An Unruly Roundup Of America's First Bohemians

September 4, 2014 12:43 PM

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An Unruly Roundup Of America's First Bohemians

When people think of counterculture, the 1960s tends to come first to mind. But one of America's most important alternative movements emerged a full century earlier, during the late 1850s. On the eve of the Civil War, a tumultuous time not unlike the Vietnam era, a colorful group of artists and writers gathered at Pfaff's saloon in Manhattan. They were America's first Bohemians.

The so-called Pfaff's Bohemians led a transition from stuffy, genteel art to art that was bold, brazen, in-your-face. They paved the way for such modern artist provocateurs as Dave Eggers, George Carlin, and Lena Dunham. Sadly, America's vanguard Bohemians have been mostly forgotten. Aflame with cre...

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