodical North's Magazine, and in New York he began publishing sensational stories like "The Living Corpse" which appeared in Putnam's in 1853 and was later reprinted in the Saturday Press.
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.
Also known by the alias “Bayard," Franklin J. Ottarson was a successful New York journalist, editor, and civil servant. Born in Watertown, New York, Ottarson learned the trade of the printing business in a Whig newspaper (possibly the Whig or the Tribune Almanac) (Brockway 172). Under the editorship of Horace Greeley, Ottarson was part of the “very strong” Tribune staff of 1854 along with Bayard Taylor (Brockway 141). Ottarson is perhaps best remembered for his editorship, first at the Tribune and later at the New York Times.
Charles Pfaff's obituary in the New York Times characterizes him as the proprietor of the famous Bohemian "chop house" at 647 Broadway that flourished between 1860 and 1875 ("In and About the City," 2). Born in Baden, Switzerland likely in 1819, Pfaff first arrived in New York in the early 1850s "part of a wave of German immigrants" (Blalock; Martin 18). According to scholar Justin Martin, "Herr Pfaff was a round little man with shaggy eyebrows and chubby fingers. His Old World manner and thickly accented English gave him a courtly and discreet air" (18).