Henry Clapp, Jr, attends the Second General Peace Congress in Paris, France, on August 22-24, 1849. Clapp covers this and other similar events in Europe—such as the World Convention of the Friends of Universal Peace held in Brussels, Belgium, in 1848, and events at the London Peace Society in 1847—for the Pioneer and the New York Tribune. Rather than return to the United States after the convention ends, Clapp settles into the Hotel Corneille in Paris's Latin Quarter and throws himself into Parisian bohemia (Lause 9-12).
Edgar Allan Poe dies at age 40 after collapsing in the streets of Baltimore. The legend of a life spent in the passionate dedication to literary art—along with a dissolute and penniless death—inspires the bohemians of New York City.
Henri Murger's La vie de Boheme premiers at the Theatre des Varietes in Paris. The play is based on twenty-one loosely autobiographical stories about the bohemians of Paris's Latin Quarter that Murger published between 1845 and 1849. Theodore Barriere co-wrote the theatrical adaptation with Murger, which proved successful enough to lead Murger to collect and revise his stories into a novel that was published in January 1851.
Fitz-James O’Brien arrives in New York City in 1852 after having spent the previous few years in London living off of his inheritance. He soon spends what is left of his inheritance in the United States and looks to rebuild his fortune through his literary efforts (Wolle 30).
Charles Astor Bristed translates excerpts from Henry Murger’s Scenes de la vie de Boheme (1851) and publishes it in New York City’s Knickerbocker magazine as "The Bohemians of the Latin Quarter: Translated for The Knickerbocker from Henry Murger's 'Scenes de La Boheme'" (Levin).
Henry Clapp, Jr. returns to the United States after his sojourn in Europe and settles in New York City (Lause 17).
William North, a British writer and friend of Henry Clapp and Fitz-James O’Brien, commits suicide in his New York City apartment. He leaves behind an envelope containing twelve cents and a note reading, "The remains of my fortune and labor for ten years" ("Suicide of Mr. William North" 3).
William North’s novel, The Slave of the Lamp, is published in New York City. It is a loosely autobiographical tale that bolsters the mythic qualities of North’s short and tragic life as a prototypical bohemian who suffered for his art, was scorned by his lover, and died by his own hand.
Walt Whitman self-publishes the first edition of Leaves of Grass through the Brooklyn firm of Fowler and Wells in the early summer of 1855. It is a slim volume of twelve untitled poems that catches the attention of several high-profile readers (including Ralph Waldo Emerson), but is neglected by the public at large.
Fitz-James O’Brien publishes the short story “The Bohemian” in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. It is the first literary representation of bohemianism in the United States and includes the claim that “Poe was a bohemian.”
A group of progressive New Yorkers, including Henry Clapp, Albert Brisbane, and Stephen Pearl Andrews, form a “Grand Order of Recreation” that is alternately known in the press as the “Free Love League,” the “Free Love Union,” or the “Free Love Club” (Lause 31-33).
Encouraged by support from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman publishes a second, expanded edition of Leaves of Grass that includes on its spine the words from Emerson, “I greet you at the beginning of a great career.”
Harper’s publishes the first of many columns about urban life in New York City under the title “Bohemian Walks and Talks.” The final column appears on March 6, 1858.
Charles Pfaff opens a small eating and drinking house at 685 Broadway (Blalock 12).
On October 23, 1858, Henry Clapp, Jr., publishes the inaugural issue of The New York Saturday Press. Edward Howland sells his collection of rare books to provide the capital for the Press, which promises to provide "Literary, Artistic, Dramatic, and Musical Intelligence."
The first of Henry Clapp, Jr.’s nine-part account of his experiences living in Paris’s Latin Quarter appears in the Saturday Press under the title, “A New Portrait of Paris: Painted from Life.”
Walt Whitman copies the twelve “Live Oak, With Moss” poems into one of his notebooks. The poems, which will be expanded into the Calamus cluster of the 1860 Leaves of Grass, are believed to be about a relationship with a man named Fred Vaughan.
Charles Pfaff moves his small eating and drinking house business from 685 Broadway to 647 Broadway, where he opens a new wine and lager beer cellar that soon becomes the preferred gathering place of Henry Clapp, Jr. and the American bohemians (Blalock 18; Figure 1).
Walt Whitman starts regularly visiting Pfaff’s bar at 647 Broadway despite the six-mile journey from his home in Brooklyn. “I used to go to Pfaff’s nearly every night,” he reflects later in life (Karbiener 4).
William Dean Howells publishes the poem "Under the Locust" in the Saturday Press. It is the first of over twenty pieces that the young writer from Ohio publishes in the bohemian literary weekly. Howells admires the New York bohemians from afar, and writes later in life that, “It is not too much to say that it was very nearly as well for one to be accepted by the Press as to be accepted by the Atlantic, and for a time there was no other literary comparison” ("First Impressions").
Ada Clare begins "Thoughts and Things," her weekly column for the Saturday Press. (She starts writing for the Press August 27, 1859.) The title recalls Margaret Fuller’s “Things and Thoughts from Europe” column from a decade earlier. Clare’s column runs until November 17, 1860 and continues in the New York Leader after the demise of the Saturday Press. In the columns she reviews books, theatrical productions, and poetry (including Whitman’s), and protests the double standards facing women writers.
Walt Whitman's poem "A Child's Reminiscence" is published in the Saturday Press as a "Christmas or New Year's present" to readers. (Whitman would later retitle the poem “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking.”) The publication of this poem begins a year-long publicity campaign for Whitman that involves reviews and parodies of this and other poems from the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass.
