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.
Described by Thomas Gunn as "a weak, well-to-do Fifth Avenoodle [sic]," Robert Pearsall was born in 1833 (Gunn, vol. 12, 139-40). While not much is known about his childhood or early life, he became a succesful businessman, making the majority of his fortune in the wholesale grocery business ("The Pearsalls").