Noah Webster, Writings and Biography
Brief Biography, from the The Noah Webster House, Museum of West Hartford History:
Noah Webster was born on October 16, 1758, in the West Division of Hartford. Noah's was
an average colonial
family. His father farmed and worked as a weaver. His mother worked at home. Noah and his two brothers,
Charles and Abraham, helped their father with the farm work. Noah's sisters, Mercy and Jerusha, worked with
their mother to keep house and to make food and clothing for the family.
Few people went to college, but Noah loved to learn so his parents let him go to Yale, Connecticut's only college.
He left for New Haven in 1774, when he was 16. Noah's years at Yale coincided with the Revolutionary War.
Because New Haven had food shortages during this time, many of Noah's classes were held in Glastonbury.
Noah graduated in 1778. He wanted to study law, but his parents could not afford to give him more money for
school. So, in order to earn a living, Noah taught school in Glastonbury, Hartford and West Hartford. Later he
studied law. [Additional fact: in 1784 Connecticut started the first law school in America, which graduated Noah Webster]
Noah did not like American schools. Sometimes 70 children of all ages were crammed into one-room
schoolhouses with no desks, poor books, and untrained teachers. Their books came from England. Noah thought
that Americans should learn from American books, so in 1783, Noah wrote his own textbook: A Grammatical
Institute of the English Language. [Additional fact: In 1783 Noah also produced what is considered to be the first dictionary created in the US] Most people called it the "Blue-backed Speller" because of its blue cover.
For 100 years, Noah's book taught children how to read, spell, and pronounce words. It was the most popular
American book of its time. Ben Franklin used Noah's book to teach his granddaughter to read.
In 1789, Noah married Rebecca Greenleaf. They had eight children. Noah carried raisins and candies in his
pockets for the children to enjoy. The Websters lived in New Haven, then moved to Amherst, MA. There, Noah
helped to start Amherst College. Later the family moved back to New Haven.
[Additional fact: Dec. 9, 1793 Noah Webster founded New York's first daily newspaper.]
When Noah was 43, he started writing the first American dictionary. He did this because Americans in different
parts of the country spelled, pronounced and used words differently. He thought that all Americans should speak
the same way. He also thought that Americans should not speak and spell just like the English.
Noah used American spellings like "color" instead of the English "colour" and "music" instead " of "musick". He
also added American words that weren't in English dictionaries like "skunk" and "squash". It took him over 27
years to write his book. When finished in 1828, at the age of 70, Noah's dictionary had 70,000 words in it.
Noah did many things in his life. He worked for copyright laws, wrote textbooks, Americanized the English
language, and edited magazines. When Noah Webster died in 1843 he was considered an American hero.
"When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, "just men who will rule in the fear of God." The preservation of [our] government depends on the faithful discharge of this Duty; if the citizens neglect their Duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted; laws will be made, not for the public good so much as for selfish or local purposes; corrupt or incompetent men will be appointed to execute the Laws; the public revenues will be squandered on unworthy men; and the rights of the citizen will be violated or disregarded. If [our] government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the Divine Commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the Laws." -History of United States by Noah Webster.
Writings on LEXREX:
Speech on the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, 1802
LEXREX: Discussion of Webster's American Dictionary of English Language, 1828. An excellent facsimile of this book is available!
Noah Webster Discussion Group Online
The First U.S. Copyright Law. Text and photo! This law was passed largely through the efforts of Noah Webster.
"The Noah Plan" - Curriculum for all ages, based on Noah Webster's works, and the writings of the Framers of the Constitution and Founding Fathers. Written from a traditional American / Christian Perspective.
Pioneer Sholes School - an historic one room country school in Illinois, which is now a museum, showing what country schools were circa 1900. It includes references to Noah Webster's "Blue Backed Spellers."