Biographies - Noah Webster
Image Source: Noah Webster House
|Noah Webster |
|Born: October 16, 1758|
|Died: April 28, 1843|
American lexicographer, textbook author, spelling reformer, political writer, and editor. His name became synonymous with "dictionary," especially the modern Merriam-Webster dictionary which was first published in 1828.
Noah Webster was born on October 16, 1758, in the West Division of Hartford. Noahs 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. Noahs 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, Connecticuts only college. He left for New Haven in 1774, when he was 16. Noahs years at Yale coincided with the Revolutionary War. Because New Haven had food shortages during this time, many of Noahs 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.
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. Most people called it the \"Blue-backed Speller\" because of its blue cover.
For 100 years, Noahs book taught children how to read, spell, and pronounce words. It was the most popular American book of its time. Ben Franklin used Noahs 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.
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 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, Noahs 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.