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 section of this biography titled "The Bohemian Years" gives an overview of Whitman's involvement with the Pfaff's bohemians. Folsom and Price write that Whitman "began in the late 1850s to become a regular at Pfaff’s saloon, a favorite hangout for bohemian artists in New York. Whitman had worked for a couple of years for the Brooklyn Daily Times, a Free Soil newspaper, until the middle of 1859, when, once again, a disagreement with the newspaper’s owner led to his dismissal. At Pfaff’s, Whitman the former temperance writer began a couple of years of unemployed carousing; he was clearly remaking his image, going to bars more often than he had since he left New Orleans a decade earlier."
"It may have been at Pfaff's that Whitman met Fred Vaughan, an intriguing mystery-figure in Whitman biography. Whitman and Vaughan, a young Irish stage driver, clearly had an intense relationship at this time, perhaps inspiring the sequence of homoerotic love poems Whitman called 'Live Oak, with Moss,' poems that would become the heart of his Calamus cluster, which appeared in the 1860 edition of Leaves. These poems record a despair about the failure of the relationship, and the loss of Whitman's bond with Vaughan--who soon married, had four children, and would only sporadically keep in touch with Whitman--was clearly the source of some deep unhappiness for the poet."
Whitman befriended Arnold while at Pfaff's.
Clapp is mentioned as both a friend of Whitman and an advocate of his poetry.
Folsom and Price write that Whitman and Clare became "two of the most notorious figures at the beer hall, flouting convention and decorum."
It was at Pfaff's," write Folsom and Price, "that Whitman joined the 'Fred Gray Association,' a loose confederation of young men who seemed anxious to explore new possibilities of male-male affection."
Folsom and Price write that at Pfaff's "a young William Dean Howells met Whitman; Howells recalled this meeting many years later, when he made it clear that Whitman had already by the time of their meeting become something of a celebrity, even if his fame was largely the infamy resulting from what many considered to be his obscene writings ('foul work' filled with 'libidinousness,' scolded The Christian Examiner).
Whitman befriended O'Brien while at Pfaff's.
Whitman befriended Stedman while at Pfaff's.
The author mentions that Vedder and Whitman became acquainted during the late 1850s, but does not specifically identify Pfaff's as the location of their meeting.
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015