This thesis will argue that the first truly American, iconoclastic, Bohemian subculture coalesced in New York City, downtown in Greenwich Village, at the gathering known as the Pfaff’s Circle. With it, an irreverent worldview, completely unprecedented and uniquely American, was first woven into the social fabric of the culture as writers, artists, and actors of both genders met beneath Broadway. It will study the first Bohemians and how they helped shake the creative class of America from the manacles of Victorianism, helping in the age of the avant-garde and Modernism. The meeting at Pfaff’s was the prototype of the First Subversive Counter-Culture of rebel artists in what became known as America’s Left Bank—Greenwich Village. It was only in this one spot that such experimentalism could be born. The Village in the mid-19th century was the ultimate crossroads of humanity, ideology, and creativity. It was the perfect crucible to give rise to that incredibly unique animal that is the American counterculture.
Victorian repression of the artist, of free speech and expression, was a condition of life quickly becoming intolerable everywhere, but add to that the puritanical extremism in America and the artist was in a sorry state indeed. It was a culture built on censure, where the radical criticism generated by speaking your mind on anything but the prescribed subjects seemed intentionally designedto banish any diversity of ideas at all. Challenging the code would get you a one-way ticket out of all polite society. This was reflected most noticeably in the arts.
The Pfaff’s Circle’s Bohemianism, a uniquely American response to the dissonance between the limits of the culture around them and the radical new ideas that were flowing through this crossroads—19th-Century Greenwich Village—made it the natural home for free thought to take root and, in so doing, help to re-define American arts and culture, as well as assisting the dissemination of radical ideas of all kinds in America. It is no coincidence that Thomas Paine, father of the American Revolution, made his home here, as did the Bohemian’s patron saint, Edgar Allen Poe. American fanaticism has a home, and it’s the Village in New York City.
The Antebellum Bohemians staged a cultural accomplishment, overthrowing the narrow-minded morality of the Boston literary elite with their allegiance to European Classicalism in all things artistic, and making New York City the cultural center of the art world. It is from this forgotten group that the historical etymology of a word, Bohemian, became not just ubiquitous in our culture, but an attitude. Bohemianism is not just a word; it is a movement. It is both a philosophy and ideology—a template for an alternative to the bourgeoisie, for choosing to live life on one’s terms. As artists and radical thinkers, tearing down the prison of propriety and censorship in the Victorian age was a passion for all who gathered at Pfaff’s around Henry Clapp Jr. and his raucous band of iconoclasts (including Walt Whitman) who were drawn to him.
Fascination with the history of Greenwich Village Bohemians has long been an American pastime, as well as a subject of intense scholarship. Much has been written about the original, colorful, world-changing characters that inhabited this tiny portion of the world. From the Village emerged many of the most powerful American social and art movements, repeatedly bringing us into the ever-evolving Modern Age of the Avant-Garde. Whether one means the Golden Age of Greenwich Village (Bohemians at the turn of the century), the Beat generation, or the Hippies of the late 1960s, the Village has always been the cradle of new thinking in America. That iconic figure and trope knew as the “American Rebel Artist” did not first appear with the Beat generation of the 1950’s, nor the Hippies in the 1960s, but it did appear in the same place.
The first avant-garde counter-culture can be pinpointed about 100 years earlier in Antebellum Greenwich Village at Pfaff’s Restaurant, deep underground at Broadway and Bleecker Street. It was there that a group of like-minded radicals scandalized the city and unnerved the gatekeepers of society as their wild Bohemian ways became front page news. The word bohemian, with all its scandalous connotations, would wander through the nation, becoming the first true meme (an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture) of print media as Victorian America tried to understand these bold new radicals who offended their senses at every turn, but whom they could not seem to stop from capturing the imagination of their readers.
Becoming the subject of some of the most scandalous gossip and rumors of their day, these seemingly powerless and often unpaid journalists, writers, performers, and other unofficial members of the Pfaff’s Circle, changed the landscape of culture. Their flagship publication of wit and unapologetic, relentlessly scathing cultural criticism, the first of its kind (we had no Punch magazine), The Saturday Press, was a revolutionary publication. In it, they relentlessly assaulted the status quo of Victorian oppression of freedom of thought and expression—the very heart of Democratic freedoms—like never before. The visceral condemnation that it engendered from the mighty and powerful cultural elite (who enforced draconian rules of decorum and respectability, as they often wallowed in corruption and debauchery) only made the publication and its writers more famous.
Both men and women flocked to be a part of Henry Clapp’s nightly camaraderie and his publication, the most famous of which was Walt Whitman—so much so that the Pfaff’s Circle has often been cast as his coterie, though that is far from true. (However, without Whitman, and Twain as well, they surely would not have come to the attention of scholars.)The Saturday Press was the first true dawning of an irreverent American aesthetic in arts and literature. These first American Bohemians helped give birth to a truly unique American culture. The new radicalism, both political and social, was a catalyst for a new way of thinking about living and creating culture, to the extent that the two most iconic American writers of the age, Walt Whitman (the most celebrated member of the Pfaff’s Circle) and Mark Twain, found their first patronage in Henry Clapp, and that each was given his first true publishing opportunity in his weekly.
From the decade leading up to the Civil War and through the next, a time of great social upheaval in America, Pfaff’s Restaurant was the epicenter of America’s personalities. At Pfaff’s, they met, drank, and ate as they wrote and did public readings of their many works. Here in the Vault at Pfaff’s (located at Broadway and Bleecker Street), in a room running on Broadway itself, they laid the foundation not just for Greenwich Village but all of the American Bohemian culture to come. Pfaff’s became the spot where the Antebellum Bohemians formed a proto-matrix of journalism, literature, theatre, and the arts in New York City. Lying at the crossroads of the wealthiest of neighborhoods, Greenwich Village, Washington Square, bordering the hotbed of radicalism that was Kleindeutchland (otherwise known as the Lower East Side, where so many social reformist movements were born), this collision of culture and ideas was a hothouse for the birth of American counterculture.
The purpose of this thesis is to put the Antebellum Pfaff Bohemians in their rightful place, as a cultural touchstone not just of Greenwich Village, but of the nation. They lived in a unique time, and a deeper understanding of their philosophical, social, political, and cultural-historical context illustrates how such a seemingly forgotten group could have been a deep catalyst for people still trying to break free of the cultural blinders of Victorian England that still dominated the country’s psyche. The Bohemian cultural wave that was created, and the intense stir they created among the arbiters of propriety, would forever inform that amorphous thing called American Culture.
The Antebellum Bohemians are the reason that Greenwich Village became America’s Left Bank: a country to itself, inhabited by free-thinkers, where the avant-garde would flock as they still do today. The Bohemianism born of the Village would become an American ideal, marking the neighborhood through modern times as standing not just as one of the most ubiquitous tropes in literature, but in reality, the heart, and soul of American counterculture and radicalism of all forms. Greenwich Village owes its unique place in world history, particularly about the arts and social reform, to this first group of self-identified Bohemians. Our identity as a nation of rebels and free-thinking troublemakers may have begun with the Revolutionary War, but it was during the tempestuous days of the innovative Antebellum period that America would find its modern and wholly unique voice in the cultural singularity known as Bohemianism.
The legacy of the Antebellum Bohemians would bring two of the greatest American writers of all time, Walt Whitman, and Mark Twain, to the nation’s attention. They would become superstars of the century, with much to owe the Bohemians. The Pfaffian’s were women and men of learning and great wit and creativity, who wanted to live out the promise of the nation in one of its core values—the pursuit of happiness. With nothing short of disdain for their reputations, they, as children of Democracy, the Enlightenment and Transcendentalism, demanded that as artists they be free from censorship and the oppression of the mind—or body. They would live the dream of Henri Murger’s Parisian Bohemians, right here in America, and show the world an entirely new way of thinking about itself and its purpose, laying the foundation for what the American artistic ideal would be. Their impact has generated both an artistic and social counterculture that still exists today, where the word “Bohemian” carries a connotation of liberty and unfettered intellect.
