Herman Levy was born in Prussia in 1832. At eighteen he immigrated to the Unites States and settled in northern California at the time of the Gold Rush. He almost certainly started off as a peddler, eventually establishing a dry goods store in San Jose. In 1869 he married Eva Rosenthal, who had come to the United States with her family as a child. They lived out their lives in San Jose, where they raised their eight children, including Jessie.