Details about the Fred Gray Association are sketchy at best, and the extant historical documents provide only the most basic details.
Karbiener discusses the imagery concerning urban public space in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. She “attempts to construct the ambiance of Pfaff’s” and seeks to establish its importance in Whitman’s work. She argues that this space, which included Pfaff’s at its center, affected a shift from the more public edition of 1856 to the more personal 1860 edition. This shift seems ironic given Pfaff’s roles as a space of camaraderie; however, Karbiener argues that although Whitman’s fellow Bohemians at Pfaff’s were often cordial to Whitman himself, they were not always welcoming of his work. In essence, Pfaff’s essentially enabled Whitman’s “intimacy and connectivity” as displayed in poems like “Calamus 29.”
Karbiener stresses the role of place in Whitman’s creative process, specifically how Pfaff’s “encouraged and even enabled” the “intimacy and connectivity” found in some of the Calamus poems. She connects Whitman’s fondness for Pfaff’s to his personal struggles for literary fame and popular acceptance, arguing that the bar’s Bohemians, even though they were critical of Whitman’s style, served to comfort the lonely writer through uncertain and disappointing years. The article provides a detailed analysis of the architecture at Pfaff’s and seeks to connect its different spaces to the experiments in structure Whitman included in Leaves of Grass (1860). Indeed, Karbiener contends that Pfaff’s odd divisions of rooms may have inspired Whitman’s notion of poetic individuality.
Includes description of Bloom as "direct, plain-spoken, natural-hearted, gentle-tempered, but awful when roused."
Mentions the "Fred Gray Association" as perhaps New York's first gay society.
Notes how Gray related the horrific details of Antietam to Whitman in September 1862, after which Whitman decided to go to the front.
Discusses Mallen as an artist who sketched Whitman at Pfaff's.
Mentions letter to Whitman from John Swinton in which Swinton indicates that the Bohemian crowd at Pfaff's often treated Whitman poorly.
Vedder is cited as saying that in the 1850s Whitman "had not become famous yet, and I then regarded many of the [Bohemian] boys as his superiors, as they did themselves."
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015