At Pfaff’s, they tried to take on the world and, in so doing, planted the seeds of what would make America a haven for free-thought and expression the world over. The Pfaffians have been written about, briefly mostly, in many a cultural treatise on American Bohemianism, it is true, but almost as a precursor to either what is described as the Golden Era of Bohemia in Greenwich Village, at the turn of the 20th Century or with a brief nod as a prelude to those most famous mid-century Greenwich Village Bohemians known as the Beat Generation. I do not fault historians for overlooking or giving scant attention to the originals, for not much has been documented about them that has not been buried by time, despite their critical role in the careers of the two greatest writers in the American literary canon, Walt Whitman, and Mark Twain. This coterie and its impact on the American ethos can only be understood in its proper light.
The role of the working artist in Victorian society was formulaic, well defined by the strict puritanism of the culture at large. It was a society that had no tolerance for subversion or radical notions. If one did as one was expected to, it was possible to seek out a living, but challenging work that questioned authority and the norms that they defined was a quick route to a horsewhipping. This unbendable attitude was stifling not only to creativity but artistic progress. It was a situation that was intolerable and ripe for change, having reached a cultural dead end. The brave new world of the Industrial Age had left artists behind, while the bedrock of their profession—their guilds and aristocratic benefactors—faded into history; they were vocational refugees.
With little in the way of real-world economic skills, these artists on the margins began to gather, most notably in Montparnasse, the left bank in Paris. They formed a surprisingly merry band of interminably broke garret dwellers who, unable to partake in the bourgeois pleasures of life or spend much time in their cold, miserable flats, began to spend their days in the cafés. As has always been the case, be they the Jacobites in Paris or the early revolutionaries in the taverns in America, they began to talk about the need for another kind of revolution; the revolution of the artist. What began to formulate was a true liberation of the marginalized in societies with strict structures that apparently intended to leave them out altogether. They became steeped in the writings of socialist philosophers like Charles Fourier (with his surprising connection to the Pfaff’s Circle) and found inspiration in the American Transcendentalist movement. Counter cultural movements were popping up all over America in fact, and with the many petit revolutions, the desire to fulfill the lofty goals of the Age of the Enlightenment seemed to be coming into its own.
The phenomenon of the union of intelligence and rebels at Pfaff’s:
Greenwich Village was located between Houston and West 14th Street, and also from Hudson River to Broadway. Nowadays, the area around Hudson was famous as the West Village. While the locality between East River and Broadway which was known as the Lower East Side is also named as the East village. Greenwich Village was a most important place for artists and modernizers who came from all over the world in the 20th century. The area around Greenwich Village had set up as booming locality of modern artists in the colonial period. Artists who wanted to visit and stay in New York like this place due to its attractive location and also low-cost rents. So, this area turned into a residential region, in the 19th century, which attracted bohemians and artists from every corner of the state (Ware).
During the 1920s and 1930s, the flourishing locality made it a land of several artists. As the musical theaters were also present but Greenwich Village offered a lot of chances for different types of performances. The first famous scene was the Greenwich Village Follies, where performers and music composer, for example, Martha Graham and Cole Porter began their profession. The Village got an energetic atmosphere for artists, writers and all people belonging to any type of art and theatre. Like Harold Clurman, several other theater artists performed in home theaters in the beginning of the revolutionary period of arts. The Village turned into an international meeting place for all kind of writers. James Baldwin was a young writer who met with a big writing community there, Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett who contributed in reforming political campaigns of the era (Wetzsteon).
In the early fifties, the village became most famous because of actors, musicians, and poets who came there from all over the country and different parts of the world as immigrants. Two famous movements of that era were ascertained that Greenwich Village is their place of origin. Almost all of the Abstract Expressionists comprising Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko resided around the Village. At the same time, the poets also visited the same hotels and saloons. From 1950 to 1960, Greenwich Village was the home place for all intellectuals and reformers which also includes John Cage (composer), Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns (artist), and Merce Cunningham, Alwin Nikolais and Murray Louis (dancers).
At the end of the 1960s, public figures, for example, Andy Warhol and Lou Reed amplified the marketing of this locality by making it more desired and luxurious. When a large number of people started moving towards the low-cost East Village, Greenwich Village came to its end with the arrival of leading artist’s associations, for example, Negro Ensemble Company. These days, increasing rent turned it into a place of no entry for fresh artists who want to stay in lower Manhattan, winding the rule of a famous and inspiring region in American history (Banes).
Greenwich Village got a unique place in the history, due to the arts and social reforms started by the first group of self-identified Bohemians. They were identified as a nation of rebels and free-thinking troublemakers who began a Revolutionary War against the Victorian repression of the artist. They raised their voice against the suppression of the right of free speech and expression of artists and laid the foundation of American counterculture. They were the first Bohemians of American history who gathered at Pfaff’s to bring a change in social norms of that era (Kotynek and Cohassey 141-142).
The heart of the Pfaff’s Circle was made up of a group of liberal journalists at the core. A group of poets, writers, artists and thespians, these young radical thinkers did their best to get published and eke out a living writing and illustrating for New York City’s presses as they doggedly pursued their artistic proclivities. Living in the crossroads of downtown, the Lower East Side, and Greenwich Village, they straddled the edge of poverty in a society that does not value the artist in their own time. Their fascinating nights at Pfaff’s drew to them artists, actors, radical thinkers from all classes, who sought out the ineffable Henry Clapp and his friends, to listen to the droll repartee from a mixture of women, Irishmen, gays and highly educated New England sons, in a somewhat clandestine and mysterious club free of judgment (Beard 371-390).
Bohemianism is considered as a practice of an exceptional lifestyle in the company of people of the same wavelength having involvement in literature, art, and music. This context defines Bohemians as vagabonds, wanderers, and artists. The origin of Bohemianism is found somewhere in ancient history, but it is a growing lifestyle around the globe, containing elements of ideology, theology, spirituality, and mythology. It is a practice and lifestyle that centers on individuals and their sway in the world. This practice is connected to mythology in a way that a person can create legends like heroes which were discussed in mythologies of the ancient world if he “jumps onto life’s pages in full color.” The word Bohemian was used in the 19th century in the English language to define the non-customary life practices of ostracized and underprivileged artists, musicians, actors, journalists and writers of some cities of Europe. They were linked with untraditional or anti-establishment dogmatic or communal lookouts, expressed in their frugality, voluntary poverty and free love (Hahn 70-72).
Bohemians are artists or writers belonging to certain academic or artistic societies and are labeled as distinct people, who leave a deep impact on their society through their work. According to American College Dictionary, Bohemian is defined as “person having special intellectual and artistic tendencies who spent his life without paying any regard to orthodox rules of conduct.” Several conspicuous figures of last 150 years of America and Europe were belonging to this subculture and noticed as bohemians. Few popular novelists and writers like Honoré de Balzac approved bohemianism, but this lifestyle was not condoned by conservative, traditional critics. In the US, the bohemian signs can be noticed in Hippie culture of the 1960s. Rainbow Gathering can be considered as a different modern appearance of bohemian instinct. And an instance from American society is Burning Man, an arts carnival held in Nevada desert every year (Levin 1-3).
