Herman Melville was born of Allan and Maria Gansevoort Melvill, on August 1, 1819. At a very early age, Herman suffered from scarlet fever. The fever hampered his vision, and though he recovered from the fever, his full vision was never returned. During the beginning of his life, Herman’s family was very wealthy from his father’s success at trading. He attempted to enter fur trading, but was unsuccessful. That combined with Allan’s death in 1832 caused his family’s wealth to dwindle. After Allan’s death, Maria added the e to the end of their last name. Due to the desperate financial situation, Herman’s brother, Gansevoort, took over the fur trading business. The families fur business folded in 1837, plunging the Melvilles back into economic disparity. They relocated and through Gansevoort, Herman received a position on a merchant ship.

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"Herman Melville biography." Bio. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Dec. 2012. <http://www.biography.com/people/herman-melville-9405239?page=1#synopsis>