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Bohemia in America, 1858-1920$
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Joanna Levin

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804760836

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804760836.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM STANFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.stanford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Stanford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in SSO for personal use.date: 21 October 2019

The “Vault at Pfaff's”: Whitman, Bohemia, and the Saturday Press

The “Vault at Pfaff's”: Whitman, Bohemia, and the Saturday Press

Chapter:
(p.13) 1 The “Vault at Pfaff's”: Whitman, Bohemia, and the Saturday Press
Source:
Bohemia in America, 1858-1920
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804760836.003.0002

Bohemianism provides an integral standpoint from which to view the development of urban life and class formation in the United States. In order to discover the first self-identified American Bohemians, it is necessary to explore the counterculture unstably contained within the national geography of bourgeois identity, consciousness, and expression. This chapter focuses on the emergence of Bohemia in New York City in the late 1850s, focusing on Henry Clapp Jr. and Pfaff's beer cellar. An iconoclast who came from Paris, Clapp harbored the idea of recreating la vie bohème in Pfaff's beer cellar. His circle included Walt Whitman, who composed a poem entitled “The Vault at Pfaff's,” which he left unfinished. The chapter compares the Bohemians' self-descriptions to less favorable representations of the group, providing a case study in the (mutually constitutive) relationship between the Bohemians and their “bourgeois” antagonists. Many of the Bohemians who gathered at Pfaff's—such as journalists, artists, and poets—wrote for, or illustrated, Harper's, the New York Leader, Vanity Fair, and the Saturday Press, which became the circle's house organ.

Keywords:   Bohemia, Bohemianism, la vie bohème, bourgeois, New York City, Bohemians, Henry Clapp Jr, Pfaff's beer cellar, Walt Whitman, Saturday Press

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