Fanning, Edmund, 1769–1841, American trader, explorer, and promoter of trade and exploration in the South Seas, b. Stonington, Conn. At the age of 14 he went to sea. In command of a trading vessel, he realized a large profit from an expedition in 1797–98. In the course of the voyage he traded a cargo of trinkets for seal skins in the islands off the coast of Chile and exchanged them for valuable Chinese goods at Guangzhou, returning around the Cape of Good Hope. During the expedition he discovered Fanning Island, Washington Island, and other islands. Convinced of the profits to be made from trade in the South Seas, he became the agent for a group of New York City merchants, supervising over 70 expeditions and participating in some of them. His Voyages around the World (1833), which shed light on some of the little-known parts of the globe, passed through several editions.
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