The word bohemianism arose from France at the beginning of 19th century when artists and intellectuals started to focus on low-cost, middle-class tourist localities. Bohemia is a district of Czech State, the wandering, a criticized community named as Gypsies or Romany are known as “Bohemians” in the French Language. Henry Murger attempted to take himself and his focus away from the issues of Gypsies, stressing in his introduction to “Scenes de la Vie de Boheme” that who were bohemians? Bohemians were criticized and mentioned as historians like thieves and killers. They were declared as unidentified occupational people who have nothing to do in practical life and who are ready to take anything except good. But instead of this, the bohemian communities were famous for their gypsy way of living, for their happy destitution, and also for their disrespect of money for the interests of music, fashion, and relations. These were the people who have distinctive concerns than the leading culture of their state, and community (Hahn 12-14).
In 1845, Bohemian residents started moving towards the United States, and after 1848 the movement comprised some of the extremist and activist who desired a legal establishment. In 1857, some young well-educated reporters grew in self-labeled bohemians in New York City. Like these some groups in other cities also followed the change, journalists started coverage of clash. In war time, journalists started to take on the label “bohemian,” and several publications took up the mark. Bohemian turned to be an alternative expression of newspaper writers. In 1866, a war columnist Junius Henri Browne, who worked for New York Tribune and Harper’s Magazine, told that “bohemian” correspondents like him and some stress-free females and males wrote about war incidents using the right of freedom of expression (Browne 31-35).
Bret Harte, a reporter from San Francisco, first described “The Bohemian” in The Golden Era in 1861. As this character was participating in various entertaining activities, much about this was published in his volume Bohemian Papers in 1867. Harte inscribed, “Bohemia has never found physically, but on a sunny day in the evening if you climb up on Telegraph Hill, you will see its beautiful dales and cloud touching mountains shining in the West.” In 1867 Mark Twain and Charles Warren Stoddard joined the bohemian group. In 1872, when a set of reporters and artists who met daily for cultural interests in San Francisco were searching for a title, they became agreed on the bohemian world, and thus the Bohemian club came into existence. The associates who were prosperous and well-known personalities of their group, decent family men, specified their mode of bohemianism to incorporate people similar to them who were carefree, players and fan of arts. Club associates and poet George Sterling reacted to this description and said that: A good fusion of pleasant conducts can be named as bohemian. It is not a convincing statement. There are at least two factors important for bohemianism. The first one is dedication or passion for one or more forms of arts, and the second one is destitution. More elements required for bohemianism are: for example, Bohemians must be young, having profound views about art and life, and they must be eccentric (Kotynek and Cohassey 21-39).
Bohemia is a title and the perception of Bohemian life was smuggled from France in mid of the sixties, then the term begins to work on culture. Working on the connection among thoughts and characteristics, Bohemian term functioned as an eye with which Americans of the 19th century saw and presumed the dissimilarities of status, gender, and race. The dialog about status is remarkable and encrusted: it was proposed that Bohemian lifestyle is contrary to middle-class, but both of them are natural and inherent. Bohemia served as counterculture which at once contributes and stay away from other aspects of American culture. The most exciting feature of American Bohemians was their uncertain placings on normal values, money matters, and social problems. While the bohemians pretentiously disobeyed the customs.
Bohemianism is an identity, a style in modern-day thought, but in Antebellum America, it was a scandal, and it was the hottest topic in New York because of the Pfaffians. It was a new way of living life and thinking, free of Victorian social repression. The Parisian Bohemian philosophies of Henri Murger and the influence of la vie bohème was transplanted to New York very deliberately. Bohemians worked against the Victorian repression in American and introduced the concepts of Modernism and radical free thought to the nation. The magnitude of their influence on American literature, on satire and art, is matched by their radicalism. A group of poets, writers, artists and thespians who gathered at Pfaff’s, were young radical thinkers of that time who did their best to pursue their artistic proclivities. Living in the crossroads of downtown, the Lower East Side, and Greenwich Village, they struggled against the norms of the society. But their efforts were not valued as they were the best artists of that time (Beard 35-40).
According to Ada Clare:
“The Bohemian is by nature, if not by habit, a cosmopolite, with a general sympathy for the fine arts, and for all things above and beyond convention. The Bohemian is not, like the creatures of society, a victim of rules and customs…. Above all others, essentially, the Bohemian must not be narrow-minded; if he is he is degraded back to the position of a mere wording.” Ada Clare
From William Winter’s Old Friends: Being Literary Recollections of Other Days (New York: Moffat, Yard, and Company, 1909)
Henry Clapp belongs to a Massachusetts family. Henry Clapp Jr. was not a name known to most, but he is quickly becoming a rising star being resurrected out of the past as the hunt for Bohemian America has gained such phenomenal academic and pop-culture steam. He was an extraordinary agitator of the status quo and the singular pivotal force in transporting the ideas and ideology of Murger’s Left Bank radical art culture back home. He gathered the rebels and turned them into a force to be reckoned with. For this, he was crowned by his age as the “King of Bohemia.” His origins serve as a herald for his life’s pursuits. A child of New England Transcendentalism, his Nantucket Quaker roots grew deep in ideas of liberty and alternative thinking.
Clapp made it his mission, with all the zealotry he was known for, to be the catalyst for dragging the masses out of the straitjacket of Victorianism that was crushing its collective soul, and threatening the very democratic freedoms the nation had been created for. He strove to usher out the old guard of the Bostonian elite, the gatekeepers in many ways of the very Victorianism that Bohemians set out to tear Americans away from, and introduced the nation to Modernism and radical free thought. The magnitude of his influence on American literature, on satire and art,is matched by its radicalism.He was a New England child of the Abolitionist, Suffragette strain, from early on involved in publishing, activism, and oratory on many subjects close to his heart. He was a feminist and a transcendentalist, looking to find a new way of living other than the oppressive age he was born to. His time spent amongst Murger and the Bohemians of Paris, as he helped translate Socialist Charles Fourier’s writings, transformed him completely. He returned to live in New York City,determined to bring what he absorbed in Paris to live in America. He did this at Pfaff’s, drawing to him some of what would become the great avant-garde artists and writers of the age, and as a publisher of the penniless Saturday Press, his influence on intellectual culture was cemented.
The importance of the relationship between Clapp and Whitman and its impact on the publishing and popularization of Leaves of Grass cannot be overstated. It was only through Clapp’s relationship with the publishers in Boston that Whitman’s scandalous words would be published. It was Clapp, from the Saturday Press, who would bring Whitman to the public’s attention and it was the paper’s defense of his brilliance that allowed Whitmanto become the quintessential American poet.
His publishing of Mark Twain’s Jim Smiley and his Jumping Frog would be the start of Samuel Clemens’ great fortune and career—a debt he said he could never repay. Through Clapp, both men would come to define the entire century and bring about a new kind of literature freed from the puritanism and overly developed sense of propriety that kept writers and artists trapped in a cheap imitation of what was felt as our European betters. Bohemianism gave American artists a new license to control and disseminate their work without care of the consequences of offending societal gatekeepers.
Clapp was cited by several authors as the leader and head of Bohemians found in the city of New York. He was senior and experienced as compared to other Bohemians, so he dominated in the Bohemian society. His experience was great due to working for several newspapers in New York, and he introduced the style of “Paris feuilleton” into weekly periodicals. He started the paper “Saturday Press” after the initiation of Bohemian society in Greenwich Village. His paper was financially supported by others during its failure, but Clapp never loses hope and revived the paper twice from failure. The failure of this paper became a bitter experience of life for Clapp. He started writing epigrammatic paragraphs and dramatics for other weekly magazines (Kotynek and Cohassey 15-20).
