The Vault at Pfaff's includes biographical profiles of over 150 people and groups who were involved in one way or another with bohemian New York in the years between 1855 and 1865. Some, like Henry Clapp and Ada Clare, embraced and defended their identity as bohemians, while others, such as Elizabeth Stoddard or Bayard Taylor, only cautiously identified as bohemians. People like Fitz-James O'Brien and George Arnold made Pfaff's beer cellar the center of their social and cultural lives during the late 1850s and early 1860s, but for others, particularly women like Rose Eytinge and Getty Gay, Ada Clare's West 42nd Street home was the place where they formed their strongest personal and professional bonds. Similarly, the artists who lived and worked at the Tenth Street Studio Building and the "genteel" writers who gathered at the home of Richard and Elizabeth Stoddard frequented Pfaff's, but not with the same regularity as others. There were also those who, like Ralph Waldo Emerson and William Dean Howells, briefly visited Pfaff's, but who would not have considered themselves bohemians. Some, like Thomas Dunn English, attempted to distance themselves from the Pfaff's scene when they were identified as bohemians in the press, while others, like A. L. Rawson and Thomas Butler Gunn, claimed to have an intimate knowledge of events at Pfaff's despite not being mentioned by many other Pfaffians.
The different people and groups profiled on this site comprise a wide spectrum of involvement in the United States' first bohemian movement, and we have chosen to err on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion when determining whom to consider as a participant in bohemian New York. We have also appended to each biographical profile an annotated bibliography of primary and secondary texts so that visitors to the site may judge for themselves the claims that these sources make regarding an individual's involvement with antebellum bohemianism. When these primary and secondary sources describe a relationship between two people (such as whether they were friends, lovers, antagoinsts, or collaborators), that information is captured on the Relationships page. Some of these sources disagree regarding the nature of a given relationship; as such, we have chosen to include all conflicting sources rather than to exclude any sources deemed unreliable. Visitors to The Vault at Pfaff's are encouraged to read these sources with a critical eye.
The image on this page depicts William Dean Howells meeting Walt Whitman at Pfaff's. It was published in 1895 in Harper's New Monthly Magazine as part of Howells's article, "First Impressions of Literary New York."
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015