Noah Webster at 250

Tom Zurinskas truespel at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Oct 23 20:58:33 UTC 2008

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. 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.

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.

Tom Zurinskas, USA - CT20, TN3, NJ33, FL5+
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