On the Cusp of Printer’s Row, Chinatown, Five Points and Kleindeutchland
The German immigrants arrived in the US in 1840’s in large numbers. The third greatest German-speaking populace was found in New York in 1855, who settled in the center of East Village, and the area was known as Klein Deutschland or “Little Germany.” These immigrants from Germany were skilled and educated. Before their arrival, there were college dorms shooting clubs and sports bars. kleindeutschland was the biggest German-American community in the New York City by 1845 and by 1860 it became the condensed populated area. In Kleindeutschland, beer gardens were places of a social gathering for the old and young generation. From this population, several artists and art lovers appeared as William Kramer established a music hall in 1858 neighboring the Bowery theatre. This theatre was constructed in 1826 as Theatre of New York, but some Germans such as Mathilde Cottrelly (who was a singer, producer, and stage-actress) along with Heinrich Conried (who was a director) and Gustav Amberg turned it in 1879 in Thalia Theatre (Nadel 10-15).
An eclectic mixing of classes and ideas, Greenwich Village and Kleindeutchland (the Lower East Side) formed a dynamic melting pot of American extremes and ideas in the middle of the 19thcentury. A chaotic crossing of old wealth and new ideas, the Village was a place where the socialites and moneyed men of Washington Square collided with the brilliant but impoverished writers, artists, and performers who lived deeper in the disparate (and often desperate) neighborhoods that made up the Village. Kleindeutchland was a place where one could hear a radical socialist polemicist preach the new gospel of freedom from industrial slavery in an age of oppressed and downtrodden workers. From the barn-burning abolitionist/suffragette meetings to the sordid lure of Chinatown’s opium dens, to the brothels and theaters and dance halls, the Village offered the full breadth of the urban human experience, especially after dark. One could go to the theater and, if one was of a certain class or status, Delmonico’s, or (if one was particularly interested in walking on the rebel side), go down to the Vault at Pfaff’s Restaurant and see what the craic was amongst those eccentric bohemian wits below.
Whitman was one of the most important members of the community of great philosophers and social activists at Pfaff’s. The crowd was comprised of writers, musicians, artists, and reporters, who had diverse imaginations which were against the norms of American culture of that era. The unconventional group of Pfaffian’s was joined by several renowned radical thinkers of that time, who was popular as the early self-defined American Bohemians. The famous members of this web of Pfaff’s circle where the social activist and Editor Henry Clapp, Mark Twain, Whitman, Ada Clare and many others. Henry Clapp was also known as the King of Bohemia, due to his participation in American counterculture. They were the radical thinkers who set the foundation for a modern culture of America in an age in which they were extremely criticized for their ideas and imaginations (Levin 18-25).
In the United States, the bohemians of antebellum were the main part of publications which grew in New York earlier than civil war. The writers and reporters who want to get the attention of people in the early stages of their profession include it in their journals and reports. A wide range of magazines which initiated in this era, for example, The New York Tribune and Harper’s Monthly, come to be very popular and remained to be published even in 20th century. Several other magazines continued for a short time. Two of these magazines named The New York Saturday Press and Vanity Fair initiated from the Pfaff’s beer cellar. The Saturday Press began to publish from October 1858 up to December 1860. And then again began to publish for a short time from August 1865 to June 1866.
Same things happen to Vanity Fair, started publishing in December 1859 and cease in July 1863. In that short time, these two magazines were served as a platform for a wide range of mocking, frisky and writings on awareness of social issues and artistic inventions. Vanity fear constantly presented artwork and was a comedy magazine having a solid political set. While the Saturday Press was worked only on fiction and theatre, it also comments on recent incidents. When these two newspaper ceased the publishing the Pfaff’s bohemians started working for The New York Leader, a magazine which published from 1856 to 1871 (Levin 57-62).
A precursor to such publications as The Village Voice, Mother Jones, The Nation, and even The Onion, The Saturday Press was the first true publication for the American intellectual radical, publishing neglected and controversial writers of the period’s avant-garde. It is most notable for championing Walt Whitman and Mark Twain. In its pages, the Pfaffian’s used a weapon they helped sharpen in the Americas, satire, to relentlessly assail the pillars of the American elite, both in the arts and in politics. It also fearlessly covered taboo topics such as sex in ways never seen before. Henry Clapp was famous as the energetic editor, leader, and campaigner for the Saturday Press, a brief but effective periodical which gave a platform to many Pfaff’s bohemians to express their talent of poetry, prose, literary analysis and social interpretation (Kotynek and Cohassey 18-25).
William Dean Howells argued that the Saturday Press “exemplified the fresh fictional life of the city,” which was first published on October 1858. Gunn described the Press writing “Clapp normally present a bold, playful, French type literature in articles, and the remaining is Ada Clare, Getty Gay, and banks. Wilkin’s offers excellent, dispassionate, bold and humorous writing similar to French literature, and the remaining writers copy him. Mark Luse an academic stated that “it publicizes real things, the press is a supporter of decent journalism and publication,” and it also gets approval from other newspapers of its time. The Civil War affected the newspaper, but when the war ends Clapp tried to restore the Saturday Press, only to uncover that “the conventional press was more adverse for bohemianism than ever,” and the publication was ceased for good. After that Clapp come to be an “informal writer for City periodicals but no more real journalism appeared (Levin 60-68).
Concentrating on the period from 1859 to 1862, in which the poet Walt Whitman spent time at Pfaff’s Beer Cellar in New York, and the pub and its different customers molded the poet’s lifestyle and his words. Pfaff’s served as an American bar and a famous store where the groups of beer cellar customers met Whitman. They made Pfaff’s the most important social and scholarly place of his occupation. Whitman got the membership of two social and rational groups at Pfaff’s. These two groups played an important part in his fictional creations before and during the period of the Civil war. When Whitman completed the 1860 version of Leaves of Grass for printing, he became a member of a group of writers and performers at beer cellar. The group which was famous as the early American Bohemians (Cottom 317-322).
Afterwards, he turned to be the main character in the “Fred Gray Association,” a non-famous group of fresh Pfaffian’s. Whitman affiliation with Bohemian coterie greatly inspired his fictions and revival of his homosexual Calamus poetries, formerly printed in Leaves of Grass (1860). It also discloses that Whitman affiliation with the associates of Fred Gray, works as a background for his services during Washington’s war in hospitals as an unpaid worker, there he not only tried to reestablish the beer cellar atmosphere under those awful circumstances, but he also remained to apply the concepts of love he expounds in Calamus. Whitman met and became a part of a community of great philosophers and social activists at beet cellar. The people in this group were writers, musicians, artists, and reporters. He joined an unconventional group of Pfaffian’s, who wereprevalent as the early self-defined and degraded American Bohemians. The famous members of this web of Pfaff’s clients were the social activist and Editor Henry Clapp. He was also known as the King of Bohemia, the Irish Comedian and author Fitz-James and the performer Ada Clare, who received the title of “Queen of Bohemia” due to her politeness and generosity (Blalock 49-55).
The appearance of Bohemians’ at Pfaff’s and their discussions was prompted by Whitman after years; he changed the beer cellar into a temporary performer’s place where poetry and prose were read and compiled. Thus, Pfaff’s was an isolated place, it was the meeting point of poets and other associates of the Bohemian group, who were enthused to discuss and write on scandalous issues like social development, gender, and sex. Becoming a part of this group, enhance the fictional creativity of the poet, which means that joining of this group greatly affected the writing skills and thoughts of Whitman. Thus all this was due to the environment of beer cellar and a group of American Bohemians that the poems for 1860 version of “Leaves of Grass” was the most integrated and sexually pervasive edition of Whitman. Whitman initiates to discuss the controversial topics of sex, gender and social change in his fictional project of Calamus poems.