The first issue of the comic weeklyVanity Fair is published. With contributions from many of the Pfaff's bohemians, it aspires to be an American Punch. The “financial angel” of Vanity Fair is Baltimore merchant Frank J. Thompson (Scholnick 150).
Robert W. Pearsall’s name appears alongside Henry Clapp’s as the co-proprietor of the Saturday Press, one week after he publishes his first essay in the Press. According to Thomas Butler Gunn, Ada Clare becomes engaged to Pearsall—who is described as "a weak, well-to-do Fifth Avenoodle”—for the sole purpose of getting his money to fund the floundering Saturday Press (Gunn 12:139-40; "Letter from New York"). Pearsall's last essay for the Saturday Press is in the March 17, 1860 issue; one week later his name no longer appears as co-proprietor. On July 2, 1860, Pearsall marries Elizabeth Woodbridge Phelps ("The Pearsalls").
Walt Whitman receives a letter from the Boston publishing firm of Thayer and Eldridge inviting him to publish a third edition of Leaves of Grass with them. Thayer and Eldridge begin advertising regularly in the pages of the Saturday Press as Henry Clapp and other Press contributors actively promote Whitman’s poetry in support of the new edition.
Walt Whitman travels to Boston for the first time to meet with Thayer and Eldridge and to oversee the publication of the third edition of Leaves of Grass. He corresponds with Henry Clapp during this time.
Walt Whitman publishes the most commercially successful version of Leaves of Grass to appear during the antebellum years. Within a month, the first printing sells out and Thayer and Eldridge approve publication of a second printing.
The poet and actress Adah Isaacs Menken joins the bohemians at Pfaff’s (Sentilles 141).
Walt Whitman publishes the poem “The Errand-Bearers” in The New York Times to commemorate the visit of the Japanese embassy to the United States. The poem is parodied by William Winter as “The Torch-Bearers” in both the Saturday Press and Vanity Fair.
Thayer and Eldridge, the Boston firm that published the third edition of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and that was planning to publish Ada Clare’s novel Asphodel, declares bankruptcy (Whitman Archive).
Due to the loss of advertising revenue from Thayer and Eldridge and poor financial management on the part of editor Henry Clapp, Jr., the Saturday Press ceases publication.
Adah Isaacs Menken attempts suicide in her Manhattan apartment (Martin 125).
Many former Saturday Press writers—including Henry Clapp and Ada Clare—move to The New York Leader. The “Thoughts and Things” and “Dramatic Feuilleton” columns continue there, and Walt Whitman writes under the name of “Velsor Brush,” a combination of his mother's and grandmother's names: Louisa Van Velsor and Hannah Brush.
Walt Whitman receives a letter addressed to Pfaff's bar from Ellen Eyre, a mysterious woman who appears to have met Whitman at Pfaff's earlier that year. Eyre turns out to be a male con-artist named William Kinney (Genoways 156-59).
Fred Gray gives Walt Whitman a copy of Frederick Hedges’ Prose Writers of Germany as a farewell gift before Gray joins the Union Army. Whitman keeps the book for the rest of his life, inserting photographs of Gray and others between its pages and keeping a record of his meetings with Gray and members of his family (Blalock 50).
Walt Whitman meets with Fred Gray for the last time before Gray leaves for military service. On September 6, Gray enrolles in the Union Army in Washington, DC, and later serves as an aide-de-camp (Blalock 51).
Walt Whitman leaves New York City for the hospitals of Civil War Washington, DC, to look for his brother George, who was wounded in battle.
Adah Isaacs Menken leaves New York City for San Francisco, where she will find success as the lead in Mazeppa at Maguire’s Opera House. Mark Twain attends the show (Martin 207).
Ada Clare leaves New York City for San Francisco. The New York Illustrated News runs an illustration of a weeping group of bohemians titled “Departure of the Queen of Bohemia for California—Intense Grief of Her Subjects.” Upon arriving in California Clare writes a column for the Golden Era very similar to the ones she wrote for the Saturday Press and New York Leader.
Adah Isaacs Menken performs in Mazeppa in Virginia City, Nevada. where Ada Clare travels to see her.
Charles Pfaff moves from 647 Broadway to 653 Broadway, where he opens a new restaurant with a summer garden that was covered by a canvas awning (Blalock 41).
Fred Gray marries Anna Howell. Anna gives birth to five children over the next six years; she dies in 1873 (Blalock 55).
Thomas Bailey Aldrich returns to Boston. The next year he begins editing the weekly literary magazine Every Saturday, which features work by Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, and former Pfaffian Sol Eytinge. Every Saturday runs until 1874.
Henry Clapp resumes publication of the Saturday Press, with William Winter serving as assistant editor. Clapp writes in an editorial, "This paper was stopped in 1860 for want of means; it is now started again for the same reason."
The Saturday Press publishes Walt Whitman’s elegy on the death of Abraham Lincoln, “O Captain! My Captain!”
In under a year after its post-war revival, the Saturday Press ceases publication for a second and final time.
An illustrated advertisement for Charles Pfaff's Restuarant at 653 Broadway is published in the American Enterprise in January 1872 (Blalock 74). The ad features illustrations of a bearded man, who may be Charles Pfaff, serving drinks to his clientele ( Blalock 51-52).
Charles Pfaff, with the help of his son, Charles Pfaff, Jr., opens a new "Pfaff's" at 9 W. 24th Street, an establishment that is advertised as both a restaurant and a hotel (Blalock 53).
Whitman visits the new Pfaff’s location at 9 West 24th Street and has a drink with Charles Pfaff as the two recall the antebellum glory days.
Charles Pfaff is forced to close "Pfaff's" at 9 W. 24th Street when he cannot pay his landlord a significant advance on his rent. He then retires from the restaurant and hotel business (Blalock 61).
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015