Study Guide

Herman Melville Childhood

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Herman Melville was born 1 August 1819 in New York City, the third of the eight children of Allan and Maria Gansevoort Melvill. (Maria added the "e" to the family's last name after Allan died.) Herman was born into a prominent clan whose ancestors had participated in nearly every major event in American history, from the Boston Tea Party to the Revolutionary War. His mother was from a line of Dutch settlers who arrived in the U.S. in the 1600s and settled in New York (today there is a town named Gansevoort in New York state). His father's kin were wealthy Boston merchants. Herman's family settled in New York City, where Allan Melvill owned an importing business. As one historian put it, "Young Herman's world was one of servants and dancing schools."

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