On the other hand, “Leaves of Grass” was considered as the first inclusive book of Whitman’s Calamus collection of 45 poems which are now believed as the poet’s most emotional and nostalgic poems. Those poems also offer a direct description of love among males, along with his scandalous and sex specific series named Enfans d’ Adam. The poet took some parts of Live Oak and Moss series, he mixed them to make something new for Calamus, and he does this to convey his concept of bonding or love among males and to propose a more profound and comprehensive political concept of a nation specifically based on such relationships. By taking into view the work of poet on Calamus in the social, ethical and fictional perspective, it comes to be distinct that Calamus is an extra advanced philosophy of poet regarding sexuality. It was a romantic proposal of combining males into a relation of love. The poet tried to collect a new group of young Bohemians male Pfaff’s because the American Bohemian group scattered when Civil war started on (Lalor 131-135).
Henry Clap editor of a newspaper and associate of Whitman nurtured in a religious Massachusetts family; he edited a sobriety paper, he also said no to take a drink in Paris and declare that, “I am a teetotaler.” But when he was engaged with the groups of Paris student’s, performers he turned to be a preacher of counterculture way of living. But when he came back to New York, where he was famous as the King of Bohemia, he started discussions on the tables of Pfaff’s which swapped between grave deliberations and disrespect for alcohol, games of words and natural acts. Whitman stated that “there were great discussions on the long tables as happen everywhere in the whole world.” Whitman composed part of a poem in which he portrayed “the cellar at Pfaff’s where people meet to enjoy meal and drink and discussion on different topics.” But the bohemians not really accept him and he also not accept them. They become tired, and most of their deeds wiped out, but he still has a place in memories for the reason that he stayed away from egoism and self-restrained corruption which brought their collapse (Stansell 107-117).
O’Brien started his work as a journalist and moved to New York City in 1852 where he started his writing career and was known as an important figure in the Bohemian city. As writer, poet, playwright, and critic, O’Brien’s legacy built on the genius of Edgar Allen Poe. His epic short story,The Diamond Lens,helped popularize not just the mystery genre, but the short story form itself. As a regular contributor to Clapp’s Saturday Press, including his not-to-be-missed theater review column published under the nom de plume “Dramatic Feuilleton,” his wit helped define the publication. His life was short, but his work for the literati was meteoric.
Known as the unofficial “Queen of Bohemia,” the feminist actress, journalist, novelist and poet was a regular fixture of the Pfaff’s Circle, regularly contributing to The Saturday Press, as well as Bret Harte’s San Francisco Bohemian weekly,The Golden Era. Ada had been to Paris, spent time with Murger and absorbed every aspect of the Parisian Bohemian life. She was determined to bring what she had experienced to life back home in America. She also owned the most famous salon of the times at her home on West 42nd Street. Her close friend, Walt Whitman, called her “[t]he ideal modern woman: talented, intelligent, and emancipated” (quoted in Eugene Lalor’s article, Whitman Among the New York Literary Bohemians: 1859-1862 in the Walt Whitman Review).
Adah Isaac Menken, photography by Napoleon Sarony
Adah Menkin was a poet, actress, stuntwoman, stripper and all-around rebel and, as a disciple and dearest friend of both Henry Clapp Jr. and Walt Whitman, a core member of the Pfaff’s Circle. She was one of the first international celebrities, causing a global sensation with her daredevil performances, which included risking her life and baring more skin than the public was used to. Though forgotten today, Adah was also at one time the most highly paid actress in the world. Her ethnically mixed Jewish/Creole heritage itself was fascinating to the public, but her many infamous affairs (the most infamous being with Alexander Dumas and George Sands in Paris), husbands, and groundbreaking (as well as gender-bending) performances made her the darling of the world and great fodder for the press.
Artemus Ward was famous humorist of America in the 19th century whose lectures influenced several humorists including Mark Twain. Ward was working as an apprentice at a printing press then he moved to Boston to start working as a compositor for a humor magazine, “The Carpet Bag.” He worked for several years as an editor for “Commercial” magazine at Toledo and “Plain Dealer” in Cleveland. In 1860, he started working as a staff writer for “Vanity Fair” in the city of New York. The main sorts of Ward’s humor were gross misspellings and puns. He started his lectures in 1861 which made him famous due to deadpan expressions. His several books became popular including “Artemus Ward: His Travels,” “Artemus Ward: His Book” and the one known as “Artemus Ward in London (Rodger’s 273-275).”
Poet, journalist, travel writer, editor and drama critic William Winter, next to Clapp, was the heart of the Pfaff’s Circle and its greatest chronicler. Perhaps the most financially prosperous member of the group, Winter went on to make himself a new kind of gatekeeper of New York City and American culture. After the demise of his beloved Circle, he moved on to work as a dramatic, literary critic, and editor for the Albion and Harper’s Weekly, as well as Horace Greeley’s Tribune. Winter became the preeminent theater critic and Shakespearean scholar of the 19thcentury. His legacy lies in the 24 boxes stored at the Folgers Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
Mark Twain was famous as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who born in Florida, on 30th November 1835. He was a resident of Hannibal located near Mississippi river, and most of his work was based on it. He was a journalist, novelist, humorist, and lecturer but became renowned internationally due to his travel chronicles. He was a gifted narrator of his time who surpassed the limitations of that age to gain a status as a renowned public celebrity and America’s greatest writer. His novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is known as one of the America’s best novel. His quotation is very popular still nowadays. Clemens was a friend of artists, presidents, industrialists and European royals. During his life, he enjoyed extreme popularity among public, peers and critics of his time. He was called as “The Father of American Literature” by William Faulkner who was a famous American writer.
A very few evidence were present about his visits to Pfaff bar but he was associated with the bohemians of the bar in several ways. Twain left his family in an impoverished condition after the death of his father and started working as a trainee of a printer who motivated him for writing as well as journalism. By his expertise as a copier, he relocated to East coast and then to Midwest. He served as a trainee to river pilot in 1857 and earned his license as a pilot after learning about the river. He gathered material later on for “Life on the Mississippi.”
During Civil War, he along with his brother moved to the west and tried prospecting there. In 1862, he was working as a reporter in the city of Virginia when he was visited by Artemus Ward who was a famous humorist lecturer. Artemus Ward motivated him for starting his career as a writer. He met Harte when he reached California, in Bret Harte’s legendary sphere Pfaff’s consistent Adah Menken was later projected and ventured. During this era, in 1865 “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” was written by Twain which later on gets published by “Saturday Press” of Clapp. This story was the initiation of his career as a writer and paved the way for other publications as “Other Sketches” and of “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by the help of Henry Webb who was a visitor of Pfaff (Caron 1-10).
The most popular book of Twain was “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” On 18th November 1865, the book was printed in Saturday Press in New York. Henry Clapp was the publisher of this paper. Mark Twain was a great writer of the 19th century in America. A large number of people liked the Twain’s life history. A short story by Mark Twain was published as “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog.” He also discusses issues of social equality in his writings and debates. He was a journeyman writer in his young age. Twain was the personal assistant of Senator William Stewart of Nevada. He earned six dollars per day from his job and also get free time for writing. He was a great social democrat as he trusted that general public has expert witness and intellect (M. Twain 45-50).
Twain stated that the story of “Jumping Frog” was written by him at Ward’s desire to get it published by Carleton who was the publisher working with Artemus Ward. But the publisher sent his story to Clapp who printed it in “Saturday Press,” and it enjoyed a lot of praise by the readers and audience of the newspaper. Twain considered “Jumping Frog” as his first master piece which made him noticeable among public and critics. Twain then worked further as a writer and wrote several essays and novels. During this period, he instructed in the US and abroad and wrote essays and articles for “The Galaxy” and “Buffalo Express.” He became a friend of William Howells, who was resisted by the liberalism of bohemians founded at Pfaff. He was bankrupt in 1894 due to the failure of his publishing house and his shares in a typesetting machine. To pay back his debt, he started a lecture tour which got completed in 1898. In 1907, he got his degree of the doctorate from Oxford and started working on his autobiography which gets published in 1924 after his death.
