He may have written one of the most famous novels in history (if a novel much more talked about than read, at this moment). Okay, Herman Melville was born in New York City, but after a series of business reverses, his father brought the family to Albany and entered the fur trade just in time for the War of 1812 to put the final kibosh on the business of beaver exports. The family lived on what is now Clinton Square, across from where the Palace Theater now stands. Not long afterward, his father died, leaving the family penniless, even though Herman’s mother was a Gansevoort. Herman attended the Albany Academy for two brief periods, and in between he sought work on the Erie Canal but ended up as a hand on a ship to Liverpool. After finishing at the Academy, he became a schoolteacher and the family moved to Lansingburgh, where he also began to write seriously. In 1841 he left for Massachusetts, and signed aboard a Pacific sailing vessel; it was this trip, during which he lived among the Typee natives of the Marquesas Islands, that formed the basis for his first novel, Typee, which was a great success. Typee, Omoo and others are all but forgotten now, lost in the shadow of Moby-Dick, or, The Whale.
Photo of Herman Melville (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Unappreciated in its day, Moby-Dick grew to be recognized as one of the greatest novels, and a uniquely American novel, coming at a time when home-grown literature was still often considered inferior to works from overseas.
Albany and Lansingburgh couldn’t hold Melville, though he did spend a number of the early years of his marriage in nearby Pittsfield before ending up his life in New York City
Way back when, All Over Albany had a great feature on a man whose entire library is made up of Moby-Dick.