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Clapp, George G. (1824-1893)


While not much is known about Henry Clapp, Jr.'s brother George, his obituary provides several important biographical details about his life and career. According to the obituary, George Clapp came to New York before the Civil War and remained there until his brother's death in 1873, when he returned to Boston. Clapp remained in Boston until 1885, when he returned to New York, "miserably poor," to work as a used bookseller among his "established clientele." Two of these men, J.H. Johnston and Nathan Appleton, are quoted remarking upon Clapp's character and skill as a bookseller. Appleton seems to have been responsible for discovering Clapp's death when he missed a business meeting ("Died in Bowery Lodgings").

George Clapp's obituary states that he was "cast much in the same mold" as his brother Henry and states that Clapp was "one of the gifted group that made Pfaff's in Broadway a famous resort back in the fifties.” He was not as prominent as his brother, "but as a man of books, of literary taste, and of fine judgment in letters he had no superior” (“Died in Bowery Lodgings”). We do not know how often George frequented Pfaff’s, but Thomas Gunn places him there at least once in his diaries, mentioning him as "the brother of Clapp" alongside with George Arnold, O'Brien, and Mullen, who all "scrutinized" Cahill awhile on Saturday evening (Gunn 16.49). The obituary discusses his literary knowledge and his being "reared in a Boston bookstore that was the headquarters of the brightest men in that section fifty years ago." This bookstore was frequented by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Daniel Webster, William Lloyd Garrison, Rufus Choate, Wendell Phillips, Walt Whitman, and Edward Everett. Clapp liked to reminisce about his experiences with these men; according to his stories, Clapp was friendly with Emerson ("Died in Bowery Lodgings"). In a letter to William O'Connor, Whitman describes seeing Clapp as "the same good creature, apparently not shined up by fortune's bright sun” (Whitman).

Clapp's friends were unaware of his death at a Bowery lodging house for several days. In the course of these days, his body was taken first to the Coroner, then to the Morgue, and finally buried in Potter's Field. The obituary states that "collectors of rare books and curios and the rapidly-thinning remnant of the literary coterie that brightened New York life thirty or forty years ago will regret to learn of the death of George G. Clapp." The obituary goes on to claim that Clapp was part of his brother's Bohemian circle. At the time of his death, "Mr. Clapp was nearly seventy years old. He looked that age. It was his habit to wear his hair and beard long. His hair drooped over his shoulders until a few months ago, when it was cut, changing his appearance almost entirely. At that time, he expected to go to Michigan, where a nephew was to provide a home for him" ("Died in Bowery Lodgings").