After his death, in 1910 “My Mark Twain” was published by Howells where he marked Twain as a solitary incomparable writer and “The Lincoln of American Literature.” In 1935, Ernest Hemingway mentioned Twain in his book “The Green Hills of Africa” and wrote that all the modern literature of America comes from the “Huckleberry Finn,” a book written by Mark Twain. According to Howell, Twain wrote about common people of America; he discussed the manners and speech of that group of people which was neglected by the writers and overlooked by the genteel America. Many impressive compliments were presented by different authors and critics about Twain’s writings (Emerson 66-72).
The counterculture is a culture whose beliefs, morals and way of life were refuted and contradicted to those of the ethos supported by the majority, particularly relating to western culture. The period of the counterculture movement in America was seen from 1964 to 1972; this was the time when youth denied the old traditions. In the late 1960s, a counterculture establishes in America. This campaign persisted from 1964 to 1972, and it concurred with American immersion with Vietnam. A counterculture is defined as the dismissal of traditions and norms. So the youth of the late sixties denied accepting the values and beliefs of their ancestors, particularly racial discrimination and the early support for the Vietnam War.
With the passage of time, the ratio of difficulties in American society enhanced due to suppression of rights of speech about national affairs, sexual behavior, female’s rights and Vietnam War. The middle-class youth of American society had enough time to take notice of social problems. Eccentric forms of music and sexual freedom were promises of the counterculture. A large number of supporters of counterculture movement were middle-class youngsters. Hippies were the leading counterculture group in America (Beard 35-42).
The counterculture regime assimilated several principles and sympathies of the era: for example, concord, affection, compliance, music, and spiritualism. Denial of the old traditions and values was highly personified in the new fields of psychedelic rock and roll music, modern art, and discoveries regarding mysticism. The campaign of counterculture apportioned the nation in two groups. One group rejected the old traditions and support counterculture movement and consisted of youth. While the other group was in favor of old traditions and belief and this group was comprised of adults. According to some supporters, such qualities of counterculture exhibit American principles of freedom of speech, social equality, world harmony and the quest for happiness and prosperity. While the critics claimed that counterculture campaign is only a self-pitying, defiant, disloyal and harsh attack on American values (O’Neill 233-274).
To overcome the counterculture campaign, the government prohibited the bohemian activities, constrained political meetings and attempted to implement prohibitions on what they believed as indecency in literature, music, cinema, and art. Finally, the counterculture flopped in 1973. There mentioned two main causes for the failure. First, the most famous of the campaign’s political aims, civil justice, civil freedom, sex based equality and the termination of Vietnam War were achieved (to a small extent), and the social features, especially “live and let live” approach in individual life (the sexual modernization) were accepted by majority of people. Secondly, a failure of fanaticism and self-indulgence happened, because several important personalities of counterculture movement expired and the remaining mixed into the conventional society. The ‘magic economy” of the 1960s gave rise to the inflation of 1970s, the ending resulted in the loss of the comfort of managing lives away from traditional societies for several middle-class Americans. But the counterculture affected social campaigns, art, music and other attributes of society. So, the old traditional society turned out to be a mixture of 1960s regime and counterculture.
In the United States, the word “underground newspaper” mostly used to represent a liberated newspaper which concentrates on heated topics or counterculture concerns. They tend to escape out of issues. Normally this word is used to denote the newspapers published from 1965 to 1973, the time when a liberated newspaper movement bring a storm in the state. In the America of 1960s, such newspapers arose as the expression of the growing counterculture, and a mainstream of the disapproval for Vietnam War and plan. Underground publications spread in different cities and towns, helps to explain and transfer the extent of occurrences which express the counterculture: drastic political resistance for “the authorities,” unusual tentative strategies regarding art, music, and films. Moreover, they spread immoral involvement in sex as a mark of liberty. The reports in the underground publications were made real with the help of common counteract print. These types of press work to print several duplicates of an insignificant scandalous paper to earn hundred thousand dollars. Publications were low in cost and various printing press spread out in the 1950s all over the country.
“Los Angeles Free Press” was the first anti-establishment newspaper in the 1960s. This newspaper was started in 1964 and 1965 was the year of its first publication. According to Abe Peck, “the Rag” was the first anti-establishment newspaper of Texas in 1966. He said that this newspaper was the first anti-establishment paper which plays a part in demonstrating complexity in social equality, community forming and fusion of legislation and culture. All this was due to the efforts of New Left in the mid of sixties. The Underground Press Syndicate (UPS) organization was established in 1966. This organization permits associated publications to republish material of any other paper without hesitation. Thus in 1969 every city and town possessed its anti-establishment newspaper. When the underground publications were at height, nearly 100 papers were printed at a time. It was published in a UPS catalog that in November 1966, 14 anti-establishment papers were recorded, of which 11 were found in the US.
An anti-establishment paper was also present in the US army. The GI anti-establishment publication achieves some rights in the time of Vietnam War. Three to four underground newspapers issue thousands of copies, and those copies were also distributed to GIs all over the world. Such paper was published with the help of civilian protesters who hate war, and the papers were concealed to forward to Vietnam through the post. Military officers dispense and also keep them due to issues published on nuisance, punishment, and capture. A lot of newspapers often experience trouble because of regional police regularly raided press offices, blame editors and writers with profanity accuse or lewdness. Police also arrested general public and forced owners of the different printing press to stop printing anti-establishment newspapers.
In the 1960s, models of arts were termed as psychedelic, and exhibit attributes of the counterculture in itself. The gathering and field at Woodstock, it was the most famous musical event of 1960s counterculture. A musical event was organized from 15 to 18th August in Bethel, New York. This event was considered as an essential incident of music history. In first few years of sixties, British was so famous in the United States. On that time Beatles was popular among all groups. Hippie music was mostly supported and popular in West coast, for example, the Grateful Dead, and the singers emerge from the land of West Coast were pricklier, as the Velvet Underground. The first innovative musical event was the Monterey Pop Festival, but most popular was the Woodstock only. Similar to cinema, publication, and music, art also acted in response to the recent counterculture in the 1960s, mainly in pop and psychedelic art such as pop art contested with old fine art by relating metaphors from popular culture for example marketing, updates and much more. The perception of modern art signifies a lot of art itself and the approaches that it guided to. Andy Warhol mostly pondered illustrations form of this art.
Psychedelic art also arose as a reaction to the counterculture and was described as a form of imagery art aroused from psychedelic practices generated by bohemianism. Hallucinogenic art was mostly matching to psychedelic rock music. This altering art also signified the radical political, societal and divine thoughts which were resulting from psychedelic conditions of awareness stimulated due to the altering cultural norms (O’Neill 200-210).
In the 1960s, the focal point of hippie innovation movement was San Francisco. In the summer of 1967, San Francisco turned in a place with a mixture of different forms of music, sexual liberty, and freedom of speech, styling, and politics. The record crowd of youngsters famous as the Summer of Love is judged as a cultural trial because numerous cultures come to join there. As the followers of Hippie group become matured and change their lives and opinions. And mainly after American contribution in Vietnam War finished in the mid of 1970s, the counterculture was greatly engrossed by the conventional society.
In the 1960s, spontaneous bohemians developed into a subgroup which commended the spiritual and sacred representation stimulated by powerful funding and promoted its support as a way of increasing awareness. A form of modern music, which was invented as “rock and roll” in America of the 1950s, was improved with a variety of methods during and after 1960s. According to musicians, the focal point of rock is just electric guitar, but normally in a rock group, low-pitched guitar and drums are also used. Rock has also exemplified and functioned as a medium for cultural and public campaigns.
Rock and roll were more than a music form; it greatly affects the way of life, styling, language, and approaches in the 1950s. In the pop chart of African American “national music” to increasing white listeners, the popularity of rock and roll attracted both black artists getting a white crowd of listeners, and white artists adopt African American form of music.
Subjects, which formerly deliberated offensive and prohibited for example sex, were going to be presented in rock and roll music. The American culture of youth begun to influenced and aware. A large number of music historians asserted that rock and roll were the first music which belongs and represents a specific age group. Rock and roll also offer youth a feel of correctness. It is normally connected with the beginning of teen culture in the first prosperous group who had more wealth and freedom, and who take on rock and roll music as a segment of a different sub culture. The difference between old and modern culture demonstrated by rock and roll was a constant cause of worry for old people and adults. They concerned about the criminal behavior of youth and social revolution. Because rock and roll values were the combined efforts of several ethnic and social sets.In 1960s rock music was also exemplified and work as an important part of social and ethical programs. It results in various sub-cultures, for example, the “hippie” counterculture which emerges from San Francisco in 1960s. Receiving the traditional customs of the campaign jingle, rock music linked with political struggles also responsible for social thoughts about sex and race. It perceived as youth rebellion, counter to older traditions and compliance (Strausbaugh 400-415).
The Beatles grew into the most prominent money-making supporters of the psychedelic rebellion of the 1960s. In the meantime, in America, groups which represent counterculture get huge success. Such groups included the Holiday Company, Mamas and Papas, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors and Sly and the Family Stone. Some other groups which exemplified counterculture didn’t acquire such achievements but are considered as an important part of counterculture campaign. The names of these bands were The Grateful Dead, Phil Ochs, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Frank Zappa, Melanie, Blues Project and Santa. Whereas the part of music named Hippie music emerged from California, a pricklier section appeared from New York City which lay stress on modern and artistic music. Groups, for example, “The Velvet Underground” developed from this subversive music section, mainly focused at Andy Warhol’s legendary Factory. The band “Velvet Underground” gave music for the “Exploding Plastic Inevitable,” a cycle of media occasions organized by Warhol and his associates in 1966. The poetry of Velvet Underground regards as offensive for the time, as they talk about sexual prejudice, homosexual characteristics and the promotion of bohemianism. The campaign jingle got political significance in the 1960s with Phil Ochs’s “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” and a song of Joe Country and the Fish’s “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die-Rag” amongst several anti-war songs which were of great significance at that time.
Feelings and thoughts about counterculture were voiced in anthems poetry and famous maxims of the era, for example, “do your own thing,” “turn on, tune in, drop out,” “whatever turns you on,” “sex, and rock ‘n’ roll” and “light my life.” Mystically, the built-in counterculture curiosity about fortune-telling, the title “Age of Aquarius,” intended common symbols (Beard 328-334).
In the 1960s the music theatres begin to move away from the traditional restrictions of 1950s. For instance, rock and roll music was used in various Broadway music festivals. This fashion originated with musical ‘Hair,” which contained rock music as well as nakedness and notorious views regarding Vietnam War, race, relations and social concerns. “Hair” is considered as a creation of hippie counterculture and sex-based rebellion of the 1960s.As a strive for improved civil rights of sub-groups, musical writers were encouraged to compose more songs and performances which designed to stabilize the social freedom of subgroups and advocated racial accord. Initial efforts which aimed to racial patients comprised “Finian’s Rainbow,” “South Pacific” and “The King and I.” The melodic tune “West Side Story” also deliver an idea of racial patience. Far ahead, a large number of performances gave the message about Jewish matters and concerns, for example, “Fiddler on the Roof.” In the late 1960s, musicals also include ethnically mixed, with black and white performers even protecting rights of each other. Similar to publications and theatre, the cinema of the sixties also exemplified the features of the counterculture. Dennis Hopper made a film on the transformation occurring in the whole world and named that film “Easy Rider.” A movie “Medium Cool” demonstrated the Democratic settlement of 1968 and rebellions of Chicago Police, which in result termed as “a blend of cinema and political prejudice. Another studio makes the film on hippie movement in 1968. The name of the film was “Psych-Out,” and it represents the hippie lifestyle and fashion (Kotynek and Cohassey 178-182).
This counterculture of America which extremely flourished after its initiation from Greenwich village, and altered to the modern culture of America. The foundations of this culture were laid by the activist and radical thinkers of Pfaff circle who raised voice against Victorian repression and their efforts resulted into the counterculture of America. The community at Pfaff was comprising of disadvantaged writers, artists, journalists, and musicians, who were against the suppression of freedom of speech of artists. Their literary work and performances left a great impact on the youth and a change was brought in the norms of the society due to their hard work and radical thinking. Their ideology, and creativity the perfect crucible which initiated that incredibly unique American counterculture (Hahn).
Bohemian lifestyle is a manner of modern and advanced way of living. It comprises of arts, music, fiction and religious interests. This term was introduced in the nineteenth century to portray the unconventional standards of living of demoted and disadvantaged writers, artists, journalists and musicians in most of the cities of Europe.
In the 19th Century, Greenwich Village was the natural home for free thought to take root and, helped to re-define American arts and culture, as well as assisting the dissemination of radical ideas of all kinds in America. The Village in the mid-19th century was the ultimate crossroads of humanity, ideology, and creativity. It was the perfect crucible to give rise to that incredibly unique American counterculture. It was no coincidence that Thomas Paine, father of the American Revolution, made his home in Greenwich Village, like Bohemian’s patron saint, Edgar Allen Poe. American fanaticism has a home, and it’s the Village in New York City. The original, colorful, world-changing characters that inhabited this tiny portion of the world became famous throughout the world as from the Village emerged many of the most powerful American social and art movements, repeatedly bringing the ever-evolving Modern Age of the Avant-Garde (Banes 137-145).
The Antebellum Bohemians made New York City a cultural center of the art world by staging a cultural accomplishment, overthrowing the conventional morality of the Boston literary elite with their allegiance to European Classicalism. So, Bohemianism is not just a word; it is a movement, philosophy, and ideology—a template for an alternative to the bourgeoisie, for choosing to live life on one’s terms. As artists and radical thinkers tore down the prison of propriety and censorship in the Victorian age. There was a passion for all who gathered at Pfaff’s around Henry Clapp Jr. and his boisterous band of subversives (including Walt Whitman) who were drawn to him. Whether one means the Golden Age of Greenwich Village (Bohemians at the turn of the century), the Beat generation, or the Hippies of the late 1960s, the Village has always been the cradle of new thinking in America. That iconic figure and trope known as the “American Rebel Artist” did not first appear with the Beat generation of the 1950’s, nor the Hippies in the 1960s, but it did appear in the same place. Victorian repression of the artist, free speech, and expression, was a condition of life quickly becoming intolerable everywhere but added to the puritanical extremism in America, and the artist was facing poor conditions. It was a culture built on censure, where the radical criticism generated by speaking your mind on anything but the prescribed subjects seemed intentionally intended to banish any assortment of ideas at all (Hahn 238-242).
The heart of the Pfaff’s Circle was made up of a group of enlightened journalists at the core. A group of poets, writers, artists and thespians, these young radical thinkers did their best to get published and eke out a living writing and illustrating for New York City’s presses as they doggedly pursued their artistic proclivities. It was there that a group of like-minded radicals scandalized the city and unnerved the gatekeepers of society as their wild Bohemian ways became front page news. The word bohemian, with all its scandalous connotations, would wander through the nation, becoming the first true meme (an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture) of print media as Victorian America tried to understand these bold new radicals who offended their senses at every turn. But they were unable to stop those radical figures from capturing the imagination of their readers. Becoming the subject of some of the most scandalous gossip and rumors of those times, these seemingly powerless and often unpaid journalists, writers, performers, and other unofficial members of the Pfaff’s Circle, changed the landscape of culture. Their flagship publication of wit and unapologetic, relentlessly scathing cultural criticism, the first of its kind (we had no Punch magazine), The Saturday Press, was a revolutionary publication (O’Neill 272-280).
The visceral condemnation that the paper engendered from the strong and powerful cultural elite only made the publication and its writers more famous. The role of the working artist in Victorian society was formulaic, well defined by the strict puritanism of the culture at large. It was a society that had no tolerance for subversion or radical notions. If one did as one was expected to, it was possible to seek out a living, but challenging work that questioned authority and the norms that they defined was a quick route to a horsewhipping. The Saturday Press was the first true dawning of an irreverent American aesthetic in arts and literature. These first American Bohemians helped give birth to a truly unique American culture. The new radicalism, both political and social, was a catalyst for a new way of thinking about living and creating culture, to the extent that the two most iconic American writers of the age, Walt Whitman (the most celebrated member of the Pfaff’s Circle) and Mark Twain, found their first patronage in Henry Clapp, and that each was given his first true publishing opportunity in his weekly (Wetzsteon 40-45).
From the decade leading up to the Civil War and through the next, a time of great social upheaval in America, Pfaff’s Restaurant was the epicenter of America’s personalities. Here in the Vault at Pfaff’s located at Broadway and Bleecker Street, in a room running on Broadway itself, they laid the foundation not just for Greenwich Village but also of American Bohemian culture. Pfaff’s became the spot where the Antebellum Bohemians formed a proto-matrix of journalism, literature, theatre, and the arts in New York City. This collision of culture and ideas was a hothouse for the birth of American counterculture.The Bohemian cultural wave that was created, and the intense stir they created among the arbiters of propriety, would forever inform that amorphous thing called American Culture.
The Antebellum Bohemians are the reason that Greenwich Village became America’s Left Bank, a country to itself, inhabited by free-thinkers, where the avant-garde would flock as they still do today. The Bohemianism born of the Village would become an American ideal, marking the neighborhood through modern times as standing not just as one of the most ubiquitous tropes in literature, but in reality, the heart, and soul of American counterculture and radicalism of all forms. Greenwich Village owes its unique place in world history, particularly about the arts and social reform, to this first group of self-identified Bohemians. The legacy of the Antebellum Bohemians would bring two of the greatest American writers of all time, Walt Whitman, and Mark Twain, to the nation’s attention. They would become superstars of the century, with much to owe the Bohemians.
Henry Clapp Jr. is a rising star being resurrected out of the past as the hunt for Bohemian America has gained such phenomenal academic and pop-culture steam. He was an extraordinary protector of the status quo and the singular pivotal force in transporting the ideas and ideology of Murger’s Left Bank radical art culture back home. He turned rebels of his time into a force to be reckoned with. For this, he was crowned by his age as the “King of Bohemia.” His Nantucket Quaker roots grew deep in ideas of liberty and alternative thinking. Clapp made it his mission, with all the zealotry he was known for, to be the catalyst for dragging the masses out of the straitjacket of Victorianism that was crushing its collective soul, and threatening the very democratic freedoms the nation had been created for. He strove to usher out the old guard of the Bostonian elite, the gatekeepers in many ways of the very Victorianism that Bohemians set out to tear Americans away from, and introduced the nation to Modernism and radical free thought. The magnitude of his influence on American literature, on satire and art, is matched by its radicalism. It was Clapp, from the Saturday Press, who would bring Whitman to the public’s attention and it was the paper’s defense of his brilliance that allowed Whitmanto become the quintessential American poet.
A strong relation among Walt Whitman and Pfaff’s circle was present. His long-term interaction with a social and activist group changed his way of thinking and this change reflected in his poems. As a result of joining the group, Walt Whitman became more radical and innovative due to his company in the beer cellar. Whitman also tried to apply his concepts of love and affection in practical life which he had acquired in Calamus. The Calamus was a collection of poems of Walt Whitman printed in Leaves of Grass. These poems acclaimed affection and reviewers claimed that such poems strongly demonstrated the concept of Whitman on the subject of homosexual affection. The group joined by Whitman consisted of writers, artists, and news journalists. All people belonging to the group had activist approach desiring drastic changes in the society and culture. That activist group was termed as American Bohemians of 1860. Whitman carries this modern approach in his future poetry (Baker 274-280).
Mark Twain another famous writer of Pfaff circle was famous as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who born in Florida, on 30th November 1835. He was a journalist, novelist, humorist, and lecturer but became renowned internationally due to his travel chronicles. He was a gifted narrator of his time who surpassed the limitations of that age to gain a status as a renowned public celebrity and America’s greatest writer. His novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is known as one of the America’s best novel. His quotation is very popular still nowadays. Clemens was a friend of artists, presidents, industrialists and European royals. During his life, he enjoyed extreme popularity among public, peers and critics of his time. He was called as “The Father of American Literature” by William Faulkner who was a famous American writer. Mark Twain was also a Democrat. He wants to change the society with his writings. The most famous book of Twain was “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” He also wanted to change the society and often discussed democracy in his deliberations (Twain, Smith and Griffin).
In the 19th century, a term“underground newspaper” was the famous terminology used, and the newspapers were the anti-establishment and rebellious publications of that time. They published material and articles to shake the nation and wanted to make people aware of the social inequality and other issues and condemned for the Vietnam War. With the passage of time underground newspaper established in various cities and spread counterculture strategies regarding art, music, and cinema. Immortal attachment with sex was also a part of that counterculture as a mark of freedom. Several newspapers also face issues due to the raids of local police.
In 1950, a revolution in art, music, and cinema has stroked the Europe. Several changes occurred in traditional forms of arts. Rock and roll were the most famous form of counterculture music. It was more than music because it greatly influenced lifestyle, fashion and beliefs of people. Rock and roll were belonging to a specific age group it represented the approach, lifestyle, and likings of youth. But it also created several problems in the society. It led youngsters towards criminal behavior. It made older people worry about this destructive aspect of the counterculture. New concepts about sex and race were also a part of modern music. Hippie and rock music are the most popular forms of the sixties counterculture. Different social issues were addressed with the help of music which includes racial discrimination, civil rights, and Vietnam War. Musicians compose tunes and write poetries to condemn social concerns. All these things made people aware of their rights and prejudice practices from the establishment. Beatles was the famous band of 1960s counterculture. Counterculture also influenced the musical theatres and films of the sixties which represented various features of the counterculture (Lause).
Conclusively, Bohemians as children of democracy, enlightenment, and transcendentalism, demanded that as artists they should be free from censorship and the oppression of the mind or body. They have right to live the dream of Henri Murger’s Parisian Bohemians, in America and showed the world an entirely new way of thinking about itself and its purpose, laying the foundation for what the American artistic ideal would be. Their impact has generated both an artistic and social counterculture that still exists today, where the word “Bohemian” carries a connotation of liberty and unfettered intellect. The famous Bohemians who participated in the Pfaff’s circle were Mark Twain, Ada Clare, and Walt Whitman, while Henry Clapp is known as the king of Bohemia. The present modern culture of America laid its foundation on the work and ideas of the Bohemians of Pfaff’s circle.
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